Co-existing realms in fashion and their differences – Sustainable, Ethical, Conscious, and Circular Fashion!

Do I really need to go through all this paradox of choice for just one piece of clothing? Why buy less when I can buy more? Does fashion really have an impact on the planet?

Have you ever found yourself grappling with such questions in your mind? Well, we’ve grown so used to fast fashion wear and now, it’s difficult to take in how harmful these clothing items are to our health and the environment. We have explained all of these in the previous content on sustainability in fashion and how to minimize the impact of the fast-fashion brands on our health and environment at large, and it involves being fashion-conscious, engaging in shopping sustainable fashion, ethical and circular fashion. These new fashion terms are often inter-switched with one another, so we have put up this read to help you understand the differences between the above-listed fashion nomenclatures.

FASHION! What you need to know.

Fashion simply put, is a piece of clothing or accessories worn by different individuals. Fashion is also a way of expressing who you are, it’s not necessarily just a piece of clothing item you buy from a store, it’s how you style it to represent who you are.

Different people can buy the same outfits or clothing items from a store, but what you do with it is a representation of who you are as a person.

Unfortunately, the fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world, causing harm to humans and the ecosystem through the release of toxins during production, the toxicity in this sector brought about the sustainability of fashion, to help reduce the impact of these practices. The various fashion terms got coined towards this movement.

  • Sustainable fashion
  • Ethical fashion
  • Conscious fashion
  • Circular fashion

Although all are geared towards a similar goal, they have their outstanding purposes and differences

Sustainable fashion

This is a fashion that is truly transparent in all aspects of its supply chain. It involves the production of garments from organic materials in a way that protects and preserves the environment. It focuses on the processes and raw materials used in the production process and their impact on the environment. Some of the materials used by sustainable fashion brands include hemp, organic cotton, silk, wood pulp, linen, etc. These materials are easily biodegradable causing less harm to the environment.

How can fashion be more sustainable?

The fashion industry aims at minimizing the impact of fast fashion on the environment through an array of sustainability criteria, here are a few ways fashion can be more sustainable.

  • Produce less
  • Reuse or recycle materials
  • Invest in high-quality organic/natural materials
  • Thrift
  • Buy from sustainable brands
  • Create more awareness on the impact of fast fashion

Is sustainable fashion affordable?

While Sustainable fashion appears to be an expensive purchase outright, it is quite affordable in many ways, especially with thrifting (shopping secondhand outfits), even though it’s more expensive compared to fast fashion wears, the prime factor behind is the quality of materials used and the fair practices involved in the production process. Given the durability of such fashion gets enhanced with high-quality material, the longevity of the clothing justifies the perceptive high costs!

Ethical fashion

Are you wondering why we had to add ethical in front of fashion? Isn’t all fashion ethical?

The answer is NO, not all fashion is ethical.

Ethical fashion refers to clothes that are designed and produced in a way that’s less harmful to humans, animals, and the planet. It deals with the human rights and morals of workmen, ensuring that they are treated and compensated accordingly while working in the safest environment and work conditions.

This fashion is human centered, unlike sustainable fashion which focuses mainly on the environment and ecosystem.

How to engage in ethical fashion!

One of the toughest things about trying to be ethical is figuring out where to start from, taking into consideration how clothes are made, which includes labor conditions, safety, product quality, and waste generated. There are many ways to shop for your favorite look without compromising your morals, here are a few tips

  • Stay clear of ultra-low-priced wears: ethical fashion wears are often more expensive than fast fashion wears, this is basically because the labor involved is often paid fairly and materials are sourced sustainably. Super cheap prices are an indication of unethical practices being followed.
  • Thrifting: you can pick up fashionable pre-owned items from markets and shops. Shopping pre-owned wear controls waste materials and reduces work labor.
  • Clothes swap: there are so many platforms where you can swap clothing items in local communities. This is an avenue to prevent unworn items from ending up in landfills. Organizing a clothes swap with friends, family, and colleagues where people gather to exchange clothes is an ethical means of updating your style without causing harm or spending a penny.
  • Look out for trusted labels: people often think being ethical about fashion means you have to quit shopping forever. You don’t have to! There are many brands working towards fighting the unhealthy effect of fashion practices on humans and the ecosystem, these brands produce their items from organic, eco-friendly materials. Look out for these brands.

Conscious fashion

Conscious fashion refers to an awareness of the inputs and processes involved in the production of our clothes, from the materials used to the form of labor adopted.

It covers both the ethical/moral and sustainable aspect of fashion, this means it’s both morally and environmentally aware, putting into consideration, the impact of cloth production on humans and the environment at large.

Fashion-conscious to Conscious fashion.

What does it mean to be fashion conscious? Being fashion conscious involves being aware of the benefits and implications attached to shopping clothing items produced in a sustainable and unsustainable way respectively. So many factors are being put into consideration before a fashion item is being purchased, they include, raw materials used in production, working conditions of workers, the safety of workers. Here are a few ways to be fashion conscious:

  • Buying less: resist buying low-quality clothes with low prices. These clothes are produced by brands in the most unethical and unsafe ways. High-quality clothes last longer, and this reduces constant buying. Therefore, invest in conscious fashion and buy less.
  • Take care of the clothes you already own: One of the characteristics of conscious fashion wear is the increased life span of fabrics. These brands mostly produce high-quality fabrics from natural or organic materials that last longer [while supporting a return program, where you can trade your used clothes for a small amount of money or trade it for a new one]. The natural fabrics used for production make these clothes durable. We can help maintain these clothes by paying more attention to the wash instruction labels, washing at low temperatures, and repairing or thrifting rather than disposing.
  • Ask questions about a brand before making a purchase: always direct questions to brands about their wears, from where they were made to materials used in the production. These questions make you aware of the brand practices and help decide if they deserve your support.
  • Research more about fabrics: having in-depth knowledge of the various fabrics used by both ethical and non-ethical fashion brands in the production of clothes makes you more fashion conscious. With this knowledge, you can easily identify if a brand uses recycled/sustainable fibers for production and help you easily detect a deceitful brand. We at Earthpiece work directly with the weavers and make our clothing from Kala Cotton. Read more to know about Kala Cotton and what makes it so special and close to our hearts!

Circular fashion!

We mentioned above how fashion sustainability is gradually taking over. Circular fashion is aimed towards understanding and fighting the core effect of fast fashion – The use and discard mindset! The philosophy encourages the use and reuse of fabric in such a way that it addresses the massive problem associated with fashion ending up in landfills.

Circular fashion refers to clothing items that are designed and produced with the intention to be used and circulated responsibly for as long as possible.

The circular fashion brands must consider these things in the production phase:

  • Durability of the fabric
  • How long the fabric can be worn by a consumer.
  • How timeless the style is?
  • Are materials used for production sustainable?
  • Can those materials be reused?
  • Are the materials biodegradable?
  • Can garment silhouettes be redesigned?

The moot purpose of circular fashion is to ensure the continued use of fabric. This is achieved in two ways, choosing silhouettes that can enable redesigning of the outfits without getting discarded and secondly picking the right fabrics that can be taken back in the value chain and recycled to make fresh yarns again!

Steps towards a circular fashion

We are starting to understand the social and environmental impact of the overproduction of clothes, and with this understanding comes the urge to minimize these impacts. This can be achieved through

  • Shopping renewable and safe materials
  • Upcycling (turning used clothes into new clothes)
  • Keeping clothes in use
  • Thrifting

Impact of circular fashion

Do you ever wonder what happens to the old clothes you toss away? They get dumped into landfills and with most of them being non-biodegradable, it becomes harmful to the environment.

Circular fashion cubs this harm through encouraging reuse and circulation of these fabrics.

Conclusion – Co-existence of these fashion realms for a better planet!

The above-listed fashion terms are often mistaken for one another due to their similarities; they all aim towards providing a safe and healthy environment for humans and animals, still, each has its own specific aim.

While Ethical fashion is concerned with human rights in the work environment, including how workers are treated, condition of the workplace (safe or unsafe), child labor, and how well workers are compensated for work done, Sustainable fashion is concerned about the environment. How the fashion practices and industrial processes affect the environment and ways to minimize effects. At the same time, conscious fashion covers both the ethical and sustainable aspects of fashion, from the inputs and processes involved in production to the workers involved in labor. Circular fashion tops it up by dealing with keeping existing fashion items in circulation as the name implies.

We hope you found this article insightful; we look forward to your thoughts and comments below.

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