Fashion consumption has been reconsidered and revised. Ethical issues are on the table and are now being considered during purchasing decisions. When the wrongdoings of the industry come to light, consumption becomes a conscious political act.
In recent years, the world has witnessed numerous cases of labor exploitation, which hearken back to slavery in Brazil in the nineteenth century and involve revolting processes like human trafficking.
In April 2013, a fire in Bangladesh revealed a garment factory that not only lacked basic infrastructure but was powered by slave and child labor. Earlier in 2011, labor inspectors discovered slave-like precarious working conditions in Brazilian workshops supplying Zara. This issue received international attention and made it clear that the desperate appetite for consumption was now crossing the line.
Once prestigious, the style of national brands is now cramped
In a recent edition of São Paulo Fashion Week, Ellus protested against the bureaucracy in the Brazilian textile market as an attempt to cover up accusations that it used slave labor in its manufacturing processes. The initiative was severely criticized, showing that ethics in fashion is useless when part of a marketing strategy; instead of boasts, these are silent values that should be intrinsic to the daily corporate routine.
Cori, Luigi Bertolli, and Emme also came under scrutiny from Ministry of Labor inspectors. Employees of these companies worked more than 12 hours per day from Monday to Saturday, receiving R$4.00 per garment produced. M.Officer was fined an estimated 160,000 Reais after accusation that employees in its São Paulo workshop labored in inappropriate working conditions.
Best practices pave the way for ethical consumption
Greenpeace is leading the detox movement, which is demanding less environmentally toxic fashions from producers. Half a million people are engaged in convincing renowned brands to change their production strategies. Nike, Uniqlo and Benetton are among the companies that have signed the manifesto, while GAP, American Apparel and Disney have not yet responded to requests.
In order to fight slave labor and protect social and environmental rights, the organization Repórter Brasil has created an app called “Moda Livre” in close cooperation with the Brazilian Ministry of Labor. The app ranks fashion companies based on the complaints filed against each one. Available for Android and iOs, it analyzes the stance of each brand and presents the data in a very transparent and honest way, and is quite an admirable initiative.
Following the same guidelines of honesty and transparency, the London-based store Honest By has developed a surprising sales strategy. The company website presents data detailing the price, allowing visitors information about how much was spent to manufacture the clothing. The costs of fabric, labor, and accessories are provided, as well as the return on sales. Additionally, the store’s products are divided into organic, vegan, skin-friendly, and recycled categories, a true inspiration for the future of retail.
Here in Brazil, the Coexis Organic Program created the Now seal, an organic certification for clothing. The seal not only guarantees the use of organic raw materials such as cotton or natural dyes, but also attests that the manufacturing process for the article of clothing was inspected by the IBD (Biodynamics Institute).
Zady is an online store entirely dedicated to ethical fashion. Through careful selection of brands from around the world, the company’s mission is to offer products with transparent origins featuring quality materials, providing a timeless aesthetic. Every piece has an explanation of why it is so special, followed by six seals that help assess the characteristics of the clothing.
More than the eco-friendly idea that once ruled the market, today brands are listening to consumer rejections after scandals that degrade human life. This awakening to a more evolved consumption may reach even higher levels in the next few years.