Melbourne are you ready to spark joy with your wardrobe? Last month Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA) released their Guide to Ethical Shopping in Melbourne as part of Virgin Australia’s Melbourne Fashion Festival.

ECA is an accreditation body which has operated since 2010. They work with a number of textile, clothing and footwear companies to ensure Australian supply chains are legally compliant and transparent.

The ethical fashion guide, which maps out 35 brands across Melbourne’s CBD and inner suburbs, is perfect for those who are conscious of the impact their fashion choices have on workers, and the fashion industry.

The Ethical Clothing Australia label.

If you know very little about ethical fashion, here’s a summary:

What is it?

Trying to define ethical fashion is trying to find a needle in a haystack. It’s pretty complicated. Ethical fashion means something different to everyone, however, the overall mission is to reduce the negative impact the fashion industry has on the world.  It focuses on how the clothing is made – from the materials used, to how the workers are treated and paid.

You also might hear about sustainable and slow fashion, as they are similar and often associated under the umbrella term of ethical fashion. Sustainable fashion is about the effect clothing production has on the environment. It’s about being kind to the environment and using resources responsibly.

Slow fashion shares the same values and is about the style, design, and quality of clothing. It’s about buying quality clothing with durable fabrics so they will stand the test of time.

The movement gained momentum after the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in 2013, where 1,134 garment workers died. The tragic event encouraged people to pay significantly more attention to where their clothing is produced and under what conditions the makers of the clothes are working.

The aftermath of the collapsed Rana Plaza factory which killed 1,134 workers. Photo: Zakir Hossain

I admit it, I’m guilty of funding the fast-fashion industry, where mass-market retailers produce inexpensive, trendy clothing. I find shopping for clothes exhausting and also extremely stressful, so I can only imagine how painful it must be to only purchase ethically produced clothing.

And this is why this guide is perfect. It clearly maps out what stores have received accreditation from ECA, where companies are required to show a commitment to ethical practice, and takes the stress out of ethically conscious shopping.

A few companies listed on Melbourne’s guide to ethical fashion are Cue, Otto & Spike, Nobody Denimand Remuse Designs. While purchasing ethically made clothing might set you back financially, you’re supporting the local industry and are ensuring the workers who made your clothing are being paid fairly and working in safe conditions.

To find out more information about fast-fashion check out this article.

Ethical shopping on a budget

The main reason why people won’t shop ethically is because of the price. A simple black pencil skirt from Cue will set you back $185. If you’re a student or a low-income earner it’s unrealistic to spend that much money on one piece of clothing. This is why people spend their money on fast fashion because it’s trendy, it’s cheap, and you don’t have to spend hours searching for clothing in your price range.

Op shopping is a great way to save money and to find one of a kind pieces. By purchasing second-hand clothes you’re interrupting the cycle of buy, use and throw away. It’s ethical and affordable.

If you want to shop ethically on budget another great resource is The Ethical Fashion Guide by Baptist World Aid Australia. The 2019 report graded 130 fashion companies from A to F based on the strength of their labour rights management system and what the companies are doing to reduce the risks of forced labour, child labour and worker exploitation.

“Our research team assesses each company’s ethical sourcing system according to 44 specific criteria. These assessments consider three critical stages of the supply chain as a proxy for the entire supply chain: raw materials, inputs production and final stage manufacturing.” – Baptist World Aid Australia

Cotton On, Glassons, and Bras N Things are rated between A to B on the report. These brands are empowering workers and taking active measures to ensure everyone is receiving a living wage.

Showpo, Lowes and Ally Fashion are graded F on the report. According to the report, low graded companies are not taking the initiatives to reduce the risks of slavery and exploitation, and if they are, they decided not to reveal it.

This year’s guide is quite interesting and it shows that companies are improving as time goes on. In the 2018 report MinkPink received an F, and this year they received a C.  The biggest change, however, comes from Bras N Things, last year they were graded F, this year they’re graded A.  This is a massive change and a huge achievement, it shows that every company has the ability to improve, it’s never too late to make a difference.

Check out the full list here.

The report is a great tool to use if you can’t afford to spend hundreds of dollars on ethical clothing. It gives you the opportunity as the consumer to make a conscious decision about the companies you’re shopping with. Knowledge is power and supporting companies that are making a great effort to reduce exploitation is important, by supporting them, you’re supporting positive change.

But if you can afford to splurge and invest in some great ethical clothing you can now download Melbourne’s guide here.

“This fantastic new map of Melbourne’s most ethical brands will make it easier for us all to make better choices, know more about where our clothes are coming from and rest assured that workers are being given a fair go.” – Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley

Throw Away Culture

We’re currently living in a throwaway society where we are extremely influenced by consumerism. We also live in a society where people, majority woman, are criticised for wearing an outfit more than once. This was evident when journalist Lisa Wilkinson was called out by Daily Mail in 2017 for wearing a blouse — four months after wearing it for the first time. Outfit repeating is not a crime, in fact, it’s the best thing you can do for the planet.

In 2017 ABC’s War on Waste estimated that around 6000 kg of clothing is dumped in landfill every 10 minutes and in one hour Australian’s throw out 36,000 kgs of clothing. They visualised this statistic by piling up a massive mound of clothing in Sydney’s Martin Place. Check out the video below.

It’s 2019 and we need to be more conscious of the impact our purchases have on the environment. Make sure you support businesses that are making positive change and purchase from your local op shop to get some bargains. Most of all wear that outfit you love more than once, and if it breaks, repair it. Love what you wear and wear what you love. It’s a method even Marie Kondo will love.

War on Waste | Craig piles up 6,000kg of clothes in Martin Place

How long do you think it takes Australia to throw out 6,000kg of clothes? Much quicker than you think! #WarOnWasteAU on iview now.

Posted by ABC TV + iview on Wednesday, 31 May 2017