Ethical fashion is not only about environmental responsibility, there are socially responsible practices brands should take to make sure that their employees are treated well. That means safe physical working conditions, safe mental working conditions, and fair pay.
In countries around the world, factory owners fire pregnant women, deny maternity leave; actively retaliate against workers who form unions, force workers to work more hours or risk their job; and ignore sexual harassment by male workers. This doesn’t even begin to cover the dangerous physical working conditions of many garment workers. Crumbling buildings, buildings without air conditioning or reliable electricity. Sometimes workers forced to work without lunch, or exposed to dangerous chemicals without protection if they have to use certain dyes. Lack of ventilation is extremely common, along with little to no access to water or restrooms. At worst, these kinds of conditions lead to building collapses (many of the buildings are not equipped to hold this kind of heavy machinery), fires, or slave labor. Pay for the garment workers often is as low as a few US dollars per month. It is common for a garment worker to work up to 96 hours a week, and are subject to physical and mental abuse by factory owners if they cannot meet their production deadlines. Some people will sell their children to garment factories to work for a number of years for one lump sum.
The first step to combating these poor practices is to increase brand transparency. This requires brands to publish the names of the factories where their garments are made, the phone number of the factories, and the address, along with some information about the factory like who is the parent company and how many people are working there. Often, employees will see a human rights violation at a factory, but are unaware of what brand placed the order, making whistleblowing or opportunities for reform extremely difficult. Transparency helps eliminate this confusion. Transparency builds confidence and trust among consumers and among workers. If brands/manufacturers do not disclose their factories, it should create suspicion among consumers.
Fashion Revolution (see previous post for more info about this organization) ranks companies on the following factors:1. Policy and Commitments
4. Know, Show, Fix
5. Spotlight issues
“Transparency requires that companies know who makes their clothes – from who stitched them right through to who dyed the fabric and who farmed the cotton — and under what conditions. Crucially, it requires brands to share this information publicly.
If we know the facilities where our clothes are being made, if we have access to information about the factories, mills and farms where brands are sourcing then the public can help hold the industry to account for bad practices and encourage good practices.”
- Fashion Revolution
Since transparency is the first step, what's the second? Where do we go from here? That would be to act on this information given to us. We need to hold brands, retailers, governments and suppliers accountable for negative human rights practices.
All of our brands at Supernatural are ethical. Most are small/indie European brands that work with suppliers that are close by, or they are manufactured in house ( La Fille d’O being one of the most transparent). However, we do have a few American & Canadian brands, and we will go over some of their ethical practices here: