Pay more, buy less – FFF´s guide to ethical fashion

There`s a lot of talk about ethical clothes but what really makes a piece of clothing an ethical one? And why does it matter? FFF asked these questions from Anniina Nurmi, designer behind the sustainable clothing brand Nurmi and the creator of the website Vihreät Vaatteet which gathers information about ecological fashion and responsible consuming

Why should you buy ethical fashion?

– Today’s clothing industry is one the most twisted industries in the world. We´ve got used to get a T-shirt from a chain store that costs only an euro or two – that shouldn’t even be possible! Cheap price tells that people who have been part of manufacturing process as well as the environment have suffered for that piece of cloth.

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Why do sustainable clothes cost so much more than t-shirts and dresses from regular chain stores?

– People often ask why sustainable clothes cost more. I think the question should be reversed: why are the cheap clothes so cheap? If you want people who manufacture the clothes to get a fair wage and MINIMIZE THE IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT at same time you must be ready to pay a little more for what you’re wearing.

What makes ethical clothes ethical?

Ethical clothes are manufactured respecting humans as well as animals. Whether it´s the farmers working in the cotton field or sewers in the factories they all have received a fair compensation of their work. These workers should also have a right to have safe working conditions, unionize, and be able to actively improve their rights themselves.

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Would you describe us the ordinary manufacturing process of clothes?

– The process includes producing the material for fabrics and turning them into fabrics, dyeing, printing, cutting and sewing. Many industries today are very mechanized but production of clothes requires still a lot of hand work – there are not yet robots which could make our clothes, at least not cost-effectively.

How can I be sure that the clothes I buy are really as sustainable as they are claimed to be?

– This should be much easier for consumers than it is now. At the moment making sure that the clothing is sustainable forces one to make a lot of detective work. Clothing business should operate more transparently so consumers would know which products are really ethical.

When it comes to ethical working conditions at the moment the safest way is to trust certificates like Fair Trade certificated cotton or Fair Wear certificate even though there are downsides to certifications as well.

Many times locally produced clothes are counted as sustainable. However, problem with these clothes is usually that only the sewing part of the process is made near you. Customer should also know where the material comes from and in what kind of conditions it is produced.

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What do you think about big brands making clothing lines that are marketed as ethical?

– Well it is of course a step forward that big chain stores use ecological materials even in some of their products as even that makes a big impact because of the big volumes. However, these claimed ecological lines are usually ethical or ecological only in a superficial way. They often concentrate for example only on the material of the cloth instead of making a really ethical cloth that should cover the products whole lifecycle.

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Many might find it hard to change their consuming habits to more sustainable. Where should they start?

– A good way to start is to question do you need to buy a new garment at all. If you do, Then choose a product of high-quality that you really love and which you’ll use for years and years.

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