Ethics —

Values grounded in the well-being of people and our planet.

Sewing machines set up in a well-lit room in Brisbane, Australia

Overview

The high turnover of ‘fashion trends’ has fuelled an industry and a society to consume 400 percent more clothing than we did just 20 years ago. As a result, the fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world, employing millions of people worldwide of which many are underpaid, overworked and enslaved.

Ethical and sustainable fashion are terms that have escalated quite significantly in recent years—and for good reason. The garment manufacturing industry is one we have been earnestly questioning since learning about the exploitation of workers and unsafe working conditions. Through The Kind Guide, we want to share the brands who are innovating and advocating for social and environmental change. These are the brands who, in contrast, are aware of and track their supply chain; who provide safe working conditions and pay living wages to their garment workers; who are significantly minimising their impact on the environment; and who are highly conscious of animal welfare.

We are strong advocates for brands with strong ethics and are constantly asking who, where and how products are made. Like everyone, we are continually learning, reading and researching, and by no means claim to have it all figured out—this is an evolving space as we embark on this journey and we encourage you to share what you know with us, too.

On the window of The Keep asks passersby who made their clothes

Geared by the Fashion Revolution group, the window display at The Keep Boutique in London is a simple starting point to help customers connect with the stories and the people behind the clothing they buy in-store. Photo: Dunja Opalko for The Kind Guide.

Definitions

We have established a variety of tags that define what a brand values in its production cycle. In turn, these tags are a way to assist you in finding brands that align with what’s important to you too. You will find the ‘Production’ filter on our Directory that will help you find those that are grouped under each tag. We will continue to refine these as our Directory grows.

Charitable

Putting a percentage of sales or profits towards a chosen charity; when a brand chooses to give back.

Fair

When workers are paid adequately in exchange for an item, product or crop, and they are not exploited in any way. Often products and brands will show the Fair Trade logo mark when they are certified, and we have chosen to only tag a brand in our Directory as ‘fair’ if they carry this certification, if a brand ensures to pay fair wages across their supply chain, or are associated with a fairtrade organisation like the Fair Wear Foundation (FWF).

Handcraft

All clothing is made by someone’s two hands, which is something easily forgotten. Many brands however are helping to sustain traditional handcraft techniques around the world that may otherwise be lost, and that’s where this tag comes in. Handcrafts can include (but are not limited to) hand loomed fabrics, hand embroidery, hand dyeing, crocheting, knitting, beading, screen and block printing by hand, leather work by hand—all of which adopt traditional skills of rural and ancient communities and use little-to-no electricity to produce!

Local

When you see brands tagged with ‘local’ in our directory, this indicates that everything is produced within a certain radius; where product resources are sourced from the same location as they are designed and manufactured in.

Made to order

Garments will be manufactured after you have made your purchase. This is a very environmentally friendly, sustainable approach by not over-producing and ending up with a store room full of product no one wants to wear. Brands who choose to manufacture this way often have a wait time so be sure to check on this, but when a piece is made just for you it’s even more special!

Minimal waste

Where only a small amount of materials used in the production process get thrown away. Almost everything gets used, often with the goal of ‘zero waste’.

When creating and manufacturing a product think about the materials that are not used and get thrown away—whether this be off cuts of fabrics, the ends of threads or chemicals down the drain—where does it go? Many businesses and brands are really thinking about the waste they create whilst producing their products and are innovating ways to enhance and utilise all of their materials and resources the best way they can. An effective example we love to see from designers is zero waste pattern cutting!

Organic

A controlled farming method that produces a crop without the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, or other artificial or harmful chemicals, grown in compliance with organic agricultural standards and often within an environment that has been organic for a minimum of three years. Better for the farmers, better for the earth and better for your skin!

It is important to note that if a piece of clothing bears a label of 100% organic cotton, this generally refers to the cotton itself only, and does not include the processing and manufacturing phases (spinning, weaving, dyeing, manufacture), nor the thread, binding or embellishments. Source: Ethical Fashion Forum

Recycled

Converting, treating and reusing materials and resources to create something new, forming a circular production cycle that is preventing unnecessary waste. There are many textile brands working to save waste ending up in landfill—for example using plastic from discarded plastic bottles and fishing nets to create nylon yarn for activewear, swimwear and footwear.

Sustainable

Production processes and products that minimise impact on the environment and are not depleting natural resources; where long-term impacts are thoughtfully considered.

Upcycled

Transforming, repurposing or tailoring existing materials or a version of a garment into something new is called upcycling. This is a particularly innovative way of injecting new life into unwanted clothing and textiles that may otherwise end up in landfill. Brands will often source off-cuts, deadstock, end-of-line and vintage fabrics, as well as altering existing garments, to create their entire collections with.

Vegan

Where no animals are used whatsoever to create a product—no leather, fur, feathers, etc.

Zoe Morton jewellery designer carving an earring in her studio

Photo: Dunja Opalko for The Kind Guide.

Certifications

You may have come across a number of different certifications that have been acquired by brands and the manufacturers they work with throughout the production process. It’s a good indication to ensure brands really mean what they say, as these certifications are carried out by regular audits to meet a certain set of criteria. Certification is a voluntary process and is offered for a limited time period, requiring regular renewal to ensure monitoring is up-to-date. To award certification, the certifying body must itself be accredited.

If the supply chain of a brand is considerably long (i.e. they are producing garments/products through a long list of suppliers and manufacturers) it becomes increasingly difficult to confidently monitor things like safety and poor working conditions. We recommend looking at how open a brand is about their production—certification(s) or not. Look for their ethical code of conduct, how regularly they audit their factories, what the factory audit results show, if they publicly share this type of information, and how aware they are about their fibre and textile supply chain.

We will always link to certifications if they are relevant to a brand and to offer you the ability to learn more. For example, a brand can hold certifications like OEKO-TEX 100 or Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) for their fabrics, as well as accredited with an organisation like World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO).

Once you start diving into the nitty-gritty of supply chains and production processes there can be quite an overwhelming amount of information (or at times, a lack thereof!). It is important to note here that not every brand can manage certification, as it can be a lengthy and costly process, and does not intend to exclude those that are without them. We will be working to shed more light on this as we continue to grow and share what we learn and uncover.

Women sewing at the Dorsu workshop in Cambodia

Photo courtesy of Dorsu.

Organisations

Here we will link to industry organisations as we learn of them. These bodies assist brands, companies, farmers, makers and garment workers in a number of positive ways. An organisation, in this context, will often act as an intermediary who assures best practice, particularly when it comes to ethics and sustainability in business and garment manufacturing.

Behind The Barcode, Baptist World Aid

Better Cotton Initiative (BCI)

British Association for Fair Trade Shops (BAFTS)

Clean Clothes Campaign

Council of Textile and Fashion Industries of Australia (TFIA)

Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA)

Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI)

Fairtrade Labelling Organisation (FLO)

Fair Wear Foundation (FWF)

Fashion Revolution

Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

International Labour Organisation (ILO)

Labour Behind The Label

Soil Association

World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO)

If you know of an organisation we should add to this list we’d love to hear from you! Please send us an email to hello@thekindguide.co

Nico underwear hanging in store, accredited with Ethical Clothing Australia swing tags

Photo: Samee Lapham for The Kind Guide

Contribute

If you’re passionate about ethics and sustainability like we are, we’d love to have you as part of the team!

 

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