Sustainable fashion in the lockdown era
- Arusa Qureshi
- 5 June 2020
How to shop sustainably and ethically, while providing vital support to garment workers around the world
While the COVID-19 pandemic has hit every industry in some manner, in the world of fashion, retailers have been encouraging customers to shop online as their stores remain closed for the time being. But for many of us, this period of lockdown has encouraged a step away from fast fashion as we face new financial challenges and responsibilities at home. Sadly though, the people arguably most affected by this change in buying and spending are the garment makers around the world, as big brands continue to halt manufacturing and cancel payments, leading to huge job losses and widespread poverty. But what can we all do to help from home?
First off, there are many organisations that are working to directly support garment works that have lost their jobs. Lost Stock, for example, is a new initiative set up by Edinburgh-based entrepreneur Cally Russell, the founder of fashion shopping app Mallzee. Shoppers are able to buy a box of clothing for £35, with each box worth around £70 and packed with at least three garments. The clothes come straight from Bangladeshi factories where they are made, with each box supporting a worker and their family for a week.
There are also plenty of places where you can donate directly to help workers that have lost their jobs or may be vulnerable. Awaj Foundation is a grassroots NGO led by garment workers in Bangladesh, providing training and support to over 600,000 workers. GoodWeave International works to end child labor in global supply chains and has launched the COVID-19 Child and Worker Protection Fund to help meet the basic needs of producer communities in India, Nepal and Afghanistan. CARE, the global non-profit who have supported workers in the garment industry for many years, have launched an Emergency Surge Fund and are matching all donations, using funds to urgently provide families with hygienic masks, hand washing stations and hygiene kits.
If you're looking to shop more ethically and sustainably in the future, thus working to eliminate the exploitation of low-paid workers, there are many brands that are worth looking into. People Tree, founded in 1991, focuses on ensuring that every product is made to the highest ethical and environmental standards from start to finish, with fair pay, good working conditions and equality for workers at the top of their list.
Birdsong is a London-based brand that designs sustainable and ethical fashion, made by women who are paid a fair wage, and likewise, Yala is an award-winning African jewellery brand, creating ethical jewellery with collaborators who are paid fairly and materials that are eco-friendly.
Vic & Lily is a Berlin-based vintage and fashion label, with every piece in their collection handmade and cut from fabrics that were once vintage garments, ensuring minimum wastage. Know the Origin sell Fairtrade and organic ethical fashion for men and women, with a commitment to being 100% transparent about the production process of each item, taking customers through every step of the supply chain.
Good Krama is an ethically conscious fashion label, inspired by the krama, a traditional silk or cotton Cambodian scarf made of thousands of tiny squares. The company makes clothes from two types of materials: Cambodian hand woven fabrics created on a traditional wooden loom and upcycled materials from fabric remnants and deadstock of local garment factories.
Jollie's Socks have a simple but important mission: for every pair of socks bought, a pair is donated to a local homeless shelter. Over 50 charities have now been supported with donations all over the UK. Similarly, Pala Eyewear have an emphasis on giving back, working closely with international charity Vision Aid Overseas. For every pair of sunglasses sold, eye-care programmes in Africa are supported by grants provided to vision centres, dispensaries and screening programmes.
As local charity shops remain closed, many of us are looking for new ways to donate unwanted clothes without creating unnecessary waste. Re-Fashion is a platform that helps charities that can't open a shop raise money from donated clothes. You just order a donation bag online, fill it with clothes you no longer wear and post it back for free and then Re-Fashion sells on their site, with funds going to CoppaFeel!, Make-A-Wish® UK, my AFK, Women's Aid and Breast Cancer Now. Similarly, Thrift+ is a company that sells donated clothes, with proceeds split between the seller and their chosen charity. Cancer Research have also set up shop online, selling pre-loved items in all categories on their newly opened Depop store.