Ethical fashion WHAT?
Ethical fashion can be defined as the production of textile items with a conscience. With the concept of social responsibility gaining ground, corporates all over the world are recognizing the importance of environment protection and ethical business. Fashion houses are no exception. More and more fashion designers and textile producers are striving to produce goods that do not harm the environment and are cruelty-free. Ethical issues in fashion are emerging.
Ethical fashion WHEN?
The concept of ethical fashion is old; however, it is gaining more and more popularity in the modern times. As awareness about environment conservation, cruelty to animals and ethical issues in business is rising, fashion brands are also increasingly adopting ethical means. Customers are also becoming more and more aware of ethical fashion and the demand for ethically produced fashion products is on the rise.
Ethical fashion WHY?
Why should textile producers and customers adopt ethical fashion? Animal and human rights activists as well as environment protection activists have brought up ethical issues related to the fashion industry time and time again. Some of the major ethical issues that have come up are:
The production of cotton entails the use of a large amount of pesticides, which is harmful to the environment and to people. Figures indicate that nearly 2 billion USD worth of pesticides are used annually, of which pesticides worth about 819 million USD have been declared toxic as per the guidelines of the WHO. The health of the workers spraying pesticides in cotton fields and the people living around these fields are adversely affected. Pesticide poisoning can lead to symptoms such as headaches, tremors, nausea, depression, seizures, loss of consciousness, and, in some extreme cases, death. Empty pesticide containers are sometimes reused, which again leads to serious ill effects on the health of the people using such containers. The use of toxic pesticides leads to air, water and soil pollution. Apart from the pests, pesticides also cause the death of other small animals and birds consuming them inadvertently.
The chemical dyes that are used in the production of garments also lead to skin problems. Problems such as eczema, rashes and skin irritation have been noted among people on account of dangerous toxins in the clothes worn by them.
Another serious ethical issue that arises in the fashion industry is the issue of cruelty to animals. The cruelty to animals behind the preparation of a fur coat has been brought to light time and again by animal rights activists. One fur coat costs the life of about 55 wild mink, 40 sables, 11 lynx, 18 red foxes, 11 silver foxes, 100 chinchillas, 30 rabbits, 9 beavers, 30 muskrats, 15 bobcats, 25 skunks, 14 otters, 125 ermines, 30 possums, 100 squirrels or 27 raccoons. The pain caused to the animals while trapping them and extracting their fur is unthinkable. Similarly, a tremendous amount of suffering is caused to animals in extracting wool and leather, which goes into the preparation of fashionable shawls and boots.
Human rights activists have also pointed out the various ethical issues behind the preparation of a fashion product. Extremely low wages and long hours, unhealthy and unsafe working conditions, exhaustion, sexual harassment and mental stress are some of these issues.