I’m a guest blogger today whilst Ismay enjoys a well-deserved Christmas break! My name is Philippa Crommentuijn-Marsh and I’m a researcher in the field of sustainable fashion. What interests me particularly are consumers and what they think about sustainability and whether their knowledge positively affects their clothing behaviour (or not!).
I did some research into this area a couple of years ago and discovered that generally there was low awareness about some of the major issues affecting the fashion industry. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, the issue that people had most knowledge about was the exploitation of clothing workers in terms of low pay and bad working conditions. These are issues that have probably appeared the most in the media.
The least known issue was the diminishing Aral Sea. Have a look on Google Images and see how this inland sea has dramatically shrunk over the years, by over 80%, mainly due to water being diverted to irrigate the cotton crop. It’s a startling image and is a good demonstration of what environmental devastation the fashion industry can cause. Yet it seemed to be little known then. Given that this inland sea is in Uzbekistan I strongly suspect that a lot of people (including me) wouldn’t be able to find Uzbekistan easily on a map!
When events are happening far away in a country most people aren’t familiar with it is harder to find out what is happening. For the people taking part in the research when they heard more about the ethical and environmental costs of the fashion industry, there were some positive indications of potential behaviour change. Fast forward to today and since I completed my research there is noticeably much more information coming from the media about the fashion industry and sustainability.
Just last year I was pleased to see the Aral Sea being featured on the BBC programme Stacey Dooley Investigates Fashion’s Dirty Secrets (unfortunately the episode doesn’t seem to be available on the BBC anymore though you can watch a short clip showing the Aral Sea in its current state).(1) There have been more TV programmes highlighting the exploitation of garment workers throughout the world and almost every week there seems to be an article in the media about some aspect of sustainability.
Recently I noticed two sustainable issues affecting the current party season. Firstly, sequins, which were highlighted recently as being bad for the environment. They are mostly made out of plastic which don’t biodegrade for hundreds of years as well as containing microplastics which can harm aquatic life. Though there has been some encouraging progress towards producing more sustainable sequins this will take time. (2) Sequinned clothing is popular at this time of year for party outfits and according to a recent survey the average person will spend £73.90 on a Christmas outfit that for some people won’t be worn again. Within this season alone this adds up to £2.4 billion pounds on clothes that are hardly worn. (3) This may partially explain the overall UK spend in 2018 on clothing being a whopping £60.4 billion pounds. (Statista.com)
Apparently the spend on clothing is on an upward trajectory meaning that fast fashion is still hugely popular, and consumers don’t seem to be changing their behaviour despite the plethora of information about sustainability. If you are interested in dressing more sustainably, the charity Hubbub behind this research gives tips on how to dress for the party season (4) and the BBC have also recently produced an article on companies that offer clothing for hire which seems to be a growing area and becoming more popular (5). Will all this information and new fashion services change consumer behaviour? I look forward to finding out more!
Since our ethical fashion range went live on Kickstarter we have had many visitors to the site. However, most of them are not converting to backers which suggests they are not the right customer and not willing to pay the premium prices that ethical fashion costs. So, why is ethical fashion more expensive than the high street and the supermarkets?
Most large retailers manufacture in countries where the wages are extremely low so as to maximise on their own profits. One of the biggest garment manufacturing countries at the moment is Bangladesh, where most garment workers receive just 3,000 taka a month (approximately £25) but a living wage is calculated to be 4000 taka a month (£45). Ethical brands use manufacturers that pay their staff a real living wage, as well as paying living wages themselves. Manufacturing in the UK that means paying £9.30 an hour or £10.75 in London.
Economies of Scale
Large high street retailers and supermarkets will order vast amounts of each style which means they can buy them as much lower unit costs. They will be buying 1000's of metres of fabric at a lower cost too. Ethical brands are much smaller and so would have much smaller orders meaning their making and fabric costs will be much higher. For example a t-shirt can cost a high street retailer as low as £3 to make, pack & ship based on an order of over 4000 pieces. (That's before they put their retail mark-up on it) It costs me as a start-up nearly £18 because I can only aim to reach 50 pieces.
Large companies have enormous power which they use to help drive down prices. Factories owners often have the threat or worry of losing orders unless they can bring their units costs down to the point where they make very little money themselves. This is why the garment workers are paid so little and work in appalling conditions. There are so many factories and other poor countries vying for business that a retailer can easily go elsewhere to find a better deal.
Most budget fashion is cheap because it's made with synthetic fabrics. The price of organic cotton is substantially higher than these and conventional cotton because the extra money is used to grow cotton more sustainably, to cover certification checks and provide better lives for the workers. Big brands will often dye or print vast amounts of fabrics different colours or prints to use in different ways too, so reducing their costs further.
Big retailers have huge customer bases and massive marketing budgets, whereas ethical fashion is still a relatively niche market. Until there is more demand for ethical fashion, in a similar way to the organic food movement, the prices will stay high. Investors are less likely to invest in ethical companies unless they can see evidence of customer demand, so companies wanting to do the right things struggle to grow on their own.
Because large fashion retailers are able to buy their products at such low cost prices they are able to add on high mark-ups. Fashion items are normally marked up at 2 or 3 times the wholesale price. Remember that t-shirt that cost under £3 to make? With a retail mark-up the retail price would still be only £9. These large mark-ups also give big brands the ability to discount heavily when they need to shift stock. Ethical brands have higher making costs as seen above so can't add so much of a mark-up and are therefore limited to how deeply they can discount. This affects again how many customers they can attract.
So, does this make you think more about the value rather than the high costs of ethical fashion?
Hopefully it helps you to understand how difficult it is for ethical brands to survive especially in today's world of fast fashion.
#ethicalfashion #livingwage #fashionstartup
So lovely readers I need your help...
I need you to tell me what YOU need.
Over the last three years of blogging I have had over 40,000 unique visitors to this site from all over the world. It takes up a lot of my work time writing the blogs and getting them out into the world. But, there seems to be a problem. When my crowdfund launched in June I had little to no visitors from this site and when I recently did a survey to find out why it hadn't worked I discovered that most blog readers didn't even know the crowdfund campaign was happening.
Now, the big news is that we are re-launching a paired-down collection on Kickstarter on
Friday 6th December at 11AM GMT
and I want you all to know about it and visit the crowdfunder, so you can get your hands on some lovely Boy Wonder stuff. The best way to do that is to get you to sign up to the mailing list. In fact, my subscribers were the only ones in the survey who all knew about the campaign. Sadly, considering the amount of visitors I get here not many of you actually sign up.
So what can I do to change that? What is it that will encourage you to join us as a subscriber?
Firstly let me tell you what you get from signing up. The current enticement is access to a 10% early bird discount on the launch. You will also recieve a monthly newsletter (sometimes bi-monthly, but I am doing my best!) which has the highlights from the blog over that month. There is also a news section that keeps you updated on what's happening behind the scenes, exclusive content and also details on giveaways, prize -draws and other exciting stuff. Sometimes I will also email you to tell you about important events such as the launch so you don't miss out. The best thing is that it is all delivered to your inbox absolutey free!
But maybe this is not quite what you want? Maybe there is something better I can offer you?
So, I have been doing some research and wracking my brains and I have a few options to offer you. These would be free downloadable content for you to access on signing up:
In the meantime I am going to busy rejigging the blogsite a bit to prepare it for the launch and make signing up more obvious. So please bear with me if you encounter any problems.
Thanks for reading and hopefully your feedback too
#subscribersignup #mailinglist #freebies
If a garment is very cheap, then you do have to ask yourself why. Cost is normally a very good indicator of ethical credentials, but not always. You have to remember that it will have been made for a fraction of what you are buying it at, as the retailer will add their own mark-up. So the factory workers would get very little which could mean safety is not great as well. That said, a high cost garment does not always ensure good ethics either, merely a higher profit for the retailer.
Certifications such as Fairtrade, Oeko-tex and GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) are an easy first check for a shopper as they will appear on labelling or marketing. They all have differing sets of standards regarding social and environmental aspects and factories are often audited by the certifying bodies. You can find out more about the different certification on our glossary page here.
It is important to state here that we have spent a great deal of time specifically sourcing materials with the above certifications and paid a premium for them, but we are not allowed to use their logos as our factory is not itself certified. Therefore we simply state that the materials are certified organic and chemical-free. You can request to see a company’s certifications if you want to check. Ours are available to view here.
How open are the brand about their production and supply chain? If they are doing all the right things, then they will have nothing to hide. How much information do they provide to their customers and are they happy to answer questions on these issues? An ethical brand may have open factory events or show video and photo footage of their staff and factory premises. Full disclosure of the list of factories they use is another big tick. Our factory and supplier list is available here.
Policies & Initiatives
Many big brands are signed up various initiatives that check up on their ethical claims and promises. The most well-known one being the ETI (Ethical Trading Initiative), but others such as the Bangladesh Fire & Safety Accord, Fair Wear Foundation and Fair Living Wage. However they should also have their own comprehensive ethical policy too, that states their own guidelines and working with manufacturers and suppliers. For many small brands this will be all they have, as they won’t be able to bear the cost of being part of costly initiatives. See our Policy pagehere.
A strict Animal Welfare policy is also a must have for an ethical company. This should state which animal products they will not use and should include: mulesed merino, cashmere, mohair, shearling, angora – or any animal hair, down, feathers, fur, exotic skins, silk, shell, horn and bone. If they use wool it should carry the RWS (Responsible Wool Standard) Symbol which guarantees a high animal welfare standard.
Many big brands will carry out factory audit, either by a third party or themselves to ensure ethical practice. The main certifications of this are SEDEX (Supplier Ethical Date Exchange) and Fast Forward which is the highest standard. Audits are expensive though, so many small brands don’t have them for the smaller factories they work with. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are unethical if they are ticking some of the other boxes. Many of the small factories such as ours are family businesses with less than 10 employees who they have worked with for years. Our main supplier has Living Wage Employer certification, which we hope to gain for others in our supply chain too.
There are various apps and websites that rank fashion brands according to various markers. Check out the Ethical consumer magazine, rank-a-brand, Good on you app, Fashion Revolution’s Transparency Index and the Good Guide. However, I find that many of them have odd anomalies so I compiled my own brand rankings. You can read about who came out best here.
Big brands really have no excuse to not be ticking all these boxes. So if they don’t, then ask them why. Consumer behaviour and demand can drive change if we are all more vocal.
I hope this helps you to shop more ethically and feel more confident in your choices
#ethicalfashion #howto #fashionexpert
5 Most Ethical High Street Fashion Brands
Top 5 ethical kids Fashion Brands
Top 6 Ethical Kids Accessories
6 Fashion Brands to avoid & why
Ok, so let's first talk about what fast fashion is. Fast fashion is when clothing is produced quickly and cheaply, often being able to have new designs in store just weeks after being designed. The business model is based on high volume and turnover of stock.
The main problem with the fast fashion industry is the sheer volume of clothing it produces - 1 billion garments annually! Sophisticated marketing and the high turnover of stock drives consumers on to the next trend in order to buy ever more. Considering that fast fashion is predicted toincrease 60% by the year 2030 this is not sustainable when we all need to be buying less (of everything) to save our planet. The truth is we don't actually need any more clothes at all, we have more than enough to go round already, but fast fashion taps in to the desire for the new 'must have' and the affordable 'don't miss it' offer.
Aside from a few small conscious ranges, most fast fashion garments are made with synthetic fabrics which are responsible for 0.6 – 1.7 million tons of microfibres end up in the ocean every year. We all know from The Blue Planet II what the impact of plastics is on our sea life, but the fibres also end up in our drinking water and in our food as they do not biodegrade like natural fibres. The fast fashion industry is also responsible for producing 20% of global wastewater. The dwindling resources on our planet cannot sustain such turnover of 'stuff' driven by company policies based on growth and expansion; new stores, emerging markets, ever more lines. The industry emits1.2 billion tons of CO2 equivalent per year which is about 5% of global emissions - more than air travel and international shippingemissions combined. Much of this will come from the thousands of fashion miles that are incurred when the products travel across the world to get to our stores.
Most fast fashion (97%) is produced in far off countries which have extremely low wages. Low price fashion often means unethical practices and little transparency. The prices we pay in a fast fashion store do not reflect the true cost of what someone should have been paid, nor the resources used and the environmental damage done. Large fast fashion brands have incredible power, which puts pressure on developing countries to provide goods at rock bottom prices and cut corners on health and safety in order to keep the orders coming in. The speed of production can also lead to long working hours and extreme pressure to hit impossible deadlines. The Rana Plaza tragedy is a prime example of this.
Some fast fashion brands have sustainability schemes such as H&M's 'Closed loop' and ''recycling' schemes. However, with current technologies, it would take 12 years to recycle what the fast fashion industry creates in 48 hours. It is also unclear about how much of these unwanted garments actually get recycled or reused. This seems to be a marketing idea rather than a solution, as it still takes energy and resources to recycle. What happens to what cannot be recycled? The worry here is that so much low grade fast fashion is going out to African countries that their local textiles industries are collapsing. Clothing recycling as with household recycling makes us believe that it's ok to keep consuming at the rate we are without considering it's impact.
The Environmental Audit Committee's inquiry into the sustainability of the fashion industry had one main conclusion and that is we need to value our clothes. And high street and fast fashion does not necessarily mean low quality if you choose good pieces that are classic and look after them. However, the majority of fast fashion is not designed for longevity which is one of the principles of circular fashion.
So, I don't believe that fast fashion can be sustainable because of all these issues. Can the big fast fashion brands change their way of working and become more sustainable? Maybe, but I doubt they would want to jeopardise their bottom line. So don't be fooled by clever initiatives and green-washing or that at least they are trying. There are so many other ethical and sustainable brands that deserve our attention that are doing so much more.
#fastfashion #sustainablefashion #ethicalfashion
6 Fashion Brands to avoid
Top 5 Ethical Kids Brands
5 Most Ethical High Street Fashion Brands
Here is a snapshot of the Boy Wonder launch collection that is now available on Kickstarter.
This crowdfund campaign will run for 2 weeks only. Further orders will not be taken until the retail website is up and running in September/October. The set up of this is of course dependant on gaining enough pre-orders to make production and website investment viable. So don't miss out!
(sorry, I hate this salesy talk too but I've come this far so I have to try and sell it now!)
Click HERE to see the whole collection and pre-order now.
As I have been preparing for our launch collection photoshoot I have been sourcing ethical and sustainable kids accessories to style the outfits with. Here are some of the best I have found in summer brights and hot styles. Hope you like them! x
#kidsethicalfashion #kidsaccessories #kidsstyling
Products made in Britain will most often demand a high price point, including British-made fashion. So why pay that extra cost? Is it worth that higher price?
Considering the industrial revolution and clothing manufacture began in Britain, it is not surprising that we are known around the world for producing high quality goods. Making simple, quality items is what we do best. John Smedley, for example, are the longest running factory in the world who still make beautiful, fine gauge knitwear just as they have done for hundreds of years.
Not all British factories are run ethically, it has to be said, but the majority of them are. Having a short supply chain makes it far easier for designers or brands to work closely with their makers to ensure ethical policies are adhered to. Britain also has high legal standards on workers’ rights, health and safety in the workplace and wage level minimums in comparison to other garment producing countries. Ethical credentials should always be checked and good brands will proudly show them.
Being close to the manufacturing base means significantly fewer miles are clocked up in shipping fabrics and goods around. This is evident in the example of Private White VC, 90% of their raw materials are sourced within a 40 miles of their factory. Road haulage for transportation also means less carbon emitted than sea or air cargo too. Global brands who manufacture off-shore in the far-east will have to fly regularly to oversee factory production, thereby further adding to their carbon footprint. Local production also means less waste is also produced due to being able to turn around stock much quicker.
Britain has produced many great designers and among them Vivienne Westwood, Mary Quant and Paul Smith have a unique ‘Britishness’. This is often expressed with quirkiness and sense of humour that you don’t often find anywhere else. On the other hand designer brands such as Burberry and Stella McCartney offer the more aspirational side of British design classics. This is also embodied in British icons of design such as the Mini, Rolls Royce and even Dyson.
Providence and a strong story are often a big part of what a British brand is about. Hiut denim & HebTroCo are great examples of this. They both brought manufacturing back to the area they are from before it disappeared forever and produce quality pieces made to last using traditional techniques and preserving local skills and economies. What started as personal missions with a passion for their local communities are now highly successful and acclaimed businesses with a real personal touch.
Britain has a rich textile heritage that many brands draw from including the production of high quality cloths such as tweed, linen and tartan. There are many regional areas that have historical or even current links to fashion & textile manufacturing. From lace making in Nottingham, to knitwear in Hawick, Scotland, from shoe making in Northampton, to woollen cloth in Yorkshire, Britain has it all .
All this put together means you are often buying a product with real authenticity, that will last a long time and could sell well at a later date. What could be better slow fashion than that?
Boy Wonder is of course proudly made in Britain for all the reasons above. Be aware, however, that many brands portray themselves as being British by putting a Union Jack on their products whilst not actually making them in Britain at all.
Do you have a favourite made in Britain brand? Do you buy British? What does British made mean to you? We would love to hear from you x
#madeinbritain #britishdesign #fashionmiles
Made in Britain
How Ethical is Made in Britain?
This week has seen the publication of the Environmental Audit Committee's report on 'Fixing Fast Fashion'[i]. As this committee comprised of members of the UK parliament, it will hopefully lead to effective legislation in tackling sustainability and ethical issues in the industry. Many British retailers, designers, campaigners and educators gave evidence at the hearings on the various issues involved which have provided the basis for the report. The report focuses on 16 UK retailers and provides a table which rates them in terms of engagement with the issues covered in the hearing. The 6 brands at the bottom of the ratings are doing very little to tackle the ethical and environmental impact of their products and business. For ease of comparison in this blog I have converted the table into points.
There are many different sustainability actions that a fashion brand could be doing. In the table these ranged from using organic or sustainable cotton, implementing ‘take back’ schemes and using recycled materials in their products. The majority of the brands at the top of table (ASOS, M&S, Burberry, Tesco & Primark) were doing all of these important actions whereas the bottom 6 were hardly doing any.. There are also various Sustainability Initiatives that brands can sign up to such as the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Commitment to Climate Change Risk Reporting and Make Fashion Circular. The 6 bottom brands, bar one, have only committed to the reuse or recycling of unsold stock (presumably because they can make a profit out of it.) The final area the report has in the table is Labour Market Initiatives, including being a member of SEDEX (Supplier Ethical Data Exchange) which four out of the five were and membership of the ETI (Ethical Trading Initiative) which only one was.
SPORTS DIRECT INTERNATIONAL PLC. (4 POINTS)
Coming least worst is no great accolade, but hardly surprising for a company whose business model is to ‘pile it high, sell it cheap’[ii] and who were found in 2013 to be ‘the least ethical big firm in the UK’[iii] by the Observer magazine. They have since been in and out of the press for worker mistreatment[iv] and paying below the minimum wage[v]. Sports Direct managed to cover only one sustainability action; that they do use recycled materials in their produce. They did have some initiatives in place including: Commitment to Climate Change risk reporting, microfiber initiative and the reuse or recycling of unsold stock. They are also only signed up to one out of the 3 Labour market initiatives, namely being a member of SEDEX. The company were also given 13 out of 100 in the Fashion Transparency Index by Fashion Revolution[vi].
BOOHOO GROUP (3 POINTS)
Boohoo’s price points are famously low, with some dresses selling for £5 at full price. At the hearings this provoked the question of how it can be possible to pay the national minimum wage with such prices. The company claimed they were loss leading products to draw the customers in. Unethical working conditions were also unsurprisingly uncovered at Boohoo in a Channel 4 Dispatches programme[vii] The Audit committee’s report urged the company to engage with USDAW (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) to tackle some of these problems The report also showed that they do use recycled materials in their produce , are a member of SEDEX (Supplier Ethical Data Exchange) and reuse or recycling of unsold stock. Boohoo was also given an F grade in the Behind the Barcode report[viii] and a D grade in the Ethical Fashion Report[ix].
MISSGUIDED LTD. (3 POINTS)
Missguided describe themselves as ‘rapid’ fashion[x] , where samples can be turned around in a day and stock updated on the site every week. This ‘fast fashion on steroids’[xi] is incredibly harmful to the environment due to sheer volume and perceived disposability. However another problem it can create is the violent treatment of workers when they are seen as commodities rather than human beings. This was evidenced in the report by the shocking treatment of Missguided’s auditors by certain factories bosses in Leicester. In the Audit Committee’s table they are the only one of the 6 that is a member of the ETI whose base code covers labour standards and are also members of SEDEX and do reuse or recycle unsold stock.
AMAZON UK (2 POINTS)
Amazon is well known for it’s poor ethics[xii] and their tax avoidance[xiii] is legendary. They only have two points in the Audit committee’s table for being a member of SEDEX (Supplier Ethical Data Exchange) and for the reuse or recycling of unsold stock. They were given 10 out of 100 in the Fashion Transparency Index and appeared in the Global Exchange’s list of ‘Top 10 Corporate Criminal of the Year 2017’[xiv]. I don’t think I need to write more on this. As the biggest retailer in the universe, we all know why we should avoid them. If not, you don’t have to look far to find out why. Ethical Consumer Magazine gave Amazon clothing a very generous score of zero out of 20!
TK MAXX (2 POINTS)
TK Maxx do reuse or recycle unsold stock and have an in-store take back scheme or recycle banks. But Ethical Consumer Magazine gave them a score of only 4.5 out of 20.
JD SPORTS FASHION PLC (1 POINT)
At the bottom of the pile comes the sportswear retailer JD Sports. The most they can manage is to reuse or recycle unsold stock. This brand has also been in the press for poor working conditions[xv] too.
To put into perspective how little the worst brands are doing, the brands at the top of the table were all awarded 11 out of a possible 13 points. So next time you think of getting a bargain from any of these losing 6, maybe think again. Maybe reconsider if you even really need anything? Could you borrow or swap something instead? Or maybe you even have something suitable already lurking at the back of your wardrobe.
5 most Ethical British High Street Brands
Top 5 Ethical Kids brands
#Environmentalauditcommittee #fixingfashion #britishbrands
Since I have started blogging and setting up the brand various people have asked me where is best place to shop for clothes? They are not asking about expensive ethical and eco brands but the shops that we can all find on the British high street. I always add to these conversations that it's better to buy second-hand or save up for an investment ethical piece than shop on the high street, but I do know that sometimes that's not possible. So, I have spent a long time researching and compiling a database to be able to provide the answer to this question for them and you; my lovely readers.
There are various consumer information sites that provide ethical and sustainability ratings on fashion brands. These include Ethical Consumer Magazine, the Good Shopping Guide and Rankabrand (who I have mentioned in a previous blog). They investigate brands and give them a score for different categories from how transparent they are through to whether they use renewable energy. The Ethical Consumer Magazine appears to be more well-established, with years of research behind them and seems more thorough in their critical appraisals. Rankabrand is mainly focused on German and Dutch brands but does feature some of the larger British companies. However, they all suggest quite different brands as being the best and all have a slightly focus.
These can be useful to look at simply to find out more information about your favourite brands but they all seem to have certain bizarre anomalies. I suspect this come from different ways of measuring and applying data but these anomalies make me feel slightly unsure about them. For instance the Good Shopping Guide rates River Island at 73, which is the same rating they give to Patagonia (one of the most environmentally conscious brands there are) and rates Fat Face even higher at 81, which from my research over the years I cannot agree with. There are also many reports by groups such as the Clean Clothes Campaign, Fashion Revolution and Greenpeace investigating whether brands actually live up to their commitments. These help to build a bigger picture to inform my decisions.
I used the comparison sites to help me create my own methodology with which to judge them by. I used many different markers to establish ranking, including being signatories to the Bangladesh Fire & Safety Accord, pledging to ZDHC (zero discharge of hazardous chemicals) and 'take back' schemes such as M&S's shwopping. There are far too many separate factors and areas I looked at to mention in full here, so I will simply give an overall summary on my findings. In this comparison I have focused solely on British fashion retailers and not included supermarkets. This amounted to 15 different brands, including 3 department stores, and one online-only retailer. For the sake of drama and suspense I shall count down from number 5!
No. 5 - Debenhams (Rating of 17.5)
Please note that Debenhams sells other brands alongside it's own. This scoring of them refers to the company itself and it's own products and practices. Debenhams uses 100% renewable energy to power it's stores[i] and are joint founders of Fast Forward auditing (see below). They also partner with the Salvation Army[ii] to divert waste from landfill. By collecting and donating unwanted clothing, textiles and shoes they also help raise funds for those in need. Debenhams also scored highly in the Good Shopping Guide.
No. 4 - Arcadia Group (Rating of 20.5)
In fourth place this large retail group includes Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins and others. Topshop have a strong animal welfare policy and got shortlisted in 2008 for the RSPCA good business awards[iii] and worked with PETA to campaign against the use of exotic animal skins[iv]. They have also sold limited edition collections of garments made from upcycled fabrics[v]. However, having a 'fast fashion' business model works against them, which is why the Good on You site gives them a rating of 3 out of 5 saying 'it's a start'[vi].
No. 3 - New Look (Rating of 22)
Even with cheap price points , New Look is still managing to score highly on ethics. (I wonder if this may be my anomaly, as low prices don't lend themselves to fair wages) They publish a list of their factories and rank midway in the Fashion Transparency Index[vii]. As they have stated recently that they are going to slash prices further[viii], I am not sure how they will maintain this. They also have a good animal welfare policy[ix].
No. 2 - ASOS (Rating of 29)
Second place goes to this online only site which is not strictly a high street brand, but it deserves a place in our list. Many of their garments are made in the UK and most of them at the ethically audited factory where our launch collection will be made. In fact they helped to set up, along with Debenhams, a stricter audit system called Fast Forward[x] whose need became arose from the Leicester sweatshop problems noted in the press a few years ago. Not only do they have their own eco edit[xi] they also sell second hand garments[xii] through the site too, thereby encouraging circularity. The sheer volume of their production however, does categorise them as a 'fast fashion' brand which does lower their score.
Drumroll please....and the winner is.....
No. 1 - Marks & Spencers (Rating of 32)
M&S's commitment to sustainability is evident in Plan A[xiii] which has been underway since 2007, years before many others started using the word 'sustainability'. They tick nearly every box for ethical and environmental commitment including having their own sustainable cotton ranges which use BCI (Better Cotton Initiative) cotton ensuring various ethical and environmental guarantees. They are also certified as carbon neutral and have even become a green energy provider[xiv] as well as giving away money to fund renewable energy projects[xv]. Ethical consumer magazine also put M&S in their top 5 ethical high street shops[xvi] and the Fashion Transparency Index rated them at 51%, the highest being 58%. These top two brands are head and shoulders above the rest and will hopefully convince others to follow their lead.
There were 5 brands that came in the middle of the rankings whose scores were less than half of those at the top. Although they are doing some things right, they could do a lot more in my opinion. These were Next, John Lewis, Monsoon, White Stuff and Oasis.
And the losers?
The bottom five brands in my research in consecutive order were Fat Face, River Island and Matalan with French Connection and Peacocks coming joint last place. Come on guys, you can do better than this!
If you do need to buy from the high street always remember that as consumers we can change things for the better with what we buy. Go for the brands 'eco' ranges and do ask questions. Do the garment workers get a fair wage? Does it really need plastic packaging? I hope this helps you to be more informed and conscious shoppers and to help those British brands that deserve our patronage.
And lastly, what do you think? Do you agree with my rankings? Are there any surprises there? I would love to hear your thoughts x
#ethicalfashion #sustainablefashion #britishhighstreet
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