Ethical Fashion and Minimalism: A Natural Fit?

Ethical Fashion and Minimalism: A natural fit?
Ethical Fashion and Minimalism: A natural fit?

Ethical fashion is a huge topic right now and rightly so. After its peak in the mid-2000s, consumers are becoming more and more aware of the environmental costs associated with the fast fashion cycle, cheap production and mass consumption. A dedicated post on ethical fashion has long been on my to-do list, but I always felt that I didn’t yet know enough about the topic. Enter: Emma from This Kind Choice.

On her blog, Emma writes about everything from making more conscious purchase decisions to evaluating the quality of a garment, i.e. choosing a path other than the one fast fashion dictates. In this post, Emma will be examining the idea of ethical fashion from a wardrobe-editor’s point of view. Building the perfect wardrobe and ethical fashion. Do they go hand in hand? Short answer: yes. Read on to find out why ( + a healthy dose of motivation).

Minimalism is not defined by what is not there but by the rightness of what is and the richness with which this is experienced.
— John Pawson

Minimalism can be the creation of a wardrobe, and ultimately a life, with purpose. How do you want to experience your dressing, your day, your life? By stripping away all that holds us back from this, we are left with a core of what we really enjoy and intend. It is a philosophy that can help create great personal satisfaction, but can it also be extended upon by and fit naturally with fashion that cares for the people making it and the planet?

The direct benefits of minimalism are simple to see - we let go of the clothing we don't love or need and get more closet space, more calm in a clutter free environment, a more streamlined dressing routine. Less allows us to experience more. Eco/ethical clothing can seem to lack those direct benefits, and rather provide benefits only for people we will never meet and a natural environment we will probably never see. But is this true? I believe better allows to experience more, too.

  • We are constantly told that fast fashion will make us happier, richer, more stylish. It will give us more time. The endless choice will satisfy us, the cheap prices keep our wallets happy, the multiple personas we are able to adopt on a whim will mean we look great. The speed and convenience of it all will give us plenty of free time to enjoy all this stuff. Our lives will become airbrushed commercials, if only we buy more. Does this sound like how the majority of us feel about our clothing? Minimalism recognizes that this simply isn't true. So does eco/ethical fashion.

Choosing clothing that values the people producing it and the environment as well as the end user is a more useful strategy to truly enjoying that richness of what we do own. It provides a different experience of our clothing - the complete experience.

Fast fashion is built on pulling apart the threads that make up the life cycle of clothing. Growing the raw materials, manufacturing the cloth, producing the garment, consuming the product, disposing of it after use - these are all fragmented and isolated in a fast fashion framework. Just like we will never meet the people sewing our clothing, they are unlikely to wear most of the things they produce.

Eco/ethical clothing puts these components back together, and enriches our experience of the garment. When we know where our clothing comes from, when we hand picked it from a second hand shop or took time to learn about quality and look for that in what we buy, the clothing becomes multidimensional. It has a story, and it's one we can be proud to be a part of. If I own less, I want it to be as satisfying and complete as possible. This is what eco/ethical fashion can do.

Minimalism can lay a crucial foundation by encouraging us to buy less and buying higher quality. Ethical fashion takes this one step further by looking at the producers and planet, and giving us a more complete experience of the things we do own. And with that complete, satisfying experience, it becomes so much easier to own less, yet have more.

Emma and I are currently working on a practical how-to guide for finding and selecting ethically-produced fashion. Tell us: How much of an impact does the source of a garment have on your decision-making process? How do you evaluate the environmental and ethical awareness of a brand? How big is the gap between your values in regard to ethical fashion and your actual purchasing habits?

*image via IO DONNA