Where does an ethical fashion expert (and former fashion addict) shop for her wardrobe?
Amongst many things, Lisa Heinze is a director of Clean Cut, author of Sustainability with Style, and a PhD student (examining fashion and sustainability).
What she looks for in clothes
Before I go shopping I do a bit of research. I usually shop with a phone in hand.
If it’s jeans I’m after I Google sustainable jeans. I look at the label on clothes to see what it’s made of and feel the textile to make sure it’s decent quality. I do avoid polyester unless it’s recycled because it’s very energy and oil intensive and also to avoid the politics that go into oil extraction.
Beyond the Barcode has a great guide. It assesses the ethics of 219 fashion brands sold in Australia. I also refer to Good On You (their app is coming soon). They rate many mainstream brands based on ethics and they rely on certification schemes and research to base the ratings.
I look at where it’s made and what I know about the brand. Just because it’s made in Australia, US or Europe it doesn’t mean it’s ethical and just because it’s made in China it doesn’t mean it’s unethical. A lot of factories there are good.
If it’s made in Bangladesh I’m interested in whether the brand has signed the Bangladesh Accord [on Fire and Building Safety].
More certifying organisations are popping up. Is certification the answer?
Yes, it plays a really big role in getting it right. I don’t think any certification scheme is going to get it right in the next few years but it is one way to shift the industry towards better regulation.
Are more designers interested in ethical/sustainable fashion?
Yes there’s been a dramatic increase in interest over the last two years. The new designers coming out of schools are interested because curriculums are teaching ethical design principals in schools.
And big brands?
Behind the scenes I’m definitely seeing an increase in brands investigating ethical production or sourcing but they’re being quiet about it.
It’s overwhelming for a well-known brand to come out publicly and announce they’re changing. Some people might say ‘why haven’t you been doing it already?’
What’s stopping brands from sourcing ethical suppliers?
Most brands say the barriers are lack of consumer awareness and consumer willingness to pay the price of ethical fashion.
There’s a big group of consumers looking for it but overall it’s not that widely understood and known. It’s hard to get that consumer that’s price and trend driven to understand what sustainable shopping is, particularly when you’re competing with the likes of Top Shop and H&M.
“But eco is not fashionable”
I think there are more fashionable ethically made clothes out there than people realise.
It is out there if you’re willing to go outside your typical routine. All styles are being catered for but it is different because you need to be comfortable shopping online. You can get ethical sportswear, couture fashion, denim, and corporate apparel.
I think the really positive thing is that, for now, you will wear something that no one else is wearing. I find that a real plus.
Your favourite brands?
I also shop a lot on the US site Modavanti. It has a huge range and I can find anything there including beautiful dresses. Its prices are good too.
In Sydney I like the Darley Store which stocks Carlie Ballard hand-woven ikat pants, skirts and jackets and Betty Browne, which has organic cotton and shirt dresses made in Australia. I also like Eco Bird and Ekoluv which are curated beautifully.
I also shopped at Lululemon recently because they had a pair of running shorts that are have 50% recycled content!