It can get confusing when you are shopping and come across all the different terms: Sustainable, Ethical, Slow, Green, Organic, Eco and Fair Fashion. They can’t all mean the same thing, can they? What do all these term really mean… Let me try to explain the differences, the meaning of these terms and why they are sometimes used for the same thing.
Sustainable Fashion is about everything that concerns the environment. It’s about a companies social responsibility and the way they use their different resources. Basically, how they treat the environment in all the different steps of their supply chain. Are the clothes produced in an environmental friendly way? What fabrics do they use and do they use harmful chemicals? Is the company concerned about the impact of their clothing production on the environment? As long as a company produces in an environmental friendly way, that on a certain level benefits the society at large, it will usually be called sustainable. I have to add though, that the term Sustainable Fashion is often used as an overall term for all the other terms out there.
simply put: Sustainable Fashion is about the environmental impact (mostly used as the overall term).
Ethical Fashion is all about the ethics of a company and how they deal with moral principles. Maximising profits and paying fair wages don’t go hand in hand when you look at all the Fast Fashion brands there are these days. Ethical Fashion companies however care about their workers (all the workers in the supply chain) and the materials they use. It’s about providing fair wages and taking care of the overall safety of their workers (receiving health insurance, a hazard free workplace, no child labour etc.) It is also about the way they treat the materials they use. How e.g. the cotton is being grown (organic cotton) and also the usage and the way of obtaining animal products like fur, angora, leather and silk etc. Using recycled leather can be considered ethical, since recycling is a good thing to do, but it could be sustainable as well… hence the confusion. Vegan Fashion implies that no animal product were used at all, once again both ethical and sustainable depending on the production process. As you can see; Ethical Fashion is usually also Sustainable Fashion, but Sustainable Fashion (even though it is used as an overall term) is technically not always Ethical Fashion. In summary, Ethical Fashion questions every single step and considers if it is morally acceptable.
simply put: Ethical Fashion is about moral principles.
Fair Fashion goes hand in hand with Ethical Fashion. It is, as the name implies, about the Fair treatment of (usually) the workers. You probably came across the term Fair Trade before! It makes sure that the workers are paid fair wages for producing their products. Fair Fashion concerns itself with the brutal abuse (almost slavery) of humans in the current Fast Fashion industry. It is against child abuse, sweatshops, inhumane hours and exploitation. It is basically about empowering the workers by ensuring good working conditions (fair wages, health insurance, holidays, etc.). But it is also about the materials the employees have to work with, if they are free of harmful chemicals that workers could come in contact with or even breath in. Fair Fashion is usually considered to be Ethical Fashion, where Ethical Fashion is just the broader term.
simply put: Fair Fashion is about the fair treatment of the workers.
The term Slow Fashion is considered as the exact opposite of Fast Fashion. Slow Fashion means; producing high quality clothes, that can last for a long time. Slow Fashion clothes are considered to be timeless/durable pieces that don’t senselessly follow the current trends. Slow Fashion brands rarely bring out new clothing lines, whereas Fast Fashion is all about producing as much and bringing out as many new clothing lines/trends as possible, in a short time. One could say that when it comes to quality, Fast Fashion intentionally keeps it as bad as possible (otherwise you wont be back any time soon, to buy something new).
simply put: Slow Fashion is about timeless high quality clothing.
Eco Fashion goes hand in hand with Sustainable Fashion, as it is about the usage of environmental friendly materials. It is about avoiding chemicals that harm the environment; like pesticides. It is also about reusing old fabrics from recycled clothing, fabrics, etc. (sometimes even recycled plastic bottles used for lining). Eco-friendly Fashion is made from organic materials (e.g. cotton grown without any pesticides) meaning they are “clean”/free from all chemicals and they have no bad impact on our eco-system.
simply put: Eco Fashion is just like Sustainable Fashion but just about the environmental impact.
Green Fashion is a part of the Sustainable and Eco Fashion terms. It is about taking care of the environment like; the usage of water and the CO2 emissions (transportation by ship or plane etc.). It is also about the usage of toxic-free and organic materials. Brands often call themselves “green” when they are working on better ways to reduce their footprints. Just reducing, not necessarily getting rid of it entirely.
simply put: Green Fashion is mainly about researching better ways (for the future) to reduce the companies footprint.
Clean Fashion is like Green Fashion (a part of the Eco and Sustainable Fashion), meaning it concerns itself with the impact on the environment, as well as the usage of natural and organic fabrics. Is a product produced locally or abroad? Does the product have impacts on your personal health? A product is considered to be “clean” when it is free from all chemicals that could harm not only the environment but also your personal health. It is mostly used in beauty and cosmetic products.
simply put: Clean Fashion is about products that neither damage you nor the environment.
Yes, all these terms have a lot in common! But, even though it will be confusing to figure out which means which, in the end it is all about what you care about most. Is it the environment? The workers? The animals? The quality of the clothes? Your personal health? Or even all of it?