Spruce up your wardrobe guilt free with Ethical Clothing Australia

Most of us express ourselves to some degree through what we wear, but it’s easy to forget that every item of clothing we buy has its own origin story, and sadly, it’s not always pretty. If you want to sort good from bad on the rack, here’s how to guarantee that everyone involved in making a garment was treated fairly. You’ll be supporting local business too.

TAKE2 member Ethical Clothing Australia was set up to tackle exploitation in the Australian textile, clothing and footwear industry; a problem that the organisation’s national manager, Angela Bell, attributes to the complexity of supply chains and the high number of people working from their homes, rather than in factories.

“Many workers in the industry are women and they come from diverse cultural backgrounds, where English is often a second language,” she adds. “We accredit businesses that are manufacturing in Australia, to ensure that they are paying their workers properly, that their employees are receiving the right entitlements, and that they are working in safe conditions, in line with Australian workplace laws.”

Amidst growing awareness and condemnation of the poor treatment of textile workers globally, the Ethical Clothing Australia trademark has come to symbolise a genuine alternative for socially-aware consumers. This includes anyone concerned by the environmental impact of their purchases, and the harm caused by so-called ‘fast fashion’ both at the production phase and through the ever-increasing amount of clothing being thrown away.

“People have power and they can show this by making conscious decisions when buying clothes,” says Angela. “We think there’s a resurgence in buying Australian made because people recognise this means the products haven’t been shipped or freighted around the world to get here. Also, when you buy from an accredited business you are likely to be buying higher quality – which means not only will you enjoy wearing it, but it will last you longer.”

“Some of the businesses accredited with us are drivers for ‘slow fashion’ and are educating people about how their clothes are made. And thankfully there are many tips out there for people looking for ideas about how to manage your wardrobe by re-use, recycling and repairing, so that it lasts you longer.”

While shopping ethically means occasionally being prepared to walk away from a bargain – for example, if you can’t be sure how or under what conditions a pair of jeans was manufactured – there’s no need to forgo the latest trends. “We have a range of businesses accredited, including iconic national brands, house-hold names, leading Australian designers and emerging designers,” says Angela. “These businesses are giving people a range of options when they are looking to buy, from everyday clothing to high-end fashion.”

Many are leaders in sustainability too, having committed to minimising their environmental impacts and reducing their carbon footprint. That includes Ethical Clothing Australia itself. “We recognise that regardless of the size of the organisation, we can all make a difference,” says Angela. “Being a part of TAKE2 means that we can promote best practice to the manufacturing businesses that are accredited with us, and that we can share information and ideas with those businesses. It also means that we can consider making changes in our own office that are better for the environment.”

Want to shop more ethically? Here some tips for getting started from Ethical Clothing Australia’s Angela Bell.

  • Check out the list of accredited brands and manufacturers at ethicalclothingaustralia.org.au. “There’s a range of categories, from sleepwear to socks, hats to shoes, shirts to high-end fashion.”
  • Look out for the Ethical Clothing Australia trademark. “You know that it’s made in Australia and that the employees are valued and are working under the right conditions.”
  • Do a bit of research. “Consider the various fabrics used in the production of clothing, or look at businesses that are leading the way in teaching people about their clothes, and how to look after them so that they last longer.”
  • Ask questions, whether online or in store, about where your clothes come from and how they’re made. “People have a right to be curious!

Remember over 95 per cent of fashion clothing can be recycled and reused, so there’s no reason to send anything to the tip. Cutting down on waste in your life counts as a TAKE2 action — don’t forget to update your pledge.