We are calling for transparency across the fashion Industry
The act of buying clothes used to be an infrequent event, something you did for a special occasion, or when the seasons changed. Clothing was intentional, durable and made to last. Then, in the late 20th century, things began to change. Trends sped up, clothing became cheaper to make, and people began making more frequent purchases.
Enter fast fashion, cheap and trendy clothing inspired by celebrities and the runway. It required a cheaper workforce to keep up with the demand, leading to lower labour standards and problems like child labour in production. Children are employed because they are easier to exploit, and their hands are smaller for finer work. More inexpensive clothing options meant more clothing produced, thus more waste.
Twelve-year-old Kanya (pictured) sits on the roof of her home every day from morning to sunset, sewing pieces of thick leather together to form shoes. She earns less than $1 for each pair of shoes made.
Change is in the air
Recently, some organizations began fighting to bring sustainability back into supply chains through increased transparency, accountability around social and environmental impacts and fair wages. Terms like ethical fashion and sustainable fashion are now trending as the world works to correct its path.
Here at World Vision Canada, we believe every child should live life to its fullest. With an estimated 73 million children working in jobs that are dirty, dangerous and degrading, including the garment industry, there is a great deal of work needed to achieve this vision
The U.S. Department of Labour’s “List of Goods Produced by Child or Forced Labour”
, estimates that child labour or forced labour touches at least 148 products. This includes cotton, textiles, silk thread and leather goods from 76 countries.
This means that the likelihood that you own a piece of clothing made by a child is high.
Want a practical way to make a difference? We’ve put together a list of companies that are taking positive steps towards ethical supply chains.
This is just the beginning. A quick search will give you even more results from other bloggers and influencers who have compiled lists of their fave places to shop. You can also download apps like, Good on You, where you can look up your favourite brands before you buy.
An awesome West Coast company, Silver and Gold clothing sources their stock only in B.C. or a women-run, ethical facility in Cambodia (check it here). Their clothing is natural and organic, which means you can feel good about the environment too!
This Toronto-based company works with family-run farms in Egypt to safeguard fair pay and safe working conditions. A portion of their profits is donated to build primary schools in farming communities focused on girls’ education with a 2:1 female/male ratio.
Outdoorsy? Just want to be cabin-chic? MEC is an excellent place to start. They have set goals around accountability, product manufacturing, Fair Trade and environmental impact. They expect their factories to meet criteria around these goals.
The focus of Girlfriend Collective/Reformation centres around a commitment to a smaller environmental impact and fair treatment of workers. Looking at factors such as quality, price, speed, reduced environmental impact and working conditions, this company strives for a system built on sustainability, accountability and transparency.
Based primarily online, thredUP re-circulates second-hand clothing, either in their central store locations, online, or in pop-up shops. thredUP’s goal is to publicize the holistic social and environmental impact of second-hand fashion to achieve sustainability within this industry.
Tonlé uses scrap fabric waste from mass manufacturers to create handmade clothing and accessories with Cambodian workers. Through this supportive setting, Tonlé seeks to address both social and environmental issues.
Christy Dawn pieces are all manufactured by local artisans in Downtown Los Angeles using leftover fabric in order to minimize environmental impact. Further, instead of creating thousands of garments at a time, Christy Dawn sews together a limited number of pieces in order to put the environment first and prioritize quality and vintage craftsmanship.
In response to the collapse of the Bangladesh factory in 2013, PACT Organic Apparel, based in the U.S., works to facilitate a socially sustainable option for clothing production within the confines of Fair Trade, while also respecting environmental resources through ways of not using harmful dyes and pesticides. PACT also works with farmers to grow organic cotton!
tentree helps you become a more ethical consumer, paying close attention to environmental stewardship and responsibility. tentree inspires people to look at not just what goes in one’s body, but also what is worn on one’s body!
Local Women is a fair trade textile and handicraft collective in Kathmandu, Nepal. They focus on empowering and educating disadvantaged/marginalized women using sustainable methods. All products from Local Women are ethically produced, providing fair wages and working conditions for the women who make them. They also have social business programs which seek to uplift women, their children and their communities.
The Good Tee embraces an ethical supply chain. Their organic cotton t-shirts represent a vision of sustainability, accountability and transparency. They are B Corporation and Fair Trade Certified™, and support slower production schedules, ethical working conditions, and fair deals for all.
Founded by students and faculty members of a Canadian university who were concerned about the lack of supply of sustainable products on campus, The Green Campus Coop now supplies Fair Trade apparel to Canada’s universities, non-profit organizations, and more.
Proudly designed in Canada and fairly produced in southern India, Kooshoo’s Organic Hair Ties and Organic Scrunchies are made at a Fairtrade certified social good factory, where profits are used to fund important health-focused causes.
As Canada's first maker of GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) and Fairtrade Cotton homewares, the bedding and bath company has an excellent selection of sustainable and high-quality bed sheets, duvet inserts, duvet covers, baby linens, cotton towels, and more.
As one of just two Fairtrade Licensee Goldsmiths in Canada, Malleable uses ethically sourced gold in all of their Fair Trade certified jewellery — in fact, they can tell you exactly where the gold in each piece came from. Whenever possible, they also like to use recycled precious metals and gemstones in their pieces.
Etik & Co
Ethical footwear made stylish AND accessible! Etik & Co is a Montreal based retailer of footwear and related accessories made from certified Fairtrade and organic cotton, available at affordable prices, and designed with respect for the environment, animals and human rights.
- How are children involved in child labour in the fashion industry?
Child labourers are found in the production of textiles, leather, footwear and farming. They are used at every stage of the clothes-making process – from harvesting raw materials to sewing for large brands. Regardless of the stage, this work can take a mental, physical, social and emotional toll on children. When children are forced to work, they are often unable to attend school. A lack of education means poor job opportunities leading to abuse by employers. All of this perpetuates the cycle of poverty.
- What are clothing brands doing to stop child labour?
Fighting child labour within the fashion industry is a difficult task. Global supply chains are complex and often, child labour is hidden and connected to a range of other labour abuses within supply chains.
- Why don’t brands know if there are children working for them?
Clothing companies often do not own the factories where clothing is manufactured. Instead, companies contract out a factory to produce their garments. The company may vet the factory, but due to cost and time pressures, factories further sub-contract out the work. In fact, a pocket can be made by one factory and buttons in another factory.
- What can I do to contribute to ethical fashion?
Lots! There are many ways you can begin your journey as an ethical consumer!
- Put your money where your ethics are
- Before you buy, find out if your favourite retailer publishes information about their supply chain. Do a quick online search and see if they come up in the news alongside terms such as “fast fashion” or “ethical fashion” or tweet at a company to get the answers you need.
- Is it certified as ethical?
Always research companies, but you can also keep your eye out for sustainability labels like Fairtrade, B Corp, Canada Trade Organic Association and Ecocert. Certifications such as these require companies to stick to specific ethical standards to keep their accreditations.
- Check your closet. Chances are you’re buying most of your clothing from the same brands over and over again. The tag inside your clothes may be a good starting point for further research.
When you’re shopping, ask yourself...
Where is this from?
Who made it?
Under what conditions?
Does it seem this company has a handle on these issues?
In today’s world, fast fashion has taken over as trends come and go quickly. Here are a few ways to keep up your style and your ethics!
- Shop second hand—thrift stores, charity shops and consignment shops are a great way to give an older piece of clothing new life, reduce waste and keep some money in your wallet.
- Buy less, but better—perhaps you’re looking to streamline your wardrobe and reduce waste. Go ahead, do a little research, take stock of your closet and buy basics that will last and can be combined with some of your older items for a new look.
- Repair your clothes— “darn your socks” isn’t a term damning your clothes to the nether world. It’s a way to make sure those clothes that only need a stitch or two don’t end up in the dump. Get to know your local dry cleaner (they usually have a seamstress) or jump on YouTube and learn to sew. Some stores will even repair their clothes for free or a small fee.
- Consider a clothes swap! Getting together with friends and trading clothes is not only a great way to refresh your wardrobe (or Marie Kondo your closet), but it’s also an excellent excuse for a little social time. Think grown up slumber party with all the things you couldn’t have as a kid.
- Use your social media for good
a. Use your Twitter to take action
Hi @_______, I recently learned that child labour can occur within supply chains and I want to be a more #ConsciousConsumer. To help me, can you share what you are doing to ensure your clothing and accessories are child labour-free? #NoChildForSale
b. Send an email to your favourite brand
Dear [company name],
I’m a customer and a fan of your clothing and accessories. Recently, I learned that child labour can occur within supply chains. To learn more about this issue, you can visit World Vision Canada’s website
. I want to support a brand that takes action against/on child labour. What are you doing to ensure your products are child labour-free and is this information publicly available? Specifically, do you:
- Have established codes of conduct for suppliers that permit child labour?
- Ensure employees are paid a decent wage so that families don’t need to send their children to work?
- Provide training for staff and suppliers that raises awareness and builds their capacity to monitor and implement these standards?
- Make unannounced visits to audit third-party suppliers to measure compliance?
- Set up formal, accessible grievance mechanisms to report violations of standards and a process to respond to these violations?
Thank you in advance for your reply.