How Ethical Are Your Favorite Brands, Really?

It's that time of year: This weekend, you might be taking some old faithful closet staples out of storage and maybe freshening up your wardrobe with a shiny new something special. But before you start scouring your go-to shops for seasonal upgrades, think for a moment. Where does your most beloved clothing come from? Yes, you bought them in a store or online, but who makes your clothing? Where — and in what country — is the fabric made and assembled? What environmental and ethical conditions help bring your sartorial standbys to you?
Child labor, overworked and underpaid employees, energy and water overconsumption, toxic waste — it’s heavy stuff to think about, but it’s the reality of much of fashion’s mass production. “The clothing we wear reflects the choices we make: thousands of economic votes that have the power to shift the clothing industry,” explains Zane Wilemon, executive director of CTC International and eco-clothing-brand L.I.F.E. Line. Sustainable fashion: It’s not a new concept, but retailers are examining the effects that production is having on the environment. They are making huge changes to their business models and producing clothing made from organic fabrics and dyes, using recycled materials, and making sure that factory workers receive fair wages, time off, work in safe and clean conditions, and get training on eco-friendly production techniques.
Says Wilemon, “The clothing industry plays a very significant role in global sustainability. Customers should start asking where materials are sourced and find out exactly what are the working conditions of the people making this clothing…after asking those questions we may not like the answers, but that’s where change begins.”
Where to start? We do some of the work for you and examine how some of our favorite mass-consumer fashion brands design and produce their collections with the environment in mind. Read how upfront these major retail players are with customers and if they measure up against our transparency test. Our findings may surprise you...