What’s the Difference Between Ethical and Sustainable Fashion?

We take a closer look.

Last Updated on June 8, 2023

Want to learn more about ethical and sustainable fashion? Perhaps the first place we should start is defining what the difference between them actually is.

In the fashion industry, these two concepts are often misunderstood. While some may perceive these terms as interchangeable, they hold distinct significance within the industry.

Fast fashion has earned a notorious reputation as one of the most unsustainable and unethical forms of fashion, prompting many individuals to seek reasons to abandon it. 

poster for Earth Day 2023 for Sustainable fashion

The detrimental impact of the fashion industry on the environment accounts for approximately 8-10% of global emissions – and the number of ethical issues is also rising. 

It’s highly likely that most of us have engaged in shopping from fast fashion brands, mainly because they have a ubiquitous presence in the market. Zara, H&M, Primark, ASOS, and Mango are just some of the biggest names out there. See our list of fast fashion brands here: Which brands are fast fashion?

At Wear Next, we understand that the intricacies of the fashion industry’s challenges can be overwhelming, and the definitions of sustainable and ethical fashion can be confusing – so we’re here to break it down for you.

Let’s dive in.

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What’s the difference between ethical and sustainable fashion?

Sustainable fashion can be defined as method of clothing production and manufacturing that reduces environmental impact, as well as being mindful of garment makers.

The goal is always to create positive impacts while minimising harm to people, the planet, and animals. Sustainable fashion seeks to create an industry that is both responsible and environmentally conscious.

On the other hand, ethical fashion encompasses clothing production that prioritises fairness and justice for all individuals involved in the process, including the farmers cultivating raw materials and the factory workers responsible for garment production. 

It upholds principles such as fair wages, safe working conditions, and the elimination of child labour. 

Both ethical and sustainable fashion play crucial roles in fostering a responsible and conscientious industry.

READ MORE: 8 Sustainable Fashion Brands That Make Beautiful Clothes To Order

Poster that says no fashion on a dead planet

What makes clothing ethical and sustainable?

Ethical and sustainable clothing encompass various key factors. This includes the use of eco-friendly materials like organic cotton, bamboo, or hemp, which are grown and processed with minimal environmental impact. 

The manufacturing process involves adhering to high labor and environmental standards, while distribution and sales methods prioritise reducing environmental footprints, such as utilising recycled packaging and carbon-efficient delivery options. 

Patagonia and Everlane are prominent examples of ethical and sustainable clothing brands. Patagonia stands out for its use of recycled materials, fair trade labuor, and environmentally friendly manufacturing processes. 

Everlane, on the other hand, prioritises transparency and provides detailed information about its supply chain while offering a range of sustainable clothing choices. 

READ MORE: 9 Sustainable Swimwear Brands We’re So Glad We Discovered

How can we be sustainable in fashion?

To make sustainable and ethical choices in your clothing purchases, it is crucial to conduct research on brands, ensuring they prioritise transparency and sustainability. We have plenty of guides about popular brands like Zara, H&M, Mango and many more.

Supporting local businesses that produce ethical and sustainable clothing helps reduce your carbon footprint and contributes to your community.

Buying vintage clothing from thrift stores, consignment shops, and online marketplaces is an excellent way to reduce environmental impact and save money too.