Rethinking Fashion on International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day! Today is a day on which to remember that so many issues which disproportionately affect women are epitomised by the fashion industry:

– Garment workers are overwhelmingly female, and typically paid poverty wages to work extremely long hours in unsafe conditions.  Globalisation has shifted garment production to countries which combine low wages with weak protection for workers’ rights. 

– The fashion industry has contributed to unhelpful narratives for women that emphasise unrealistic beauty standards, especially thinness.  Women of colour haven’t been represented adequately at all (although this is beginning to change – at last). 

– In common with other industries, within fashion power and influence remains in the hands of men: only 12.5% of the apparel companies on the Fortune 1000 list are led by women

Gender equality is one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.  Many experts believe that educating and empowering females is the single most important thing we can do to address climate change.  The growth in human population is placing a huge burden on planetary resources.  When women are empowered, they have fewer children.   This podcast explains. 

So, yay for favourite sustainable fashion brand: People Tree.  A female-founded brand, started by Safia Minney, a wonderful person who campaigns for sustainability and female workers’ rights.  See more of her in documentary The True Cost.  

People Tree is a brand you can fully trust to care for the environment.  As their website says, every product from the brand is made to the highest ethical and environmental standards from start to finish.  Other brands have their pros and cons: Zara Join Life uses recycled polyester.   That’s good – but polyester released microplastics when washed.  And Zara’s clothes are very cheap, which suggests that garment workers are likely to be on poverty wages.  With People Tree, there are no such cons.  Almost all of their clothes are 100% organic cotton, wool or lyocell.  A small minority of their garments contain 5% elastane, a synthetic fabric but not one that’s considered to have a significantly negative environmental impact.  People Tree actively addresses discrimination and lack of opportunity for women, while paying fair wages.  See an example here.    

The only drawbacks of People Tree are that it’s expensive, but that reflects their high sustainability standards and fair wages.  They do have great sales and special offers.  It’s also occurred to that while WOC are well represented, different body types are not: models shown in their clothes all seem to be very thin. 

Here I am trying out a recent People Tree purchase from their V&A collection.  Feeling ready for spring in this floral jumpsuit! 

It’s very easy to respond in a tokenistic way to International Women’s Day – a post on social media that’s not backed up by any action.  It’s a small thing but I’m resolving to actively seek out more female-founded businesses – in fashion, and other categories too. 


#sustainablefashion #ethicalfashion # #femaleentrepreneur #internationalwomensday #fashionblog

Published by jengreggs

I'm a London-based writer and blogger focused on sustainability in fashion. My purpose is to help everyone discover the joy of living more sustainably.

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