Ethical Fashion: What Does It All Mean?

May 19, 2017

Buy less, choose Well, Make it lastI’m sure you’ve heard of ethical fashion before. Maybe you’ve heard of slow fashion and sustainable too. But do you really understand what it all means? When you first start exploring the world of ethical fashion it can be so confusing. With people using so many different terms to describe ethical fashion how do you know where to start?

What is Ethical Fashion?

I consider ethical fashion to be a bit of an umbrella term for fashion which has been produced responsibly and fairly. This includes reducing the impact on the environment as well as ensuring workers at every stage of production are paid a living wage and treated fairly. The Ethical Fashion Forum describes ethical fashion as an ‘approach to the design, sourcing and manufacture of clothing which maximises benefits to people and communities while minimising the impact on the environment.’

“If you describe something as ethical you mean that it is morally right or morally acceptable” Collins English Dictionary

But ethical fashion isn’t the only term used to describe fair and responsible fashion. There are so many other sayings and terms out there is can be tough to work out what they all mean. So I’ve put together a short glossary of ethical fashion terms to help you work out what it all means.

The Ethical Fashion Glossary

Fast Fashion

Fast Fashion is the approach used by most of the big high street names. It is about getting trends into the stores as quickly as possible. Stock turnover in fast fashion stores is extremely high with new pieces arriving every week. Garments are produced as quickly and as cheaply as possible without much consideration for those making the clothes or the environmental impact. Fast fashion clothing is cheap to buy, poor quality and encourages a disposable approach to fashion.

Slow Fashion

Slow fashion is a much slower more conscious approach to shopping for clothes. This is about purchasing high-quality garments with the intention of keeping them in your wardrobe for years to come. Slow fashion is about buying less but buying better.

Conscious Consumer

A conscious consumer is someone who is aware of the impact (both positive and negative) of their purchases. This is a more thoughtful approach to fashion and purchasing decisions are based on personal ethics.

Sustainable Fashion

Sustainable fashion considers the environmental impact of producing garments. Steps are taken to reduce this impact and create sustainable clothing. Sustainable fashion uses eco-friendly materials and dyes and recycled fibres.

Fair Trade

Fair trade is an organised social movement which aims to help developing countries achieve better trade conditions. For brands to be classed as fair trade they must meet certain criteria in both production and trading. For example, workers must receive a fair wage and treatment and materials must be harvested and produced sustainably.


Organic is the term to describe something grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides or genetically modified seeds. In ethical fashion, this often refers to organic cotton.


Recycling a material means reusing it to create something new. Similarly, up-cycling means using a material which would have otherwise ended up in landfill. For example using leather cut-offs to create handbags instead of producing new leather.

Do you find yourself confused by all the ethical fashion terms out there? Then make sure you read this glossary of ethical fashion terms

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