There are many different terms in the world of ethical, sustainable and vegan fashion. When you dive deep into this topic, it might feel like you are reading blogs and articles in a completely different language. Or sometimes, you might realize that you've heard that word so many times but you are not completely sure whether you fully understand its meaning.
And if you've ever wondered - why isn't there a glossary with all the terms and definitions at just one place that would help you understand the fair and sustainable fashion industry? Well, we asked ourselves the same question and it led us to the idea of creating this glossary.
It is a work in progress - and we are working very hard on constantly adding new terms and its definitions to the glossary. Eventually, you will find here 100+ terms and definitions. So if you are curious about a certain term or you'd like to understand the ethical, sustainable and vegan fashion industry better, you need not look any further.
The sources that were used to write this article can be found at the bottom of this page.
A living organism that feeds on organic matter, typically having specialized sense organs and nervous system and able to respond rapidly to stimuli. This includes but is not limited to humans, fish, rabbits, cats, whales, cows, dogs, turkeys, hamsters, birds and deers.
Animals are sentient beings, meaning they are creatures with feeling, capable of experiencing pain, love, joy, fear and suffering. It is our belief they should not be done any harm and should be able to live in freedom. They are not ours to experiment on, eat, wear, use for entertainment or abuse in any way.
Apple leather is an innovative vegan and more sustainable alternative to leather. As the name suggests, it is made of apples - it uses the cores and skins discarded from the food industry.127 By using organic waste to produce this material, the polluting emissions are, of course, significantly reduced.128
The organic waste from apples is puréed, spread on a sheet and left to dehydrate in order to get rid of the moisture. The result of this process is a flexible, leathery sheet that is combined with water and natural glue to create apple leather.
There are many vegan leather alternatives available, including banana leather, coffee leather, mushroom leather and pineapple leather. If you are asking yourself why there are so many alternatives, read our blog on What's wrong with leather?
An artisan is a professional with artistic skills who makes, for instance, unique fabrics, jewellery or ceramic.1 Artisans tend to embellish their products with paintings, drawings or engraving.
When you see a label 'artisan-made', it means that the product was made by the hands of an artisan or made with traditional techniques passed down from generation to generation.2,3 Because of this, the product is typically of good quality and can last a very long time.
If you've already heard of artisans and craftsmen, you might be asking yourself - what exactly is the difference between these terms? Well, craftsmen aim to replicate their work for mass consumption while artisans create many various unique pieces. Learn more about craftsmen.
Banana leather is a vegan and more sustainable alternative to leather. It is made of banana plants - these plants fruit only once in their lifetime and then they die and decay away.129 After the farmers harvest the fruit, they cut the parent stem to promote the growth of the plant. Instead of the material being wasted, it is used to make banana leather.
Banana leather is water-resistant and biodegradable fibre, but it is less strong than animal leather. Therefore, it is currently mainly used for products such as wallets.
There are many vegan leather alternatives available, including apple leather, coffee leather, mushroom leather and pineapple leather. If you are asking yourself why there are so many alternatives, read our blog on What's wrong with leather?
Biodegradable refers to the ability of things to decay naturally.4 In order for decomposition to occur, the right conditions and the presence of micro-organisms, such as bacteria or fungi biological, are necessary. Then, the item can blend back in with the earth and ideally (not always) in a way that is not harmful to the environment.5
Unfortunately, the definition of biodegradable materials makes no reference to the length of its biodegradation process - in other words, most products can carry this label which diminishes its meaning.6
Not really. All compostable products are biodegradable.7 But the main difference is that biodegradable items decompose naturally, whereas compostable items do require a special composting environment. Most of the time, simply throwing it between the vegetable peels in your organic waste bin outside, won’t do the trick. Would you like to learn more about the term compostable?
A by-product is a secondary product that is obtained during the production or manufacturing process.149 A great example of a by-product is Piñatex leather. It is made out of a secondary product of existing agriculture.150
Using by-products simply means that instead of using raw materials, you use something that was already created. Giving a second life to a material that would be otherwise wasted is an efficient – and more sustainable – way of producing goods.
A capsule wardrobe is basically a small collection of clothes that includes everything you normally wear, like and consider to fit your style. The idea is that all the clothes in a capsule wardrobe are easily combined in many different ways which encourages you to wear those items more often.8 Because of this, you do not need more than a few pieces of clothes which makes your wardrobe more sustainable.
Also, it never leaves you wondering that you have nothing to wear and therefore, it saves you a lot of time & money. Simply, having a capsule wardrobe just offers you plenty of benefits and it is one of the many great ways to adopt a more minimalist lifestyle.
Do you need some inspiration and tips on how to create your own capsule wardrobe?
Carbon neutral means compensating for the negative effects of carbon-emitting activities through investing in carbon offsets.151
One of the widely known examples of achieving carbon neutrality is planting trees. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. Trees take at least 10 to 20 years to mature.152 Only then, they start pulling in carbon dioxide. So, this means that if you buy a tree-based offset tomorrow, the carbon reduction probably takes effect in 2040.
The concept of carbon neutrality, similarly to water neutrality, has been criticised. This is because some companies focus more on investing in carbon offsetting rather than significantly reducing their carbon emissions.
Carbon offsetting means that emissions are reduced in one sector to compensate for emissions produced in another sector.10 More specifically, the 'carbon damage' a company or an individual does at one place is matched exactly with 'carbon repair' elsewhere. Essentially, it is another way to reduce emissions and achieve carbon neutrality.9
Let's take an example, a company might invest in renewable energy to compensate for the emissions produced during their not-so-environmentally-friendly practices. You as an individual can also offset your carbon footprint. For instance, you can plant trees to compensate for the emissions produced by the flight you took when travelling abroad.
Certifications are the result of a formal procedure by which an authorized or accredited organization assesses and verifies whether another organization, goods or services are in accordance with established standards or criteria.11
There are plenty of ethical and sustainable fashion certifications and they all have different meanings. One certification can indicate that an item is made in a fair environment where workers are paid a living wage and their rights are protected. Or, a certain certification can indicate that the production of clothing items is more sustainable. Another certification can be used for vegan products that do not contain any animal 'products'.
To find out what each ethical and sustainable certification or label means, how it works and how credible it is, dive into this helpful and critical guide on the 20+ most seen labels and certifications in the fashion and textile industry.
Child labour is work that is detrimental to children's physical and mental development and deprives them of their childhood, their potential and dignity.12 In other words, child labour refers to work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally harmful to children and/or forces them to combine their education with excessive and severely difficult work, prevents them from attending school or even force them to leave school prematurely.
Of course, not all work done by children is regarded as child labour. A work that does not interfere with the child's education or does not affect their physical and mental development can be beneficial for children because they can develop certain skills and gain important experience. So, where exactly is the line drawn? Whether a work done by children is defined as child labour depends on the child's age, type of work, working hours and the conditions under which the child performs the work.
However, child labour is a complex issue. Many governments and NGOs are trying to make child labour illegal. Is this the right thing to do? One one hand, as previously mentioned, child labour might prevent children from experiencing “normal childhood” (which is a subjective and culturally sensitive concept) and getting an education which in turn reinforces generational poverty.13 On the other hand, child labour is not just the cause of generational poverty, it is the symptom too. And these issues won't be solved by simply making child labour illegal.
Many concerns regarding the ban on child labour were raised by the working children themselves. If child labour is made illegal, this won't mean that those children can suddenly go to school - it is very likely that their families won't be able to afford basic life essentials, such as food and that these children will have to turn to even worse ways to make money, such as engaging in prostitution or crime.
While the goal might still be to eventually ban child labour, some suggest that a better plan (for now) can be to make their working conditions better while still trying to improve the lives of children and their families.
Circular fashion means that a fashion item is designed, sourced and produced with the intention to be used responsibly and effectively and to last as long as possible in its most valuable form.14 Once the product reaches the end of its life-cycle, it should not bring any environmental harm. Instead, it should be reused, recycled or composted.
Moreover, the pieces of clothing should be sourced and produced efficiently (preferably) locally and ethically, without toxins and with biodegradable and recyclable materials.
Circularity means that used or discarded items are not considered as waste.15 Instead, they are viewed as raw materials that can be used to produce new items. The aim is for products to maintain its utility and value for as long as possible. What is circular fashion?
A closed-loop system refers to the functioning of the supply chain. Under a closed-loop system, materials are reused to make a new item instead of being thrown away. The opposite of a closed-loop system is an open-loop system.16
Just imagine a straight line defining the system under which products are made. It goes from taking the materials, making the product, consuming or using it to throwing it away. This is the open-loop system. Alternatively, in a closed-loop system, the product does not reach the stage of being thrown away because it returns to the stage where it is reused so a new product can be made.
You might have heard of a closed-loop system in connection to the man-made fabric called Tencel, also known as lyocell. Tencel textiles are created under a closed-loop system which means that more than 99% of the solvent is recovered, reused or purified.17 This way, less water and land is used in the process. However, closed-loop fibres such as Tencel are only as sustainable as its consumer. Therefore, if you own clothes made of Tencel, you should make sure that they are worn for as long as possible and in the end, they are properly recycled - so the closed-loop system actually works.
Coffee leather is a more eco-friendly and ethical alternative to leather. The material is smooth and fine, made of recycled coffee, coffee beans and coffee plant.131 And it also has the scent of coffee! The type of coffee used in coffee leather production depends on sustainable availability.
There are many vegan leather alternatives available, including apple leather, banana leather, mushroom leather and pineapple leather. If you are asking yourself why there are so many alternatives, read our blog on What's wrong with leather?
Collective bargaining refers to a fundamental right of workers thanks to which employers and trade unions can negotiate fair wages, safe working conditions, reasonable working hours and other labour-related issues.18 The end result of these negotiations is a collective agreement that defines the terms and conditions of employment.
Compliance means adhering to legal or social obligations.19 In the fashion world, compliance translates into adherence to standards such as working conditions, quality of garments, human rights or impacts on the environment.
Even though these standards are recognized in the fashion industry, there is no one clear set of compliance regulations encompassing all fashion businesses. Instead, it depends on the regulations of the country where the company's suppliers are situated and where the fashion items are produced.
Compostable refers to the ability of a product to break down in about 90 days.5,20 The result of this process is a nutrient-rich organic material (also called humus) which makes our soil a healthy environment where new plants can grow.
However, this process requires a composting environment. What is a composting environment, actually? Is your backyard compost an ideal place for compostable materials? Well, for a compostable bag or compostable plastic cutlery to decompose, a perfect balance of moisture, heat and oxygen is essential. Therefore, the best place where your compostable products could end up is a commercial compost facility. In case the products you want to decompose are really paper-like thin, your backyard compost might be good enough - but there is no guarantee.
What this all means is that if a compostable product is thrown in a regular bin, it ends up in a landfill. There, the compostable product might take as long as regular plastic to break down. So, it is important for compostable products to end up where they are meant to end up.
Have you ever asked yourself - what is the difference between compostable and biodegradable? All compostable products are biodegradable.7 But the main difference is that biodegradable items decompose naturally, whereas compostable items do require a special composting environment. Find out more about what biodegradable really means.
A conscious consumer is a consumer who considers social, environmental, ecological and political aspects when purchasing a product.21 Conscious consumers are aware of the power they possess. That is why they perceive each purchase as a vote with their wallet. A vote thanks to which they can support responsible, ethical or sustainable companies or boycott companies that do not deserve their (financial) support.
Conscious fashion is a segment of the fashion industry that considers its environmental impact and social responsibility and therefore, does not only prioritise its profits but also the people, the planet and ideally also the animals.22 Conscious fashion can have many synonyms, for instance, it can be called eco fashion, ethical and sustainable fashion or fair fashion. The aim is to offer an alternative to the fast fashion industry.
Cost Per Wear is a different method of calculating the costs of clothes. When using the Cost Per Wear concept, the value of a product is connected to how many times you use(d) it.23 How? Take the price of the item, add the cost of maintenance to it and divide that by the total number of times you wore the item.
Cost Per Wear offers you a completely different mindset - instead of looking at a pair of jeans from an ethical & more sustainable company and thinking that paying 150€ is super expensive, you calculate the Cost Per Wear. If you buy them from a fast-fashion company for 30€, it is likely that they are of poor quality. You wear it a few times before they are too damaged to be worn again, and you’ll soon have to buy another pair. This means that the Cost Per Wear is quite high. On the contrary, an item of good quality, from an ethical and sustainable company may have a higher price but in the long run, it can turn out to be cheaper.
Cotton is the most frequently used fibre on the planet.24 It comes from plants that have been cultivated since ancient times as their fibres are used as textiles. People use cotton on a daily basis, whether it is in the form of cotton makeup remover pads, bed sheets or the clothes we wear.
Despite (or because of) its popular use, the reality of cotton production is very problematic. If you'd like to know more about cotton - whether it is regular, organic or recycled cotton - and its environmental impact, recommended alternatives to cotton and much more, no need to look anywhere else: this all-about-cotton blog post is worth the read.
A craftsman is a professional who is qualified in their craft.3 Craftsmen do not produce one-of-a-kind items because they aim to replicate their products for mass consumption. What does the process of replication look like? Some craftsmen might use traditional methods others might use assembly lines or advanced computer equipment.
Are you wondering about the difference between a craftsman and an artisan? Well, craftsmen aim to replicate their work for mass consumption while artisans create many various unique pieces.
Cruelty-free means that the final product and/or its ingredients have not been tested on animals.25 It cannot be emphasized enough that even though it sounds like cruelty-free products should have no cruelty in it, this term does not mean that a product has vegan ingredients. Therefore, we recommend looking for both vegan and cruelty-free certifications to make sure that the product you are buying did not cause any harm to animals.
Unfortunately, a brand can claim almost anything on its product - this means that just seeing the claim 'cruelty-free' gives you no guarantee that the product or its ingredients were not tested on animals. It is better to only trust the labels that come from a credible certification system.
Dead stock refers to products that do not sell and do not have a high chance of being sold in the future.26,27 Dead stock is usually stored in warehouses which costs the company money. Therefore, they either throw it away or offer it to customers as a free gift with purchase.
Dead stock and Dead inventory are interchangeable terms, however, deadstock (written as one word) can refer to products that are no longer available or it can even refer to brand new sneakers that are discounted because there are too many of them in stock.
Decent work means employment that ensures dignity, equality, fair wages and a safe working environment.28 The goal is to make sure that the voices of women, men and the youth are heard and that their rights protect them from exploitation. Decent work also involves social protection for families, freedom to speak up about their concerns and participate in decision-making and opportunities for personal growth.
Diversity means the presence of distinct characteristics in a group.29 These characteristics could be anything from cognitive and personality traits to traits that characterize our identity such as race, age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, cultural background and so forth.
There is a difference between diversity, inclusivity and equality. To illustrate that difference, imagine a team of people. A diverse team consists of individuals with different characteristics, inclusive team means everyone is accepted, usually in celebrative ways and when equality is in place, it means that everyone in the team has equal opportunities, no matter their characteristics.30
Due diligence is a process through which companies are able to recognize, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address the negative impacts in their sourcing practices.31 In the fashion world, due diligence is often linked to human rights issues or environmental practices.
Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on the 22nd of April that raises environmental awareness and serves as a reminder of how important it is to protect our environment.153
There are various ways how you can celebrate Earth Day. For instance, you can learn more about environmental protection, organize a teach-in, clean up or make a pledge to reduce your energy use.
You might have also heard of Earth Overshoot Day. It marks a date on which our consumption of resources exceeds the planet's capacity to regenerate those resources that year.154
Eco-friendly, or environmentally-friendly, means not being harmful to the environment.32 This term can indicate that an item was produced in a more environmentally-responsible way.
However, eco-friendly is one of the buzz-words we often hear and it can be easily misused in marketing claims often called greenwashing. If you are curious about which labels and certifications you can rely on, check our guide to sustainable and ethical fashion certifications.
Econyl is a strong and elastic fabric that is chemically identical to nylon but made out of synthetic waste.155,156 For instance, it can be made out of industrial plastic and fishing nets found in our oceans. For this reason, Econyl is also called recycled or waste nylon.
Econyl aims to close the loop and thus, use less water and produce less waste than traditional nylon production. However, Econyl is still a synthetic fibre. This means that it is not biodegradable and it can release tiny plastic particles, also called microfibres.
Environmental impact means any beneficial or adverse change to the environment that can be a result of a facility's activities, products or services.33 Put more simply, it is the effect of people's behavior on the environment.
Equal pay means the right of different groups, for instance, men and women, to receive the same pay for doing equal work for the same or similar employer, unless the difference in pay can be justified.34
Equal work is understood as either the same or very similar work in terms of the tasks or the knowledge and skills required for performing those tasks; work evaluated as equally demanding or work of equal value in terms of effort and decision-making.
Equality means that every individual has equal opportunities to make the most of their lives and potential.35 It is the belief that no one should suffer from poorer life opportunities because of the way they were born, their nationality, beliefs or religion, disabilities and other aspects of life.
There is a difference between equality, inclusivity and diversity. For a group of people to be diverse, it means it needs to consist of individuals with different characteristics.30 An inclusive group means that everyone is accepted and celebrated for their differences. The goal, however, is to have equality in groups or teams that consist of people who are different from each other.
Ethical means relating to beliefs about what is right and wrong.36 When describing something as ethical, it means that it is morally acceptable or morally right. We often hear it in connection to our lifestyle habits: “Is our treatment of animals ethical?” or to the fashion industry: What is ethical fashion, actually?
Ethical fashion means that the whole process from designing, producing, retailing to purchasing a product can be described as ethical.37 This covers many issues from fair wages, safe and healthy working conditions, reasonable working hours, environmental impact, animal welfare and so forth.
Fair fashion means that workers who engage in the production of fashion items are paid a living wage, work in safe and healthy working conditions, and have reasonable working hours.38 Child labour and forced labour are not allowed under the umbrella term fair fashion. Fair fashion companies or organizations also consider the environmental impact of textile production as well as the treatment of animals.
At Shop Like You Give a Damn, we consider fashion to be fair when the workers are treated fairly, when the production is responsible to the environment but also when no animal is viewed as a 'product'. Are you eager to learn more about vegan fashion?
Fair trade, to put it simply, is a trade between producers in developing countries and companies in developed countries that is considered to be fair.39 Fair trade happens when producers are paid fair wages for their work. Consequently, the producers can then afford life's essentials such as food, education and health care.
Fair trade was designed as a model for development and as a solution to poverty. This means that the trade is not benefiting only one side. On the opposite, it is based on a partnership that benefits the farmers, workers and the companies.
It might come as a shock to you or it might not surprise you at all - but there is a difference between Fair trade and Fairtrade.
Fairtrade is a certification and labelling program developed by Fairtrade International.40 In order to be Fairtrade certified, the producers and traders of the product must meet the Fairtrade standards.41 These include a range of economic, social and environmental criteria.
Just to name a few examples, the economic criteria include the Fairtrade Minimum Price that provides producers with a safety net that protects them from falling prices, the environmental criteria require responsible water and waste management, minimal use of pesticides and agrochemicals and the social criteria require at least the legal or regional minimum wages, freedom of association and collective bargaining rights for workers.
The Fairtrade mark can be found on food products - you might have seen it on bananas, tea or coffee - but there is also fairtrade certified cotton. Moreover, Fairtrade International developed the Fairtrade Textile Standard that aims to improve the working conditions and wages of the workers in the fashion industry as well as address the production's environmental impact.
Would you like to find out more about the most common ethical and sustainable fashion certifications, including the Fairtrade label?
Fashion Revolution is a not-for-profit global movement represented by two entities, namely, Fashion Revolution CIC and the Fashion Revolution Foundation.42,43 The aim of Fashion Revolution, as the name suggests, is to revolutionize the fashion industry by making transparency in the supply chains the norm, and not the exception. Their actions include, for instance, marking the day of the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh as Fashion Revolution Day; a campaign #WhoMadeMyClothes or Transparency Index.
Fast fashion is described as inexpensive and trendy designs that move from the catwalk to stores at a high speed.44,45 Instead of introducing new fashion trends every season, it occurs many times per month or even per week. This is due to the urgency to stay on-trend and increase sales.
However, the dark side of fast fashion can be seen in the production factories where workers, mostly women and children, have unreasonable working hours, terrible working conditions as well as wages below a living wage or even the minimum wage.
Faux fur or fake fur is a textile fabric designed to resemble animal fur.158 While faux fur is an animal-friendly alternative to real fur, it tends to be not as planet-friendly. This is because it is made out of synthetic fibres. In addition, there were some cases where garments labelled with 'faux fur' were made out of real fur.159
Forced labour can mean any work that is performed involuntarily and under the threat of any form of punishment.46,47 It encompasses situations in which people are forced to work due to the use of violence or coercion but also by more subtle means such as retention of identity documents or threats of being reported to immigration authorities.
Freedom of association is the right of workers to form and join organizations of their choice without previous approval.48 It is also a prerequisite to collective bargaining.
FSC-certified product means that the wood used in the product and the manufacturer that made the product comply with the requirements of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).49 FSC is a non-governmental organisation that strives to promote environmentally and socially responsible management of forests all around the world.
The FSC Principles are: complying with all applicable laws and regulations; maintaining or enhancing the social and economic conditions of workers and local communities; identifying and upholding Indigenous Peoples’ rights of ownership, use and management of land and resources affected by management activities; managing the range of products and services efficiently; maintaining, conserving and/or restoring ecosystem services; having a management plan and demonstrating that progress is monitored and evaluated; maintaining and enhancing high conservation values; conducting management activities in compliance with the organization's economic, social and environmental policies, goals, principles and criteria.50
There are 3 flavours of FCS labels:
However, there was some criticism related to FSC's forest protection and the organization not being transparent enough.51 For instance, Greenpeace withdrew its support for the FSC in 2018 explaining that they no longer trust that “FSC alone can consistently guarantee enough protection” of forests. Moreover, Greenpeace expressed their concerns about the FSC's standards not being applied consistently across regions, particularly in regions with weak governance. Greenpeace asked FSC to publish their sourcing areas and reports to allow external monitoring - essentially, demanding more transparency.
If you would like to learn more about other certifications, check out this guide on 20+ most common certifications and labels in the ethical and sustainable fashion industry.
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is a certification for textiles that are made of organic fibres.55 This certification program has a set of high environmental and social criteria. Additionally, products that are made of conventional cotton, angora wool, virgin polyester or contain GMOs cannot be GOTS-certified.
If you'd like to know more about the most common and important ethical and sustainable fashion certifications, including the GOTS certification, we have a helpful and critical guide on the 20+ most seen labels and certifications in the fashion and textile industry.
GHG emissions (which stands for greenhouse gas emissions) are the emissions of different gases into the atmosphere that contribute to the greenhouse effect.53 GHGs absorb and emit heat which causes the atmosphere to become warmer and warmer.54 Some examples of GHGs are water vapour, carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4)
GHGs occur on this planet naturally, however, human activities are causing a significant increase in GHG's levels in the atmosphere which causes global warming and therefore, climate change (sometimes also referred to as climate crisis).
Greenwashing means that a company or an organization spends more time, effort and money on advertising so they are perceived as environmentally friendly than actually minimizing their negative environmental impact.56
Greenwashing is used as a marketing technique to mislead conscious consumers into thinking that the product they are buying is actually from a more sustainable company.
If you'd like to become resistant to greenwashing, discover the 7 si(g)ns of greenwashing and read more about real-life examples not only in the (fast) fashion industry, then our blog What is Greenwashing? | Definition, Examples & More is for you!
Handmade is a label for a product that was made by hand or by a hand process.132 Hand-assembled, handcrafted and hand-altered are all synonymous with handmade.
For instance, a product made of store-bought fabric and sewn on a sewing machine is considered to be handmade by some people while others disagree. Therefore, this term is not as straightforward as you might think.
Inclusivity refers to the practice or policy of including individuals who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized.57 An inclusive group consists of individuals who do not judge each other based on their characteristics such as sex, gender identity, religion, race, beliefs and values and actively create an environment where everyone feels supported and valued.
There is a difference between diversity, inclusivity and equality. While diversity is about the presence of different characteristics in a group, inclusivity is about accepting and celebrating these differences. The end goal here is equality - to ensure that everyone, no matter their characteristics and differences - have the same life opportunities.
A landfill is a location where large amounts of disposable materials are sent and then buried.58 Landfills are built in such a way that leachates won't leak down through the soil into the water table because a specialized draining system collects this leachate.59 However, the leachate is highly concentrated in chemicals that even small amounts of leachate can pollute large amounts of groundwater.60
The life-cycle of clothes means the process the clothes go through - from designing the product, producing the fibre, manufacturing the fabric, cutting, tailoring and finishing the product, transporting it, storing and selling it to consumers who then (re-)use it.61 The final phase of the garment's life-cycle is either textile recycling or waste generation and then, landfill or incineration.
A living income is the net annual income that members of a household in a particular place need so they are able to afford a decent living standard.62 A decent standard of living means that the individuals and their family can afford food, housing, education, health care, clothing, transportation and other life essentials.
A living income is different from a living wage - both aim to achieve a decent living standard for the household members but a living wage is used in the context of hired workers (for instance, on farms or in factories) whereas living income is used in the context of an income earner (for instance, self-employed farmers).
A living wage is a theoretical amount of income that allows an individual to have a basic but socially acceptable living standard.63,64 This means that they are able to afford food, housing, education, health care, clothing, transportation and other life essentials for the individual themselves as well as for their family.62 That is why the living wage is often referred to as fair wage.
The aim of providing employees with a living wage is to prevent them from falling into poverty. Some experts suggest that a living wage should be substantial enough to make sure that no more than 30% of the income is spent on housing.63
Maybe you already know, maybe you don't - but there is a difference between the minimum wage and a living wage. The living wage is determined by calculating the average living costs in a region, whereas the minimum wage is set by national law.65 What does the minimum wage actually mean?
And if you've come across the term living income, you might have thought that it is the same as a living wage. It isn't - a living wage is used in the context of hired workers (for instance, on farms or in factories) and living income is used in the context of an income earner (for instance, self-employed farmers).62
Local refers to one's region or community.66 It can be used in the context of a local business which means that the business provides goods or services to a local community. Moreover, local can be used in the context of food production - you might have seen labels such as locally-grown or locally-made.67 This means that the products were grown and/or (most of) the materials were manufactured or processed in the region.
Lyocell is an environmentally-friendly material entirely made from wood.135 Its strong threads are spun from the wood pulp of eucalyptus trees through an environmentally-responsible closed-loop factory process. This process recycles processed water and reuses the solvent - at a recovery rate of more than 99%. The result is a fabric that is naturally antibacterial, compostable and absorbs moisture better than cotton.
What is the difference between lyocell and Tencel? These two terms are often used interchangeably. Tencel is actually the patented brand name of the lyocell fabric.
Material sourcing is a tactical and strategic process of making decisions about what, when and where materials need to be purchased.68,69 This process includes requesting quotes for items, obtaining information on vendors, pricing, minimum order quantities and other important information based on which one will make a decision on where to source the materials they need.
Microfibres are very fine man-made fibres used for textile production.70 How fine? Just imagine 1/100th the diameter of a human hair - that fine! The most common microfibers are made of polyesters and polyamides.
Microfibres are very popular in the fashion industry due to their availability, durability, (water) resistance, and low price.71 The problem is that when they are produced, washed and worn, tiny plastic fibres (called microplastics and nanoplastics) are released to the environment which causes serious pollution.
Microplastics are small plastic pieces that are 5 millimetres long - about the size of flaxseed.72 Microplastics come from larger plastic waste that degrades into smaller pieces.
Also, microbeads, most frequently made of polyethylene plastic but can also be made of polypropylene and polystyrene, are microplastics. These are added to personal care or beauty products and pose a risk to our oceans and aquatic life.
Microsuede is a human-made polyester fabric that consists of millions of very fine microfibres.133 It resembles suede leather, however, it is cheaper, more resistant to water and of course, without any animal products.
Mindful fashion means being conscious of the fashion choices you make.73 It means carefully considering how often you purchase new items, what items you will actually buy (do they fit your style and will you actually wear it?) and where the clothes you buy come from - whether they were made by an (un)ethical or (un)sustainable company.
Minimalism or minimalist lifestyle means that an individual actively and mindfully abandons the concept of consuming for other purposes than necessity. They only own things that add value, meaning to their life and reflect priorities that the person has.74
This means that the person tries to minimize other distractions from their life, for instance, following all the fleeting (fashion) trends or buying the newest and often also useless gadgets. By minimizing these distractions, a minimalist person is able to focus on things they consider important.
The origin of the term minimalism comes from art - minimalist art only features simple lines, with a few colours and careful consideration of their placement.
Some people believe that a minimalist lifestyle has a set of rules that people need to follow - however, this is a common misconception. Of course, there are some guidelines and advice one can get inspired by, but a minimalist lifestyle is just about intentional and simple living which comes in many shapes and forms. Some tips for you:
A minimum wage is the amount of income that is mandated by law and cannot be reduced by an individual contract or collective agreement.65,75 When lawmakers are setting the minimum wage, they not only take into consideration the (well-being and decent living standard of) workers but also the business and its overall impact on the economy. This explains why the minimum wage is often not as high as the workers would need it to be to have a decent standard of living.
The intention behind establishing the minimum wage was to keep workers above the poverty level. However, this turned out to be unsuccessful due to the rising costs of living which were not taken into account. This is the reason why many organizations that are in the business of fair fashion demand a living wage for workers.
Yes, there is a difference between the minimum wage and a living wage. The minimum wage is set by national law whereas the living wage is determined by calculating the average living costs in a region.65 What does the living wage actually mean?
Monocropping is an agricultural method for growing a single crop on the same land every year.76 This means that the farmers do not switch crops around after each year or do not allow the growth of multiple crops on the same land, which is also known as polyculture. The most common crops used for monocropping are soybeans, corn and wheat. But industrial bee farming for honey production shouldn't be overlooked either as it is often part of agricultural processes such as the production of non-organic cane sugar or almonds which largely function as a monocrop.
Even though monocropping might be profitable for the farmers, it is devastating for the environment. Why? Because monocropping destroys the nutrients from the earth and weakens the soil. This makes growing healthy plants more difficult - which means that the farmers need to use chemical fertilizers which has detrimental effects on the soil and our environment.
That is why many conscious consumers choose to buy organic products. For instance, organic cotton is grown using crop rotation so the soil does not get exhausted growing only one crop.
What is the difference between monocropping and monoculture farming? Well, monoculture farming means that the crop is replaced by a different type of crop but there is still only one type of crop on the land at one time. Monocropping, however, means that the crop is not replaced and it is grown on the same land every year.
Monoculture farming means that only one type of crop is allowed to grow on the land.77 If the crop is replaced by a different type of crop, it still counts as monoculture farming (unlike monocropping) because there is only one type of crop on the land at one time.
Therefore, when a farmer grows only soybeans for two years on their land and then switches to corn to rotate the crops, it is monoculture farming and not monocropping.
A more sustainable alternative to monoculture farming or monocropping is intercropping - growing of two or more crops on the same land in close proximity. This practice improves the structure of the soil and adds various forms of organic matter which creates rich earth.78,79
Mulesing is an extremely painful but common procedure performed on merino sheep in which ranchers cut parts of animals' skin and flesh away.80 It is painful as it sounds - and sheep have to go through this process without any painkillers.
This procedure is supposed to prevent sheep from 'flystrike' - being attacked and eaten alive by flies. Flystrike happens due to the unnatural excess of wool on sheep bred to maximize their wool 'production' which causes moisture that attracts flies that then lay eggs in the fold of animals' skin. Mulesing is performed to prevent this, because it creates scar tissue, so that less urine and faeces get stuck to the sheep’s behind, which makes flies less attracted to these spots.
However, this procedure can also cause bloody wounds that become infected or attacked by flies - which means that sheep that experience pain during mulesing could also experience slow and terrible death from flystrike.
Even though mulesing is a horrible and painful procedure, it is not the only reason why vegans don't wear wool.
Mulesing-free wool is wool that was produced without the extremely painful but common procedure performed on merino sheep called mulesing. Mulesing-free wool is often perceived as a more 'ethical' alternative to regular wool.
Unfortunately, as long as the use of animals is necessary for the production of clothes, you cannot be sure about its ethical production. This is because the industry sees animals as a commodity and not sentient beings that experience stress and pain.
The wool industry pays per kilo of wool and not per hour.139 The result is shaving sheep at a high pace resulting in extreme pain. Moreover, as the sheep get older their wool 'production' decreases. Therefore, they are prematurely killed when they are about 6 years old. In nature, they could live up to 17 years. No matter if mulesing-free or regular, wool is also the second worst material in terms of negatively impacting our environment (right after silk).140
To find out more about the wool industry and why so many people decide to stay away from any woollen products, read our blog Why Don't Vegans Wear Wool?. (Spoiler: it also mentions great animal-free alternatives to wool.)
Mushroom leather in an environmentally-friendly alternative to leather. Mushroom leather is made from the waste material from commercial mushroom production. What makes it more sustainable is the fact that it can be treated without using polluting substances, it is biodegradable and compostable.134
There are many vegan leather alternatives available, including apple leather, banana leather, coffee leather and pineapple leather. If you are asking yourself why there are so many alternatives, read our blog on What's wrong with leather?
Ocean waste is the consequence of dumping materials from land or vessels to the ocean or discharging the waste through a pipe into marine waters.81 This, of course, has detrimental effects on the environment and aquatic life.
Organic means that a product was produced in an agricultural system that strives to be more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. In practice, this means that the use of man-made fertilisers, pesticides, growth regulators and farm animals feed additives is prohibited.82 Instead, this farming system relies, for instance, on crop rotation, plant and animal manures.
Organic farming also takes into consideration animal welfare and usually requires free-range conditions for animals. However, for those who, like us, give a damn about animal rights, this is obviously not good enough, as animals still are bred, used and killed for their bodies.
For products to be labelled as “organic” in the European Union, at least 95% of the ingredients need to be organically produced and its organic composition needs to be confirmed by an organic certification body such as the Soil Association.
The label 'organic' is not only used for food products. Fashion garments can also be made of organic materials. To be sure whether the clothes you are wearing are organic, you should make sure they are certified - either with GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) or OCS (Organic Content Standard).
If you'd like to know more about the most common and important ethical and sustainable fashion certifications, we have a helpful and critical guide on the 20+ most seen labels and certifications in the fashion and textile industry.
Outsourcing means the practice of assigning some tasks and responsibilities to another entity so the employees of the organization can focus on their main tasks.83 This means that those tasks and responsibilities could be handled by the organization's personnel, however, the organization prefers to be more cost-efficient and assign the tasks to someone else.
Outsourcing is sometimes considered a controversial practice because some companies might choose to outsource jobs to overseas companies because they pay significantly lower wages to their employees.
In the fashion industry, it is common for retailers and brands to outsource the cut, make and trim (CMT) part of the manufacturing to a third-party company.84,85 This company in turn subcontracts to another party. Due to the complexity of this process and the desire to keep the prices low and production fast, the third-parties are usually operating in countries where labour laws allow very low and unfair wages for workers and poor working conditions. And since the subcontracted parties are not formally part of the company’s supply chain, the audits do not take place there.86
If you are wondering: Yes, there is a (small) difference between outsourcing and subcontracting. Tasks that are outsourced could be handled internally but due to the desire to save (financial)resources, the company decides to assign the task to a third-party that works independently. Subcontracting, on the other hand, refers to those tasks that couldn’t be handled internally and are therefore assigned to a third-party but the hiring party still has a reasonable amount of control over the process.83
The Pay Up campaign (#PayUp) is a campaign that aims to put pressure on brands so they pay for in-production and completed orders in full and on time instead of abandoning their supply chain partners and its workers during difficult times.87
The #PayUp hashtag was first used after the Rana Plaza building collapse in 2013 when the public was asking the brands and retailers to pay full and fair compensation to the workers and their families. In 2020, the hashtag resurfaced due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many stores closed which made some major brands and retailers refuse to pay for the work of the workers in their supply chain.
Peace silk is a fabric made of animals that is often labelled as an ethical alternative to regular silk because the process called 'stifling' is avoided. Stifting, used in regular silk production, means boiling, baking or steaming the silkworms alive to get the cocoons (silk threads) without damage.141,142
However, peace silk is not ethical nor peaceful. As the moths are allowed to breed and have several breeds per season, each generation has more and more cocoons - the number increases and the ability to feed them decreases.143 So, hundreds of caterpillars are left to die from starvation and dehydration.
As we often say, you can never be sure about the ethics when an animal is used in the process - even if the animal is an insect. Only with vegan fashion, you can be sure that no animal was exploited for the production of your clothes.
If you would love to learn more about (peace) silk - its impact on the environment, our fellow humans and the animals and also find out what ethical shiny fabric to wear instead, read our blog What's Wrong With (Peace) Silk?.
Piñatex, pineapple leather, is a more sustainable and ethical alternative to leather. It is a non-woven textile made from waste pineapple leaf fibre - a byproduct from existing harvest (which is traditionally discarded or burned) which means no additional environmental resources are required for the production of piñatex.136
After the harvest, the fibres are washed, dried and purified. The fibre is then combined with corn-based polylactic acid which creates the base for Piñatex. Then, this vegan leather is coloured using GOTS-certified pigments.
Additionally, once the fibre has been stripped from the leaf, the leftovers can be used as a natural fertiliser or bio-fuel, offering a further environmental prospect. And of course, Piñatex is also biodegradable.
It isn't just the environmental aspect that is worth mentioning. Piñatex production is adding value to the waste which creates more possibilities of earning an income in the farming communities.
There are many vegan leather alternatives available, including apple leather, banana leather, coffee leather and mushroom leather. If you are asking yourself why there are so many alternatives, read our blog on What's wrong with leather?
Post-consumer waste is a product or material that served its purpose, was used and discarded for disposal or recovery by a consumer.88 Simply, post-consumer waste is the garbage individuals throw away.
For instance, in the case of buying newspapers, you read them in the morning while drinking a cup of coffee or tea and then you throw it away. But newspapers' production can also generate post-industrial waste or they can become pre-consumer waste.
Post-Industrial waste is factory waste generated during the manufacturing process. For instance, during newspaper production - product scrap, trim or overruns.89 Post-industrial waste can be reintroduced back into the manufacturing phase - but this is not considered as recycling (as it never reached the hands of the consumer).88
Both post-industrial waste and pre-consumer waste are generated in a factory - so, what is the difference? Well, pre-consumer waste is generated when a product is damaged in some way while post-industrial waste is generated during the manufacturing process and can still be reused. And what is post-consumer waste?
Pre-consumer waste is a waste generated in a factory that is discarded before the product could reach the hands of the consumer.88 Pre-consumer waste is generated when a product is damaged in some way - misprinted, defective or when there is an excess of it.89
For instance, we used newspapers as an example of post-consumer waste. However, if newspapers are printed but never sold, they are pre-consumer waste. Both pre-consumer waste and post-industrial waste are generated in a factory - so, what is the difference? Well, post-industrial waste is generated during manufacturing and can be still reused in the production process while pre-consumer waste is generated when a product gets damaged.
Procurement means obtaining goods or services, usually for business purposes.90 Procurement requires preparation, solicitation, processing of payments and therefore, several departments of a company are involved. This process is often an important part of a company's strategy because the ability to obtain certain goods or services can make an operation (un)profitable.
In the (fast) fashion industry, procurement processes are often unsustainable and criticized for not being transparent.91 For instance, processes such as dyeing and finishing fabrics or producing fibres involve the use of toxic chemicals and result in water pollution and irresponsible waste management.
Recycling means any recovery process in which waste materials are collected and reprocessed into new materials with either the original or another purpose.92 Recycling includes the reprocessing of organic materials, however, it doesn't mean that the energy is recovered.
Even though recycling is important, it is often put on a pedestal which might create the illusion that recycling is the most sustainable practice. This is not the case and individuals should strive to reduce their consumption and only the unavoidable waste should then be recycled.
Reducing means anything from limiting the number of items you own and buy to reducing the waste you produce.93 It means that you think twice before buying or using a product. You ask yourself whether this is something you actually need - because your intention is to reduce the things you own and the waste you produce as much as possible.
Refusing means saying no to items or materials in order to reduce your waste and save the resources needed to produce these items.93 Refuse and 'reject' refer to the same behaviour.
For instance, you can refuse a plastic bag when doing groceries or a paper cup at a café by bringing your own reusable products. Another thing you could do, which might not come to your mind immediately, is to refuse magazines and newsletters that you subscribe to.
Rejecting means saying no to items or materials so you are able to lower your waste and save the resources needed to produce these items.93 Reject and 'refuse' refer to the same behaviour.
For instance, you can reject a paper bag when shopping or a plastic straw at a bar because you've brought your own, reusable alternative. Another thing you could do is to reject magazines and newsletters that you subscribe to (this way, you either save the trees or reduce the footprint of your internet activities).
Remaking means to reuse a certain material or product for a different purpose than it was originally intended for.93,94 The product still has its original shape or form but the way it is now used is different. Remaking is also known as upcycling. For instance, you might use glass jars from beans as flower pots or toilet paper rolls as an organizing box for your jewellery or phone cables!
Repairing means that when an item is damaged, you do not throw it away but you fix it. By fixing it, you can use it for longer and you prevent the production of waste that is easily avoidable.93
And if you feel like fixing things is not one of your strongest suits, no need to worry! There are plenty of tutorials and guides online - just search for what you need, follow the steps and you will be able to repair almost anything! But if you'd rather leave it to a professional, look for a repair store near you or ask your handy friend or family member.
Rethinking means changing your state of mind and becoming more creative and mindful when it comes to a sustainable lifestyle.93,96
It could mean that you look differently at advertisements, you question the truthfulness of common sustainability buzz-words such as eco-friendly and you learn to recognize greenwashing. You might even rethink your shopping habits. For instance: do you maybe shop a little too often? Do you buy only the things you actually need? You could also rethink the way you look at the price of clothes and start using the cost per wear method or create your own capsule wardrobe.
Reusing means that products or materials are not thrown away but instead, they are used again by a new owner.93 This reduces the energy that would be otherwise spent on producing a new item that a person would buy instead of the “already used one”. What items can be reused? You can think of clothes, shoes, furniture but also cars.
The R's of sustainability refer to words that start with the letter R and promote a more sustainable lifestyle and mindset.93 These include: rethink, refuse (reject), reduce, repair, reuse, remake and recycle.
Second-hand means reusing unwanted clothes that one person sells or donates to another person. Buying second-hand, pre-loved, vintage clothes or going thrifting - you name it. The intention is always to give clothes a new purpose (and owner) so they do not end up in a landfill.97
Second-hand fashion is a great alternative to buying new items (from fast fashion companies). You can find unique and beautiful items at second-hand stores - often for a very low price! And of course, as the clothes won't end up in a landfill and therefore, all the resources that went into producing them won't go to waste, it is a more environmentally-friendly practice.
A sentient being is a being that is capable of experiencing both physical and psychological suffering, regardless of the species it belongs to.138
Shop Local means that you (financially) support locally-owned businesses.98 The result of shopping locally is the community becoming more self-sufficient and relying less on imports from abroad. This way, the power is a bit by bit taken away from corporations and given back to the local community. But what does local actually mean? It is not about your zip code area, usually 'ĺocal' refers to your region.66
It is very likely that you've seen the hashtag #shoplocal on your social media feed, a hashtag that grew more popular than ever during the COVID-19 lockdown times. Sharing your experiences from locally-owned businesses and recommending it to your friends and family is another way to support your local community.66
Slow fashion is an approach to fashion that encourages individuals to consume less and brands to take time to ensure quality production of long-lasting items, fair wages for workers who make those items and lower impact on the environment.99
Slow fashion movement combines the ethical and sustainable efforts on the brand's side with slow and intentional shopping behaviour on the customers' side.
Social responsibility means that businesses act in a way that contributes to the welfare of society and the environment.100 When applied to businesses, it is also known as corporate social responsibility (CSR).
How can companies be socially responsible? Well, there are several ways in which businesses can act in a manner that benefits the community and the planet. A company might promote volunteering, donate a portion of their profit to charitable organizations, operate fairly by paying fair wages to workers and ensuring safe and healthy working conditions or lower the production's environmental impact by using green energy, ensuring more sustainable packaging and transport, using organic and recycled materials and less or no chemicals.
Subcontracting means the practice of assigning part of responsibilities and projects under a contract to another entity (known as a subcontractor) because these tasks cannot be handled by the organization itself.83,101
Subcontracting is a common practice in complex fields such as the construction or fashion industry. The project's contractors hire subcontractors and from that moment on, the subcontractors have the overall responsibility for completing and executing the project. This might create a subcontractor risk for compliance.
In the fashion industry, it is quite common for brands and retailers to outsource part of the garment manufacturing to trading companies.84,85 These in turn subcontract to another third-party company. This is all very complex and the brands and retailer strive to make the production process fast while keeping the prices as low as possible which means that the preference is to subcontract from a company in a country where labour laws allow very unfairly low wages for workers and poor and unsafe working conditions. And as the subcontracted parties are not formally part of the company’s supply chain, the audits do not take place there.86
If you are wondering: Yes, there is a (small) difference between subcontracting and outsourcing. Subcontracting refers to those tasks that couldn’t be handled internally and are therefore assigned to a third-party but the hiring party still has a reasonable amount of control over the process. Tasks that are outsourced could be handled internally but due to the aim to save resources, the company assigns the task to a third-party that works independently.83
A supply chain is a network between a business and its suppliers that takes care of the production and distribution of products to consumers.102
The supply chain involves various activities, workers, resources and it encompasses all the steps that need to be taken to make a product from scratch and bring it to the consumer. Producers, vendors, warehouses, transportation companies, distribution centres and retailers are all part of the supply chain.
Supply chains in the fashion industry are usually very complex - this makes monitoring whether all employees work under safe and healthy conditions and receive fair wages quite difficult.
Sustainable development is a development that ensures that society meets their needs without compromising the ability of the next generation to meet their own needs and therefore, aims to protect the environment, natural resources and social and economic equity.103
Sustainable fashion is an approach to fashion in which garments are produced and used in a manner that considers its environmental impacts and socio-economic aspects and tries to be more environmentally- and socially-responsible.104
A more sustainable approach to fashion encompasses all stages of the product's life-cycle from designing, producing, manufacturing, transporting, storing, marketing, selling to using, reusing, repairing, remaking and recycling the product.
A sustainable fashion company aims to minimize the harmful effects of the product in all of the stages. This means that, for instance, the company ensures efficient use of natural resources, uses renewable energy sources and maximizes the possibility of the product and its components to be repaired, remade, reused, recycled.
The socio-economic aspects of sustainable fashion encompass all workers in the fashion industry which includes workers in a sewing factory, transportation or stores - and ensures compliance with the international code of conduct.
Would you like your wardrobe to be more sustainable but you don't know where to start? Check our Sustainable Fashion Guide!
Swap parties, also known as clothing swaps, are events or meetings where people come to exchange their clothes, accessories, shoes and the like.105 Of course, you can also organize a swap party with just a couple of your friends!
It is basically a way to get beautiful second-hand clothes for free (or for a small entrance fee) and at the same time, get rid of the clothes that are laying in your wardrobe, untouched, because you either made a bad purchase or it doesn't fit your style anymore.
One of the many benefits is that it lowers your carbon footprint because the clothes won't end up in a landfill and all the resources that went into producing those clothes won't go to waste. And of course, swap parties make it possible to get nice clothes for a cheap price without supporting the fast fashion industry.
Swap parties are also a great event to attend when you are starting your own capsule wardrobe.
Sweatshops are a workplace where workers have to work for an unreasonably high number of hours, under unhealthy and unsafe conditions for very low and unfair wages.106
Sweatshops employ many unskilled and unorganized workers (child labour is quite often involved). It's about nothing but maximizing profit which means that the human factor is neglected and there is a lack of accountability for poor working conditions on the behalf of the business or the government.
This leads to labour exploitation - but this doesn't only happen in developing countries. Many undocumented workers and immigrants experience similar working conditions in developed countries.
Tencel is an environmentally-friendly material entirely made from wood.135 Its strong threads are spun from the wood pulp of eucalyptus trees through an environmentally-responsible closed-loop factory process. This process recycles processed water and reuses the solvent - at a recovery rate of more than 99%. The result is a fabric that is naturally antibacterial, compostable and absorbs moisture better than cotton.
What is the difference between Tencel and lyocell? These two terms are often used interchangeably. Tencel is actually the patented brand name of the lyocell fabric.
Thrift is a term used for (buying from) stores that sell second-hand clothes, furniture and household products for a lower price.109 People usually donate the clothes they no longer wear to thrift stores where others can buy it. This means that you can find plenty of unique items there. Because of this, going thrifting is sometimes also referred to as “treasure hunting”.
Your wardrobe can be enriched by some unique and beautiful items when you go thrifting. And because they won't end up in a landfill and all the resources and energy that went into producing them won't go to waste, it is also a more environmentally-friendly way to get 'new' clothes. So, our planet and your wallet will also see some benefits. A win-win!
Tier 1 Factories are companies in the supply chain that provide the most advanced processes.110 These companies might either complete a product or prepare it for distribution by planning shipment or marketing. But what are Tier 2 Factories?
Tier 2 Factories are suppliers that (unlike Tier 1 Factories) are limited in what they can offer.110 They are usually smaller and dispose of less technical advantages than tier 1 factories.
Tier 2 factories usually generate and supply Tier 1 factories that then generate and supply the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) with what is essential for the final item.
Traceability means the ability to track and trace every step of the manufacturing and product distribution, from suppliers to the final consumer.111 Traceability allows producers to track and trace the history, application and location of every component of the product.
The businesses can therefore access information about the origin of the components, inspection notes, production life-cycle, time spent at every workstation and the destination of the products.
Traceability comes in different forms:
Trade unions or labour unions are organizations that consist of workers from related fields.112 The mission of trade unions or labour unions is to work for the common interest of the workers and help them with issues such as fair wages, safe and healthy working conditions, working hours and benefits. These organizations are the link between the workers and the management.
Unfortunately, it is not that common for workers in the fashion industry to be able to form trade unions or labour unions. But there are many social and fair certifications that require the workers' right to form trade unions or labour unions. And of course, it is one of our fair fashion criteria too.
Transparency is the disclosure of information in a manner that is standardized which makes comparing the information possible.113 We can't emphasize enough that transparency is not the ultimate goal, it is merely a tool that individuals and organizations can use for changing and transforming the fashion industry.
Being transparent does not equal behaving in an ethical or sustainable way.114 A company can score relatively high on transparency by sharing a lot of information about their policies, practices and impacts - however, these can be still negative and harmful to people and the planet.
Also, a company might (even unintentionally) use greenwashing and by providing a lot of information that might appear somehow sustainable they can draw the attention away from their serious environmentally-harmful practices.
Therefore, transparency should be demanded from brands but at the same time, it shouldn't be the one and only requirement that a brand needs to get (financial) support from conscious consumers.
Trashion (the combination of trash and fashion) is a form of art in which thrown-out, found and used objects are repurposed to create wearable items again.160
This concept is about giving a second life to a material that would be otherwise thrown away and wasted. So, trashion is actually about producing clothes more efficiently and therefore, more sustainably. Instead of raw materials, they use trash – but make it fashionable.
Upcycling means reusing certain materials - but in a different way that was originally intended.89 The product is still in its original shape and form, however, its purpose is different. Upcycling is also known as remaking. For instance, shipping pallets might be upcycled and used as furniture or glass jars from beans used as flower pots.
Also, check out the R's of sustainability - rethink, refuse (reject), rent, reduce, repair, reuse, remake and recycle.
A value chain is a business model that encompasses all kinds of activities that are necessary for creating a product.115 These activities entail procuring raw materials, manufacturing, marketing and product distribution.
The value chain of a fast-fashion company might include many dangerous and environmentally-harmful methods. For instance, using raw materials that have been linked to damages in the nervous system and/or are potentially carcinogenic or using artificial dyes that contain heavy metals and poison both humans and fish in the oceans.116
In the ethical and sustainable fashion industry, the aim is to improve the value chain and lower the negative impacts of garments production on humans, animals and our planet.
Vegan means that no animals were used during any stage of production. A vegan product does not contain any animal products and in the case of cosmetics, a vegan product should be also cruelty-free, meaning it was not tested on animals.
Let's not forget about animal rights when we talk about fair and sustainable fashion either. At Shop Like You Give a Damn, ethical fashion also means that no animals were used in the process. Truly ethical fashion is fair, sustainable and vegan fashion.
Find out more about what vegan fashion is and what it isn't and why you should care. Or maybe you’re curious about veganism in general and why people decide to go vegan?
Vegan leather is an animal-friendly alternative to leather - it looks the same - but it does not use any animal products. It is often called 'artificial leather' or 'synthetic leather'.137
Vegan leather can be made using plastic-based materials, namely polyvinyl chloride or polyurethane. Therefore, it is also referred to as 'pleather'. Despite the fact it is made of plastic, it is still a more ethical and sustainable alternative to leather.
Reading tip: What's wrong with leather?
Vegetable tanned leather, also referred to as veg tan, is a method of tanning animal leather.144 Tanning is a chemical transformation of raw leather into a leather that is rot- and water-proof.145
Vegetable tanning is often promoted as a more eco-friendly alternative to chrome tanning which is a great illustration of greenwashing - vegetable tanning is actually a very resource-intensive process.146 The consumption of water, energy and other resources is actually 10 times greater when compared to chrome tanning.147 Moreover, the main ingredient is not vegetables but tree bark.148
Approximately 30 kg of bark, 20 kg of fruit or 90 kg of oak are used in this process.146 If more conscious consumers decide to opt for vegetable tanned leather, it could lead to further deforestation.148 In addition, trees have the ability to absorb heavy metal pollution which can introduce chemicals into leather products.
But the leather industry, in general, is also extremely cruel, unethical and environmentally-damaging. Fortunately, there are vegan leather alternatives such as apple leather, banana leather, coffee leather, pineapple leather and mushroom leather.
Versatile clothing means that the garment can be used to create many different outfits because it is easily combined with other items from your closet.117
The garments you own have different levels of versatility. For instance, your white T-shirt could be used in almost any of your outfits whereas your patterned green shirt has limited versatility.
If you follow the versatile clothing system, you might learn to focus more on versatile garments so you are free to create as many outfits as possible. Moreover, in the beginning, it is recommended to only wear one item from the 'less versatile clothing' categories at a time to make your outfit styling nicer and easier. Once you become a pro at a versatile clothing system, you learn how to mix and match other items.
In case you'd like to organize your wardrobe in a way that not only makes you more stylish but also more sustainable and minimalistic, you should check out what a capsule wardrobe is - and this blog that will guide you on your way to starting your own capsule wardrobe!
Viscose is a type of rayon fabric made from cellulose.161 Viscose is not a natural nor completely synthetic fabric. It comes from trees but it uses a high concentration of chemicals in the process.162 It is a smooth, breathable and light fabric, often presented as an alternative to silk.
Fortunately, there are better and more sustainable alternatives to viscose. For instance, EcoVero Viscose has lower water and emissions usage while still being a very soft, comfortable and breathable fabric.163
Water neutral means compensating for the negative effects of water-consuming activities through investing in projects that promote sustainable and equitable water use within the affected community and environment.164
For instance, water neutrality can be achieved by investing in water-saving technologies, measures aimed at water conservation, wastewater treatment, or supporting the development of water supply systems in communities without access to clean water.
The concept of water neutrality, similarly to carbon neutrality, has been criticised. This is because some companies focus more on project investments rather than significantly reducing their water usage.
Wet processing facilities are facilities where wet processing, a process applied on textile in form of liquid which results in chemical action, occurs.118 This might include, for instance, bleaching, printing, dyeing or desizing.119 Textile wet processing can be divided into three categories: preparation, colouration, and finishing.
Textiles usually have the highest environmental impact when they are dyed, printed and bleached.120 In the fast fashion industry, these processes are notorious for their harmful environmental impacts. For instance, it is a common practice to use artificial dyes that contain heavy metals, such as copper and chromium, that are toxic to fish and humans.
Who Made My Clothes is a campaign that aims to revolutionize the fashion industry so it becomes more transparent about its practices and fairer to the workers.121
The campaign was founded by two women, Orsola de Castro and Carry Somers, after the Rana Plaza collapse disaster in 2013 when hundreds of Bangladeshi workers died and even more people got seriously injured.
And the clothing brands that are proud of their fair operations and therefore, not afraid of being transparent, responded with photos of workers holding signs with #IMadeYourClothes so you could see the people who made your clothes.
Zero waste means conservation of resources through responsible production, consumption, packaging, reuse and recovery of products and materials without burning and with no discharges to water, air or land that would harm the environment or our health.122 Read more about zero waste clothing, zero waste fashion and the zero waste movement.
Zero waste clothing means that its production generates significantly less or no textile waste.123 The designer could, for instance, use left-over, second-hand materials and garments. Or they could use the pattern cutting technique which means that they become more familiar with their design and the width of the textile and carefully plan how it will be used. This is meant to avoid the textile becoming waste laying on the floor in the cutting room.124 Or, a garment knitting technology that reuses the off-cuts from the designer's garments or even off-cuts from another company could be used to avoid waste production.
Zero waste fashion means that the production of garments generates from very little to no textile waste, just like circular fashion.123 There are two approaches to zero waste fashion: focusing on post-consumer waste or pre-consumer waste.
Pre-consumer zero-waste fashion eliminates waste during the manufacturing phase. For instance, the designer can use the pattern cutting technique which means that they need to become really familiar with their textile and design dimensions and carefully plan how they will use the it.124 This is to avoid textile waste - it has been estimated that around 15% of textile intended for garments usually ends up on the floor as waste. Another technique that can be used involves a garment knitting technology which eliminates waste by reusing the off-cuts from other items that come from the designer's production or even from another company.
Post-consumer zero-waste fashion means that the clothing is produced from post-consumer garments (discarded clothing). This eliminates waste as the clothing doesn't end up in a landfill but is reused by someone else instead.
The zero-waste movement is a movement or lifestyle focused on eliminating one's waste production. This means that people who live zero-waste usually avoid plastic and other single-use materials and produce as little waste as possible.125,126 The reason is, of course, to protect our planet by following a more environmentally-friendly and minimalistic lifestyle.
The term zero waste may sound scary at first. You might not even be able to imagine yourself producing so little waste that it would actually fit into a small jar. But it is important to remember that zero waste is just a visionary term. It represents the goal - however, in our current society, it might not be so easily attainable. Therefore, if you are playing with the idea of joining the zero waste movement, remember that the intention to lower your negative impact on the planet matters more than perfection.
We hope that you were able to find the term and its definition that you were looking for. If not, no need to worry. We are working very hard to include all the terms and definitions you can think of when you hear about ethical, sustainable and vegan fashion.
We applaud you for educating yourself about the fashion industry and we invite you to read more on: vegan fashion, ethical & sustainable fashion certifications or any other blog posts you can find at Shop Like You Give a Damn. And in case, you are looking for vegan, fair and sustainable clothes, shoes, cosmetics, household or any other products, you know where to find us.
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