How can we be sure that we’re making ethical choices as consumers?

How can we be sure that we’re making ethical choices as consumers?

Sustainable fashion, ethical clothing, fair production has many meanings and new products appear to be branded with these tags, but how can we be sure that we’re really making the ethical choice as consumers?

I’m Janie Morgan-Wood and have worked in the fashion industry for over 35 years. I always had an interest in environmentally friendly and ethical fashion, from how durable a garment is, where fabric originates and where they are made.

I started a sustainable fashion brand using organic cotton in the 1980s with some success, but it was too early, the fashion industry wasn’t ready and arguably consumers weren’t either. I then sought to introduce organic cotton to a major Highstreet retailer but at that time their focus was on reducing costs and with no consumer demand there was no desire to take the idea onboard which was considered more costly.

Fashion evolves quickly, from the phenomenon of online shopping to fast fashion and now a steady increase in attention towards sustainability. Having worked in the supply chain of high street and online retailers for many years I decided to design a womenswear range, keeping our carbon footprint to a minimum we manufacture locally and produce garments that women can feel great in and can keep for longer.

Lots of high street brands now claim to be sustainable but are they really? The reality is that it is challenging to monitor. The names of fabrics that we have been familiar with has now extended with a larger variety and many more fabrics have mixed fibers. It can be a minefield. Fast fashion brands generally use cheap fabrics that have microplastics in them, such as polyester so we should all make better choices.

In addition to fabric, if a garment is cheap, ask yourself why? Think about where the garment was made, the conditions the people making it may be working in, and how far that garment has travelled to reach the store you’re buying it from. 

Fortunately, as a consumer there are lots of things you can do to support a more sustainable fashion industry and make eco conscious clothing choices.


  • Seek out and support ethical brands.
  • Simplify your wardrobe by buying less and opt for a capsule wardrobe with fewer pieces that can work well together to create different looks.
  • Look after the clothes you have. Poorly cared for clothes will result in you having to replace them, adding to landfill. If you can buy better quality clothing it should have a longer lifespan. Repairing garments will also save you spending more money on replacing items.
  • Buy secondhand. This is a great way to shop more consciously, you will be wearing a garment that has already been made and not buying directly from a big brand and impacting the environment.
  • When you do make your next purchase consider opting for a more sustainable fabric.

This should help you get started with fabric choices…


Look for the Global Organic Textiles Standard (GOTS) which gives you the power of choice. This is a universal standard that assures the fabric in the garment is Organic Cotton. Cotton is a natural fibre, and one of the most common fabrics. It is extremely water-intensive and chemical-intensive, which can have negative effects on the environment. Organic cotton is grown in a way that doesn’t use pesticides or chemicals and is therefore significantly more environmentally friendly than regular cotton but recycled cotton is a more sustainable option.



Is a highly sustainable plant when grown in the right way, but to manufacture into fabric it undergoes an intensive chemical process. However, it is a more sustainable option than regular cotton and polyester, so if you do a little research on the brand, you may still be choosing a relatively eco-friendly fabric.



It has been grown for hundreds of years, requires little maintenance, and is biodegradable when left untreated. Plus, it’s soft, light, strong, and naturally moth resistant. Every part of the plant can be used in the production of linen fabric, meaning there is minimal waste.



Hemp is a versatile plant it’s been used for hundreds of years due to its all-season suitability and ability to soften the more it’s washed. It is a low maintenance plant needing little water, no pesticides are used and it i



A popular brand of lyocell is Tencel. Lyocell is lightweight and made from wood pulp, it is highly absorbent, odour-free, anti-bacterial, and moisture-resistant. Since wood pulp is plant material, lyocell is biodegradable, helping to make it a sustainable fabric.



Econyl is a fibre made from synthetic waste including industrial plastic and ocean fishing nets. However, washing Econyl will lead to shedding microplastics that could end up in the ocean.



Using recycled fabrics means no new materials or resources are being used and fabric waste is prevented. Recycled polyester reduces the amount of plastic waste sent to landfill and does not involve the intensive process that new polyester goes through. However, it releases microplastics when washed.



This is synthetic spider silk developed using spider genes and microbes. It is synthetic, no spiders are used in the process, making the fabric vegan-friendly and not harmful to any creatures. The fibre is stronger than steel, making it durable that is lightweight and flexible.



This is old fabric that hasn’t been sold and it could be slightly damaged; it may have been over-ordered by the original purchasers. Vintage deadstock is sustainable because these fabrics already exist, and there are no new damaging manufacturing processes involved in their creation because they were made so long ago. However, some factories purposely over-produce fabric, knowing that people will buy it at a discounted rate.

If a textile article carries the OEKO-TEX® STANDARD 100 label, you can be certain that every component of this article, has been tested for harmful substances and that it is harmless for human health. If you see a certification logo on a garment such as BCI Cotton, there are many, then why not google it to see what it means. This way you can make an informed choice about whether or not to purchase.


By changing our buying habits, together we can make a difference.

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