From accreditation bodies like Ethical Clothing Australia - which certifies transparent and legally compliant supply chains - to Ahimsa Collective - which carries 100% vegan bags - Australian companies are offering a myriad of ways for consumers to begin adopting a more ethical approach to their consumption.
However, in an increasingly competitive space, small, ethical brands can often fall between the cracks and become invisible to their target crowd.
In 2016, Australian-based kiwi Jasmine Mayhead watched The True Cost and was immediately stirred to action. However, she quickly realised that ethical brands were not enjoying the same kind of visibility as their more problematic, fast fashion counterparts. Very quickly, a search for ethical brands turned into a comprehensive list of designers who shared the same ethos concerning human rights, the environment and supporting local industries.
The idea was to offer easier access to ethical brands. And so, Ethical Made Easy was born.
In addition to a directory of apparel and accessories - including swimwear and lingerie - Jasmine also features designers, activists and bloggers within the ethical fashion movement, giving them a platform to share their vision for a more ethical fashion cosmos.
Jasmine kindly made time to answer some questions for Fashion Is Freedom. Here are excerpts from our interview, edited for length.
Could you detail your thought process after watching The True Cost? How did your search for ethical alternatives lead to Ethical Made Easy?
After I first watched The True Cost I had a whole host of emotions and questions rushing through me - from frustration and despair to questions like ‘what the hell can be done?’ ‘can we make an impact?, ‘how did we as a society let it get this bad?’. ... I had just spent 6 weeks travelling through South East Asia for the first time and I’d bartered incredibly hard for a bag that I didn’t really need. Initially I was told it would cost $35USD, and I ended up leaving the store happy with myself because I’d got it for a bargain of $9USD. If I was to purchase the same bag into Australia, I wouldn’t have tried to barter. So, why is it that we are so conditioned to the idea that we have to get a bargain when we visit other countries? For me, $35USD was one day of living, for the lady who sold me the bag - that same amount of money can go so much further. I’m so grateful that what started as something to help myself, has become something that helps and empowers others to make a difference in their own world and vote with their wallet for the world they want to live in.
You have interviewed many movers and shakers in the milieu of ethical fashion. What stands out to you most about these creators and what are the biggest and most noteworthy takeaways from all of these interviews?
There are so many incredible people out there fighting the good fight. I think the core takeaway across all of the interview, is to pick one thing you are passionate about and stay true to that. As soon as you begin down the rabbit hole of ethical fashion or sustainability, it can easily become all consuming and you forget to look up and think about how far you’ve come.
What are the criteria for a brand to be listed in your directory?
While each and every brand currently featured pays a minimum of a living wage for those that make their clothes, in the coming weeks I’m also going to be introducing a range of values that help make it easier to understand what values brands focus on, and what ones they don’t. There’s quite a few reasons for that, but here are the main two: 1) I struggled to decide personally whether it’s more ‘ethical’ if a brand reuses what’s already in circulation ie. recycled plastic bottles and carpet into Swimwear, or whether things could be traced the whole way from seed to garment. So, instead of me deciding what’s ‘ethical’ for everyone, I’m adding in the values as a quick metric for everyone to make their own decisions that little bit easier. 2) What I deem as ethical is different to your view, so values help with this. It also means that those who use leather for example, can still be featured if they are doing the right thing by the artisans who make the products, it’s just that they don’t fit under the vegan term of ‘ethical’, so they won’t come up in those searches.
What is the general public sentiment towards responsible and ethical consumerism in Australia? For example, is there a social and cultural emphasis on reduced consumerism or at least, more carefully considered consumerism?
I honestly think it’s changing. Slowly but surely. Fashion is one of those things that people often don’t associate with causing harm to the planet, but I think through documentaries and the likes it’s starting to become more of a mainstream conversation. However, I do think that when you live and breathe ethical fashion, and surround yourself with people that do it’s easy to believe that the world is moving faster towards it than you think so I’m not sure I’m the best person to answer this question as I’ve obviously got quite a bias towards my answer. What have you learnt through this journey of creating and growing Ethical Made Easy?
Coming into this space knowing absolutely no one, I’d say some of the key things I’ve learnt is to always take time for others, and ultimately, to just be a nice human. No amount of following, or business experience makes you any better than anyone else. However, the core thing that comes to mind and probably the most important one, is that your individual actions really can make a difference. It’s simple economics - where you spend your money, is what businesses will focus on creating. So spend well (or don’t spend at all), look after the items you have, and ultimately do the best you can where you are with what you have, we’re all on this journey together at our own pace.
Choosing to become an ethical consumer requires a change in lifestyle, which can be a daunting task to undertake. By offering all the necessary resources and research at the click of a mouse, activists like Jasmine allow for the transition to be seamless and a little less challenging . We need more more people like her!
Are you struggling to find ethical brands near you? What are some resources you use to seek out ethical brands?