Alice Aedy is a 26 year-old documentary photographer, film-maker and activist, whose work focuses on forced migration, environmental issues and women’s stories

BEYOND SUSTAINABILITY

It feels as though a consumer revolution is under way; beyond sustainability, there is growing demand for ethical fashion. 

I’m learning the dangers of fast fashion and expect radical transparency from brands. I am curious to know the stories behind brands, the hands the products have travelled through. I want to know who made my clothes and how they were impacted - and paid - in the process. And if lockdown has taught me anything, it’s to slow down and have real respect from what we have.

It’s not just me - young consumers are more conscious than any generation before of a brand’s origins, carbon footprint and the consequences of what they buy and wear. A 2016 survey done in the UK found that when choosing among retailers, more than half of young consumers find ethical credentials somewhat or very important.

What does ethical consumption mean anyway? Traditionally, narrow definitions of sustainability have not always included the deliberately hidden world of low worker’s wages, bad working conditions and worker’s rights abuses. Ethical consumerism is a type of consumer activism based on the concept of voting with your wallet, buying ethically-made products which support small scale manufacturers and local artisans, boycotting products that exploit children as workers or damage to the environment. 

How can we make choices that move even beyond sustainability, towards ethical consumption?

Yala Jewellery is a good place to start. As a brand they embody intricate design, sustainable materials, ethics and transparency. With roots in Kenya and the UK, Yala builds meaningful connections with skilled Kenyan artisans who create the hand-made, high quality, beautiful jewellery. In buying the Lela Three Way Hammered Brass Earrings, you’re supporting a female-founded, black-owned business. Preeti Sandu, the brand behind the elegant hand-crafted Aida Hoops, use ethically sourced materials, conflict-free gems and recycled stones.

The Atlanta Bamboo Jumpsuit by KOMODO, is made with high quality, natural, organic, recycled bamboo material. KOMODO shun plastic packaging and as a member of 1% for the Planet, are committed to creating clothes that don’t have a negative impact on the planet; through the initiative they donate to the Sumatran Orangutan Society who are restoring natural rainforests and eco systems, through the purchase and repurposing of palm oil plantations.

Through Wolf & Badger I have discovered brands pioneering ethical fashion without compromising on aesthetic, putting the environment and artisans at the forefront of everything they do. It is truly possible to buy from brands and live in line with your values. 

But every one of us has a role to play; we must demand more from brands, insist on transparency, and re-define sustainable consumption to include brands working towards a better world for both people AND the planet. There is hope in a future of ethical consumption.