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Denim and Jeans shopping; Questions to consider before being an Ethical Consumer

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Pranta Biswas

image001In the global fashion industry, Denim, a basic part of the casual wardrobe, has become a staple textile. In 2019, the market size for denim cloth was $90 billion and by 2023 it was projected to rise to $105 billion. Denim or blue jeans remain by far the most desirable commodity in the denim industry, while the popularity of each form of denim clothing item has risen. Western fashion, a clothing style from the old western region of the American 19th century, uses a considerable amount of denim. As such, it was also estimated that the retail share of Western wear would rise to a value of 99 billion US dollars by 2023.

Bangladesh and China are the two southeast Asian countries that have, along with Mexico, dominated the US denim export charts over the last few years. Due to rising labor costs, China was struggling a few years ago, but now the country is improving. Constant industry advances in goods and improving living conditions would boost denim demand higher. Also adding to the demand growth is growing awareness of the availability of a range of items, such as boot cut, high rise, cropped, slim, tapered, and standard fit denim. Besides, the acceleration will be fueled by an increase in demand for branded apparel.

Moreover, it is expected that the impact of social media outlets would stimulate business growth. In addition, with the launch of luxury and branded items, the rising clothing industry worldwide is expected to have a major effect on the growth of the market for denim jeans. In order to improve their profits, major manufacturers have undertaken many growth tactics, such as regional and capability extension, M&A, and R&D. Emerging economies are changing their purchase habits towards denim jeans as part of their casual wear with growing disposable income and inclination to Western fashion trends.

The key reasons for the increasing demand of denim goods among the consumers:

  • Higher quality
  • Longevity,
  • Comfort level,
  • Low maintenance,
  • Easy to Clean
  • Easy to match with other dresses
  • Global availability.
  • Easy to Layer
  • Countless Styles
  • Wrinkle-Resistant
  • Good for the Environment

Globalization affects us whether we like it or not. There is nothing wrong with trading goods and services, however, it’s a different story when this becomes reforms reducing the power of local communities, increasing the divide between rich and poor, driving our ever-increasing consumption of natural resources, reducing biodiversity and even significantly reducing the basic protections of animals. Corporate globalization is a specific economic strategy pursued by the countries of the industrialized world and Trans-National Corporations whose interests they represent.

Ethical shopping is a rising movement — and it is beginning to make a major impact. Discussing ethical shopping is a relatively recent concept as a philosophy of transition. The conventional ways of doing good, such as volunteering our time or donating our money, are much more common to us. Ethical consumers change their shopping habits because they believe that voting for their values with their money is important, and can influence change. Ethical shoppers have put in their time sourcing the best products from brands who care about making the world a better place, and sometimes willingly paid more for everyday essentials made in a more sustainable way.

Why be an Ethical Shopper?

image003” To achieve sustainable development and a higher quality of life for all people, States should reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption…”,

  • Good for the environment

We are faced with many environmental issues, from global warming to pesticide pollution, that can in part be addressed by shopping more ethically. For example, we can help tackle climate change by switching to a green energy provider or help reduce the amount of dangerous pesticides that are killing wildlife by buying organic products.

  • Good for society (both local and global)

We can help create the type of society we want through buying from companies that take their commitments to our communities seriously. Many of the products we buy have been produced by companies that pay their workers poverty wages and then stash their profits in offshore tax havens.

  • Good for animal welfare

Consuming ethically can help improve conditions for animals in several ways.

  • Good for body and soul

Buying ethically can be good for our mental health and well being

The fast-growing contemporary world of denim consumers is nowadays more buzzing with Ethical Denim shopping. There are some certain aspects to consider before placing oneself as an ethical denim consumer.

Here are some significant questions that should be followed before shopping denim ethically:

  • Are they organic?

Consumer should look out for jeans made from 100% organic cotton, especially certified to some GLOBAL standards. This means our jeans are not contributing to the over-use of pesticides. Some standards such as-

USDA Organic: Denims, bearing the USDA Organic label are made from fibers grown without chemical pesticides or fertilizers. However, they may still use toxic chemicals in the finishing of the fabric.

GOTS Organic: The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) requires denim to be made from at least 95% organic fibers, with no toxic dyes or other chemicals used in processing. Denim labeled “made with organic” must contain at least 70% organic fibers. GOTS also requires companies to minimize waste and pollution and to meet ILO standards in their factories.

Bluesign: Denim labeled as bluesign APPROVED must meet strict standards for health, the environment, and worker-friendliness. They can’t use any harmful chemicals at any stage of their production, from raw materials to finished clothing.

  • Do they use Eco-friendly fabrics?

It seems like natural fabrics such as cotton should automatically be greener than synthetic ones made from petroleum. However, that’s not always the case. For instance, textile expert Gail Baugh calculates that recycled polyester is greener than cotton — even organically grown cotton. It requires less water, produces little waste, and can be recycled again at the end of its lifespan. Two good resources for identifying eco-friendly fabrics are the guides from Trusted Clothes and Go Climate Neutral. They analyze the environmental pros and cons of different fabrics in detail. Their top-rated choices include lyocell (also known as Tencel), hemp, linen, jute, alpaca wool, and silk, especially cruelty-free “peace silk.”

  • Does the Brand come with free repairs?

image005Jeans can often wear out at specific points but, as they are generally quite durable, repairing them is often a viable option and much better than throwing them away. Brands that offer free repairs on jeans means we can avoid the impact of buying a new pair for much longer. An obvious way to help change the culture of fast fashion is to extend the life of our clothes.

  • Are they polluting the environment?

A wealth of toxic chemicals is used in the Denim industry. Every ethical consumer should avoid companies with poor track records of toxic chemicals. It also helps to avoid those leather patches.

  • Are they new?

The impact of buying new jeans is huge. A number of companies are offering jeans made from recycled denim and we can always buy second-hand. This habit of buying second-hand denim can keep the world free from denim wastes.

  • Do they have a worn look?

The distressed or worn look in jeans could be created with sandblasting, bleaching or acid washing. These techniques can be extremely harmful to garment workers and the environment. So every ethical shopper should pay their attention on simple design or style rather than buying the distressed one.

  • Are they using less water?

According to the Water Footprint Project, the average water footprint of cotton is 10,000 liters per kg which equates to a pair of jeans having a water footprint of around 8,000 liters. This includes the large quantities of water needed to grow cotton crops and the water-intensive dying and prewashing processes. Buying denim using modern technology that consumes less water would lay solid characteristics of ethical denim consumers. Organic cotton is much less water-intensive. Of course, buying recycled or second-hand jeans would also dramatically reduce water use.

  • Are they Polluting the Environment?

Creating a pair of jeans can also cause significant pollution to our water systems. Denim was traditionally dyed using indigo sourced from. However, most denim will now be dyed with synthetic indigo made using a variety of chemical reactions. The process of making synthetic indigo produces a number of waste chemicals, some of which can be considered hazardous. Before buying denim it should be ensured that the product is treated with an eco-friendly sustainable process like ETP.

  • Did they Force labor?

Denim is a material made from 100% cotton. According to the US Department of Labour, cotton is one of the goods most commonly produced using forced labour. Along with that many garment workers still face serious problems in the workplace. For instance, The Guardian reported in 2019 that workers in Bangladesh typically work long shifts for low wages, and safety standards for factories are seldom enforced. Before going to shops, we should know whether brands are ensuring the below facilities for workers:

  • Long-term employment opportunities.
  • Fair wages and men and women are paid equally
  • Safe and healthy working conditions
  • Working relationships are built on transparency, trust, and respect.
  • Protection from prejudice, discrimination, and abuse, including sexism, racism, sexual harassment, and more.
  • Are they using green Transport?

The carbon footprint produced in the Denim supply chain should be considered in a distinct priority. Reducing distances is essential to reduce CO2 emissions. Modern technology related to green logistics playing an important role in reducing the carbon footprint. Every ethical buyer should consider this transportation issue seriously to keep the environment safe from global warming.

  • Are they using sustainable packaging and labeling system?

Packaging and labeling play an important role in the denim industry. The creation and use of packaging that results in better sustainability is sustainable packaging. This includes expanded use of Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) and Life Cycle Appraisal (LCA) to direct the use of packaging and labeling that decreases environmental effects. In addition, the aims are to enhance the long-term stability and quality of life for humanity and the longevity of natural environments. An eco-cost to benefit ratio would also be beneficial. Without undermining the capacity of future generations to fulfill their own needs, recycled packaging and labeling must meet the practical and economic needs of the current. Sustainability is not simply an end state, but a continuous enhancement process. So, to be an ethical denim consumer we also focus on packaging and labeling. Every package, labels, hangers, and cartons should be made of sustainable raw materials.

If we are not being able to get answer above mentioned questions at least we should focus on below-mentioned factors to play the role of ethical denim shopper:

  • Reading the label
  • Asking who made my clothes?
  • Searching out small brands with great stories
  • Shopping online
  • Choosing quality over quantity
  • Not to buy things we don’t need

Our attitudes to fast fashion are shifting and more and more of us want to buy ethically as we become more conscientious customers. We need to take a whole new approach as well as making some wholesale improvements in our approaches to fashion, having been accustomed to quick fashion where clothing has become inexpensive, seasonal, and throw-away. The ethical fashion industry is full of innovation, real creative talent and this is a trend that goes straight in the right direction with ethical decisions from some of the most prominent fashion players. There is no better time for our own patterns to be improved.

REFERENCES:

  1. https://www.statista.com/topics/5959/denim-market-worldwide/
  2. https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/denim-jeans-market
  3. https://www.ethicalconsumer.org/fashion-clothing/shopping-guide/ethical-jeans
  4. https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/6-insights-for-ethical-shopping
  5. https://www.moneycrashers.com/buy-ethical-clothing-fashion-budget/

Principle 8, The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, 1992

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