Understanding Ethical Fashion

The Definitions

Ethical fashion is more than a word - it’s a public framework with the purpose of giving fair and equal rights to all workers in the fashion supply chain. That framework is made up of industry standards that provide principles to brands and policies to consumers. It gives everyone the ability to be informed, advocate for and build upon. The purpose of this article is to not define ethical fashion but to give you (the consumer) a better understanding of what an ethical supply chain looks like. Our goal is to give you the toolkit to ask more questions and feel empowered when shopping!

Research and Resources

First, a huge thanks to the International Labour Organization (ILO), Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI), Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Fair Trade Certified (FTC) and World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO). All principles outlined in this article were based on the standards laid out by these amazing organizations. Before we start on the principles, let’s go through the standards quickly.

The Principles

Below are the basic principles that most standards researched agreed upon. Some use different language when describing a specific standard and others set timetables on when a brand/manufacturer should achieve them. Either way, these standards are the guiding force when it comes to ethical fashion as they provide a structure to fair rights to all workers in the fashion supply chain, and so many other industries! Brands, consumers and anyone in-between should advocate for these.


KEY: Each photo below has a pop-up inside. Click on whichever principle to learn more. In the pop-up, you will see four categories: summary, standards, WFTO and Additional Info. An overview of each is below.

  • Summary: Our quick take of the standard.

  • Standards: The standards that everyone draws from. Since most fashion standards researched take their standards from the ILO, we will direct the majority of the guidelines to the ILO’s standards.

  • WFTO: The small artisan perspective.

  • Additional Info: More information about the standard and why it matters.


We encourage everyone to look at their favorite brands ethical principles and to compare them to these best practices - and your personal beliefs. A brand advertising that they support ethical fashion does not make it true. Ethical fashion has rooted principles and a brand should be transparent about what they claim. However, please remember - no one is perfect. Look for improvements and keep them accountable.