A quick Google search for defining Ethical Fashion will provide you with the following: "Ethical Fashion is an umbrella term to describe ethical fashion design, production, retail, and purchasing. It covers a range of issues such as working conditions, exploitation, fair trade, sustainable production, the environment, and animal welfare." You’ll find often that Ethical Fashion goes hand in hand with sustainability, but for the sake of this blog post, and to keep me from rambling, we will address sustainability next time. When people ask us how we define ethical fashion, we always answer with the same enthusiastic, albeit, slightly generic response - as partnering with designers who pay their employees a living wage and provide safe working conditions for them. If you’ve ever been on the asking end of this question to us, you’ll likely hear a follow up of “all of the dresses we carry have been handmade in our designer’s studios” and then probably a variation of the essence of that sentence, repeated three additional times. Because if there's anything I know to be true about myself, it’s that not only do I ramble but I reiterate as I do so.
So what does Ethical Fashion mean to the consumer and why should they care? Do you remember that Sarah McLachlan commercial about animal cruelty from well over a decade ago? Remember how difficult it was to watch? I will admit to changing the channel every time it came on, as I’m sure many other people did. Turning a blind eye to working conditions and ethical practices within companies is essentially like changing the channel. It might make you more comfortable to not think about it, but just because you aren’t thinking about it, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. There’s been a huge push in the fashion industry recently to call out companies that don’t provide safe working conditions for their employees. Safe meaning, buildings that are structurally sound. Safe meaning, equipment that is properly serviced. Safe meaning, providing adequate breaks for meals and appropriate hours to not only support workers and their families, but also to ensure that they have enough time after work to go home, rest, and get back to work the next day without burning themselves out. When consumers care about seeking out and supporting ethical brands, they’re putting money into a society that cares about the wellbeing of one another and taking money from corporations that would otherwise exploit their workers. Also, buying ethical - a lot like buying local or remembering your reusable bags - makes you feel so damn good about yourself that you might just be able to watch that Sarah McLachlan commercial without crying. Okay, that’s false hope. Buying ethical = ego boost. Sarah McLachlan commercial = definite crying.
What does Ethical Fashion mean to us? We consider ourselves to be just another piece in a domino effect. Our designers are at the front of the line sourcing out ethical materials to use in their designs, and then creating these incredible dresses after which, get sent to us. Upon arrival, and after a short / not so short obsessing moment, we’re now the front runner for expressing the care that went into creating each piece to our amazing brides. And the coolest part is that if a bride hasn’t yet jumped onto the Ethical Fashion Train, being able to explain why we’ve selected the designers we have, gets them just as excited about their dress buying experience as it would when a woman finds out she’s wearing a dress that has pockets. Suddenly it becomes a selling feature, or, a brag if you will. Complimenting a dress that has pockets, almost every time will warrant the same response “Thanks, it has pockets”. By playing our part in this domino effect, a bride's response to compliments on her wedding dress is often followed by “Thanks, it’s ethically made”. And thus the train of Ethical Fashion Knowledge continues and we momentarily are honking that metaphorical train horn.
All that being said, It would be foolish of us to not address the elephant in the room - the cost of buying ethically. Believe me, I’ve been a bride, I know this is probably the most expensive party you’ll ever throw. Although real talk, if you have a habit of hosting lavish events, I definitely have an opening for a new friend and I am an amazing party guest. So just like, put me on that list babe ;) Now if you aren’t an old family money kind of bride, I get it. You’re investing so much into your wedding day, you’ll take any break you can get. I will always, fully back the designers that we carry and the prices they set forth for their designs. The time, energy, resources, planning, and implementing that goes into a new collection is insane. We currently carry styles ranging from $1000-$4000, and can always get crafty to try to help a bride find a dress within her budget. But sometimes we can’t always make it work, so if that’s still a stretch, here are some ethical solutions to getting you wedding day glamorous for less.
Buy a sample dress - A lot of stores, us included, always have samples that are from a season or two ago that we are willing to part with for a much reduced price.
Buy consignment - We live in such a cool world where not only are there stores and events dedicated solely to consignment wedding dresses, but hello Facebook Marketplace.
Buy from an ethical online-only retailer - Let’s be clear about one thing, from personal experience I do not promote blind ordering to my brides. That being said, there’s a huge trend of online-only bridal designers who often will provide you with FaceTime consultations to ensure your measurements are accurate. With online-only retailers, their price points often can be lower because they don’t have stockists with storefronts needing a markup.
Buy an ethically made bridesmaid dress - If you’re going for all the drama and all the volume on your wedding day, I’m going to say this might not be a viable option for you. But if you’re aiming for low key, casual, wild elopement vibes, you could totally get away with purchasing a bridesmaid dress in white which typically retail for $500 or under. Also, double bonus, white has been a huge trend for bridesmaid dresses recently so your options could be vast.
If you’ve stuck around this long through my weird metaphors and blatant rambling, I applaud your ability to stay focused. Ethical Fashion is on the rise and it is the foundation from which Whimsy & Wry stands on. We so passionately support our designers and have been welcomed into a community of like minded
businesses whose fresh take on the wedding industry and it’s future growth, have validated for us that this isn’t just a phase - unlike my mother's cowboy hat veil from her very 80s wedding. Thank god that was a phase.