What's ethical fashion?

photo of a hand raising plants

In the last years, today even more, many new terms appeared, ethical fashion, responsible fashion, fair fashion, sustainable fashion, slow fashion ... But what do they mean? Marketing arguments or real commitment?

Today we try to dig in to understand better and give you our definition of ethical fashion.

All of these terms are different and aslo complementary, each terminology refers to an aspect of fashion. They all have one thing in common, pointing out the flaws of this industry. They imply that, for the most part, is not sustainable, not responsible, not fair. And again, we are far from the truth. The fashion industry is the second most polluting in the world, after oil. In 2015, for example, the textile sector emitted 1.7 million tonnes of CO2, used 79 billion cubic meters of water and generated 92 million solid waste.

Photography Lance Lee for Greenpeace / Detox my Fashion

Out of curiosity and concern to write this article conscientiously we read the Wikipedia article of the word fashion. The definition is simple: "fashion means the way to dress, according to the taste of an era in a given region." Everything is fine so far. Later in the article this sentence on the other hand challenged us: "One of its characteristics comes from its incessant change, thus inciting to renew the clothes before this one is used or doesn't fit."

So sustainable fashion is a paradox? By definition, fashion is an industry that includes waste production as an intrinsic operating mode.

In this case, no wonder Zara presents 24 collections a year in its shops.

Photography Pedro Guimarães / The New York Times 

The task is huge, so we need to change fashion’s DNA. This change will not happen in a day, nor without resistance from the giants.

Consumers began to change their buying habits, big corporations quickly understood. In response, their method is simple. Launch even more collections, but this time, with ethics. We all think of the same one: Conscious by H&M. This is a perfect example, the brand uses the argument of ethics as a marketing argument, to restore its image and sell more. This well known method is used in other industries : greenwashing. This technique is relatively dangerous, it puts the consumer into the sweet and comforting thought that the problem is solved. Well no, of course not.

Initiatives were put in motion in France, Fashion Pact was held in August 2019 on the side of G7 at the request of the government. 32 leading companies in the fashion and textile sector have come together to help their leaders make commitments to stop global warming, protect the oceans and restore biodiversity. The horizon to 2050 to achieve these goals seems far away.

Photography Bente Stachowske for Greenpeace / Trash Queen

At Arsayo, we are not waiting, we take commitments now.

From production to manufacturing, from raw materials to distribution, we have changed everything. This change has imposed itself. Our convictions led us to rethink the model we proposed and act accordingly. 

The fabrics

Gradually, we change the components of the Arsayo backpack, two new materials replace the PU (polyurethane) used so far. Cork and organic cotton.

Cork is a great alternative to leather, with less ecological damage. The cork oak forests are real carbon traps, for example, 10 hectares of forest allow to manufacture 1 ton of cork, this surface will retain about 32,2 t / ha of CO2 per year. The equivalent of the annual CO2 emissions of 7 cars traveling 25,000 km each. These forests also maintain the water in the soil which allows the stabilization of the ecosystem and the development of the flora and therefore of the local fauna. 

Photography C.Gramain for Arsayo / Cork, Portugal

Organic cotton was an imperative for us. The damage of conventional cotton production is considerable, soil pollution due to fertilizers and pesticides, gigantic water consumption. Organic cotton is free of fertilizers, pesticides, GMO and consumes 25 times less water than conventional crops.

Our closures are YKK certified nickel free, in a concern for quality and durability.

The manufacture

We decided to work in a new factory in Portugal. Before that, the materials came from China and our bags were also manufactured there. By reducing distances, we are removing a large part of our carbon footprint. In addition, the choice to stay in Europe allows us access to our factory, we know the working conditions and the well-being of employees.

From an environmental and social point of view, this choice has become obvious.

Photography C.Gramain for Arsayo / Factory Arsayo Portugal

The distribution

Other things are in decline in the fashion industry, the financial model is one. We think today that the way of selling and buying is changing. Until a few years ago, nobody had any choice but to sell their product to resellers. The typical margin for resellers is between 2 and 2.5 times the purchase price. The consumer, therefore, finds himself paying an article 3 to 4 times, up to 10 times sometimes, more than its production value. We believe that for fashion to be ethical, the customer must pay a fair price.

45% of Internet users worldwide bought online in 2018 and the numbers are climbing. This change in behavior makes it easier for direct purchases, from the designers to the customer, without going through an intermediary. Today we prefer the web, our e-shop and some marketplaces that we choose with care. Also, you will not find our bags on Amazon anymore.

Ethics comes at a price, but if all that is carried over to the customer alone, then the system is not right. Everyone must take responsibility in this huge chain.

For Arsayo, fashion is ethical if it pollutes the least possible, if it respects the environment, animals, humans. If it is committed to providing solid, quality articles that last over time. Convictions drive us every day to continue our efforts because we believe this is where the future of fashion lies.

To go further …

Do you know the new fashion label ? Names. comes back with a new website ! 


Before called Clothparency, french app to sort clothes by ethical criteria.


E-shop Klow make a beautiful selection of ethical brands


Fashion Revolution is already famous for the hashtag #whomademyclothes, follow them !



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