Fighting for animal rights can often feel like an uphill battle. Surround yourself with a bunch of vegans and you’re likely to embrace waves of encouragement. But randomly select members of the general public and it’s not farfetched to say you’ll likely meet some resistance. Or simply realize that others don’t prioritize it like you do.
One of the most important driving factors in the vegan/cruelty-free movement is the voice of a powerhouse setting a good example. Celebrities, brands and large corporations can all change the opinion of the masses overnight. While some trends may be total garbage, there are others that I can totally get behind. And boy have we got one today.
Global online fashion retailer, ASOS, has just announced that by the end of January 2019 it will exercise a full ban on cashmere, mohair, silk and feathers from its site. I dug a little deeper into its animal welfare policy and found that the list doesn’t stop there. ASOS also stands firm on not supporting “any part of vulnerable, endangered, exotic or wild-caught species” or any kind of fur, including Mongolian lamb and angora.
ASOS continues to sell leather and wool, and I can’t see that being phased out anytime soon, but they do have specific regulations about sourcing these as by-products of the meat industry that hints at maybe slightly more care than the average fashion retailer. It doesn’t tick all the boxes, but it at least appears to be going in the right direction.
We live in a day and age where convenience is key. And when it comes to buying our clothes, if we can visit an online giant – like ASOS – where over 850 brands can be found on one easily searchable platform, we’re going to. It’s no wonder that the high street is going downhill here in the UK and elsewhere around the world as more and more of us opt for the ease of online purchasing. Need a pair of jeans, workout gear and a winter coat? Tick all the boxes on ASOS. Add to cart, enter card details and eagerly await your delivery with minimal effort and free returns.
Only, there are still some very obvious unethical truths about ASOS that no number of words on animal welfare can eradicate. The main one? That it’s full to the brim with fast fashion brands and as a result promotes excess, waste and enormous amounts of pollution. Its primary function will always be to operate as a business that makes money, but could it not, like, support better brands in the process?
It’s completely fair enough on the one hand; if it never makes any claims to be environmentally-friendly, it shouldn’t have to. That’s me holding it to a bar that it isn’t tall enough to reach. But my problem is that ASOS promotes a very greenwashed ‘Eco Edit’ that I simply can’t get behind.
According to ASOS’s Sourcing Director, Simon Platts, ASOS are “continuously reviewing [their] buying habits so that [their] customers don’t have to change theirs.” It’s a clever statement to release, really, because it essentially convinces the customer to entrust ASOS with only selling them the best of the best when in reality the brand just isn’t living up to the claim.
Shop the ‘Eco Edit‘ and some of the first brands to appear are ASOS’ own brand, French Connection, and Puma. Diving straight in with ASOS; while the ‘Eco Edit’ focuses on its Made in Kenya sub-brand which promotes fair trade in Kenya and some really beautiful pieces, the edit is found littered with many items from their regular line. I question how these garments can be referred to as ‘eco’ when ASOS have been found to have been exploiting child workers in the past, as well as using numerous synthetic fibers that release microplastic pollution into the seas. The items are cheap and don’t echo any indication of innovative ethical fibers or design techniques.
French Connection claims its ability to formally audit the facilities where garments are made is limited and that “it is not possible to provide absolute assurance that standards expected of [their] suppliers are adhered to.” which essentially translates to: we’ll try a little bit, but not enough. Then there’s Puma who have been called out by Oxfam for the very low wages they pay their garment workers.
Brand trust is a big deal, and most of us are of the opinion that as long as something is for sale in the first place, surely it’s OK. Only, that really couldn’t be further from the truth. The danger of such a lack of transparency in many supply chains means that we have issues like child labor taking place, as well as real fur sold to us as faux. The only way to drive forward the movement for ethical fashion is for consumers to take more responsibility in their purchasing choices. Ask yourself the important questions before making purchases so we can move away from the obsession with excess. Remember that marketing is a clever tool and will play on the part of you that wants to believe that everything is good and right with the world. Demand evidence from brands before supporting them so that you can avoid being hooked in by greenwashing. And support those going above and beyond to make more sustainable, long-term choices.
Actions speak louder than words and only time will tell whether ASOS continues to support the causes close to the heart of its target audience. But with the rise of veganism and strong momentum behind the ethical fashion movement, I suggest we watch this space, Dumplings, because times are definitely (finally!) changing.
What are your thoughts on this bold move from ASOS? What else would you like to see from the brand?
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