Remember when the idea of shopping ethically meant settling for hemp sack dresses? Things have changed.
Newly launched online store Well Made Clothes is one of a growing number of businesses promoting ethical shopping at different tiers – and proving that looking good needn’t be compromised in the process.
Well Made Clothes stocks a mix of small and large brands from Australia, New Zealand and beyond. Labels include Limb, Dress Up, Nobody Denim, Penny Sage, Kowtow, and Fillipa K.
The store makes it easy to see what aspects of each brand’s process is ethical. Each brand ticks off at least one of Well Made Clothes’ eight values: handcrafted; environmentally sustainable; locally made; fair labour; minimal waste; vegan; dedicated to gender equality; and supply-chain transparency.
Co-founder Courtney Sanders says customers have to acknowledge that it’s incredibly difficult to buy 100 per cent ethically made clothing. “Shoppers need to pick their battles,” she explains. “You need to decide what ethical means to you and shop accordingly. The fashion-industry supply chain is so complex – from seed to fibre, to factory, to retail floor – it’s difficult for a fashion label to be absolutely perfect in every way.”
For Sanders and Kelly Elkin (the other half of the business), Well Made Clothes is about celebrating the ethical practices brands are already engaged in, and showing which areas they can improve on.
Sanders tells the story of Bare Bones, a Kiwi label that had never made being ethical a core part of its business, but became increasingly uncomfortable when its factories wouldn’t provide enough detail around labour standards.
“The designer had ongoing problems, even when changing factories,” Sanders says. “But eventually she found one, and now all her products are certified fair-trade and organic. She told me it wasn’t hard when she started looking – that it didn’t hugely affect her margins. I thought that was really amazing. That’s what we’re about – being better, and trying to be better.”