Social Justice

Raising Awareness of Ethical Fashion Practices

Jannie Ngo and her colleagues on the Social Justice Committee for the Adler Student Association in Vancouver are always looking for ways to raise awareness of issues that affect communities in their city and across the globe. Ngo, a first-year student in the Master of Counseling Psychology: School and Youth Concentration, recently became more aware of the negative labor, environmental, and social issues that plague the fashion industry.

This inspired the group to host an event to educate people on the importance of supporting ethical fashion practices. The public event, Beneath the Fabric – Fair Fashion over Fast Fashion, was held at the Adler University Vancouver Campus on March 27 and featured guest speakers from industry experts, a short screening of the acclaimed documentary RiverBlue, and an ethically sourced clothing swap.

Ngo talked to us about why she got involved and how she hopes this event will help open minds about the importance of purchasing sustainable and ethically sourced clothing.

How did you get involved in promoting ethical fashion?

I was scrolling social media one day when I saw news articles about the negative side of the fashion industry, such as the prevalence of child labor, poor working conditions, and workers not receiving living wages to manufacture clothes. The articles referenced a lot of stores that have these unethical practices, including stores I would shop at regularly—stores you see in malls and shop there without a second thought because they’re accessible, easy, and reliable.

From there, I decided to dig into more research to educate myself about where my clothes are coming from. The more I researched, the more I focused on the fact that there are real lives behind the clothing that is made, but we are so disconnected to it as a society. It was appalling to me to realize that what I am wearing is negatively affecting somebody else in a real way. There is also an environmental impact since discarded clothes end up in landfills.

Why is addressing unethical fashion practices important?

There are people whose lives are being deeply affected by manufacturing the clothing items that we in North America, especially, wear. And, we are often disconnected with what is happening. It is an injustice because there are people living in other parts of the world who are not earning a livable wage or who are working in unsafe environments.

How do you hope people are affected by learning more about the clothing industry?

It’s hard to make a full lifestyle change, but I hope that people will at least become a little more aware, and think twice about industry practices before they get to the cash register or before they go to a store. That’s why I wanted to make this event—to raise awareness that this is still impacting our society. It is something that we don’t always think about, but it’s important.

If they can make at least one small change, such as starting to thrift a little more or trying to be more sustainable in their wardrobe, that will make a difference. Making any small step toward having a more sustainable environment and a fair lifestyle for people who are making our clothes is progress. I am going to make a few lifestyle changes myself.

Here are some easy ways to be more ethical in clothing decisions:

  • Look into where clothes are made and how they are made
  • Buy at thrift stores and repurpose clothing
  • Buy from local designers or fair-trade stores
  • Have a curated closet with less items but that you wear more
  • Buy higher quality clothes that last longer

What is the Adler Student Association Social Justice Committee?

We are a small group of students in Vancouver who come together and try to make any type of change in the world, however small or large. We are advocates for our school and for our community to help create a more equitable, fair and kind world. We have had “coffee for a cause” events and bake sales to support local organizations. We reach out to fellow students to see if there are causes they are passionate about that we can promote, and we’ll work together to make it happen. This fashion event is a good example because I had this giant idea and it was with the help of my committee, and my classmates, and the faculty that helped me create this idea and put it into reality.