For those unfamiliar with the Differently brand, there is something very important to understand about our identity and basically our reason for being. At our core, we believe in ethical, sustainable, affordable, and conscious fashion. As a local South African clothing brand, we make sure that the process of making our unique clothing is not harmful to people, animals, and the environment.
What is ethical fashion?
Ethical fashion can be defined as, “fashion that aims to reduce the negative impact on people, animals, and the planet”. The process of creating a piece of clothing involves design, labour, and a variety of materials. Abiding by ethics in the fashion world means that this entire process is guaranteed to be harmless at each and every step of production.
How is Differently Ethical?
First let’s start with the people who work at Differently. Every staff member who works with us is provided with fair and equal pay. Our amazing seamstresses who produce beautiful work do so in our studio based in Johannesburg. We stick to all labour laws and ensure they are fairly paid, get paid leave as per the employment act, and well looked after physically and mentally.
Additionally, the Differently brand is built on a foundation of helping others and giving back to our community. We do this through the many community projects and collaborations we have been a part of in the past and continue to be a part of. Our most recent project being the Many Hands Project in August 2021. Read more about this project by clicking here.
Regarding animals, Differently doesn’t purchase or create garments that contain any animal materials. We stick to a no furs, no leather, and no feather materials policy. Materials that are made from animals are and never will be used to create any of our garments.
Lastly, how Differently helps the environment. We buy our fabrics from local merchandisers which reduces carbon emissions as we don't import fabrics ourselves and usually create our clothing using ethical materials such as Linen, polycotton blends, and faux leather.
Differently frequently repurposes old material (deadstock) and cut-offs from the process of making our garments. If you have ever visited us at any of the local markets we have attended, you will have noticed a bowl filled to the brim with colourful scrunchies. Each scrunchie is made from the off-cuts and left-over material of our garments. Lastly, we make use of scrap fabric in our sampling process to ensure we don't throw away left-over fabrics, therefore not promoting garment throw-away culture.
What are the Plans for Differently in the Future?
We always strive to abide by ethical practices and improve the sustainability of our brand. That is why we plan to continue with collaborations like the Many Hands Project to help support and uplift our community. We also work tirelessly to expand the brands name so we can continue to grow the business and create jobs for members of the community. Lastly, we will persist in using fabrics and materials that have not been created in a way is harmful towards the planet as well as animals.
It has become crucial that clothing brands across the globe become more conscious of the impact their production process has on people, animals and the environment. This is especially true for the South African fashion industry as SA has a history of rich textile heritage that would be devastated should it be diminished or trumped by global fast fashion practices. So, how can little ol’ you ensure the clothes you buy and wear are ethical? Well, the most obvious answer is don’t buy from fast fashion retailers.
Here is a list of well-known companies that have been called out on unethical production practices:
- Shein - Reports of child labour. Promotes "throw-away culture".
- Mango - Causes high-level greenhouse gas emissions. Don't pay fair wages to workers.
- H&M - Reports of inhumane work environments and unfair/low wages. Don't make a large enough effort to mitigate textile waste.
- Forever 21 - Underpays workers. Accused of body shaming customers.
- Missguided - Promotes over-consumption. Has few policies in place to reduce environmental impact.
- Zara - Is not transparent about efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. Don't pay garment workers living wages.
- Victoria’s Secret - Uses unsustainable materials in garments. Notoriously promote unrealistic and harmful body expectations of models.
- Fashion Nova - Not transparent about their practices, uses synthetic materials in their garments, and underpays workers.
And many many more. Read more about the reasons why these brands are not abiding by proper ethical fashion practices by clicking here.
The lesson to take away from this article is to think before you buy cheap clothing. We are very aware of the sad but real take-over of fast fashion brands in South Africa. This is heart-breaking for small local fashion brands like ours who work so hard to produce good quality, sustainable, and affordable clothing. So, think twice before ordering off of Shein and support your local South African fashion makers and creators.