How to Teach Kids About Ethical Fashion

Learning make your own fashion choices is part of growing up. We’ll show you how to teach your kids about ethical fashion and why their choices matter.

The clothing industry is the second-largest global polluter, right after oil.

The fashion carbon footprint is ludicrous but difficult to measure because each garment undergoes a different process. Consider the environmental impact of pesticides and toxic dyes.

There’s also harvesting, manufacturing, and shipping.

Plus, there’s an extraordinary amount of waste when clothing is thrown out. Not to mention the working conditions of many of the workers in developing countries.

Ethical fashion is fashion that uses a sustainable model. Teaching children about the problems with the fashion industry while they are young increases their awareness. Then, they can make good choices for our world as they grow up.

This may lead to socially responsible shoppers when they become adults.

Read on for a guide on how to teach your kids about ethical fashion in a way that they will understand.

Tell your Child The Story of Clothing Production

Kids respond best to information in stories. That’s why fairy tales often had morales woven in.

To start the conversation about ethical fashion with your kids, tell them a story.

Show them a picture of a cotton field in the US. Then hold up a picture of a transport ship.

Explain that all the cotton is placed in these huge containers and shipped to China.

Show dye workers in China. Ask questions like how do these workers make clothes different colors? Let the child make inferences about the work based on the pictures she sees.

Next, tell your child how after the fabric is dyed, it is sent by truck to a factory in Bangladesh to be cut and sewn.

Keep the story going until the clothing item makes its way into the store and into his hands.

You could print the pictures and use them to make a book that stars your child’s favorite T-shirt.

If a child can re-tell you what you just taught them, he or she will remember it.

Make Ethical Fashion Personal

Start with whatever aspect is most personal to your children. For example, if you have a kid that is an animal lover, start by talking about cruelty-free fashion. Make that your family priority first.

Most children will relate to the issue of child labor in sweatshops. Explain this in language that they will understand. Ask them if they think it’s fair that children have to work in the dark, dirty factories.

Make the connection to supply and demand. Explain that if people stopped buying those clothes, those sweatshops would have to close down.

You can find documentaries on ethical fashion and watch them as a family. Ask them how they would feel if that was them.

Explain Consumerism

Teach your kids about the materialism and consumerism that exists in our society.

Researchers have discovered that shopping can become an addiction.

Children are able to understand that advertising and marketing are meant to get people to buy products. Help them to understand these influences and resist the need to buy unnecessarily.

Do research and find out which brands participate in ethical fashion. Stella McCartney’s commitment to sustainability is part of the brand’s ethos. The brand also prides itself on being cruelty-free.

Levi’s production technique uses far less water than traditional methods.

Find Stella McCartney and Levi’s clothing for kids on this site.

Teach your Kids to Read Labels

You can turn this lesson into a fun, family game on ethical fashion.

Teach them how to find out where an article of clothing was made and out of what material.

Have them go through their closet and take some data. Kids will love making a bar graph with their findings.

You could put a pin on a wall map to mark each place your family’s clothing came from. As well as where the materials originated from.

This will help children see the wide distances that clothing travels to end up in their closets.

Awareness is the first step in understanding and supporting ethical fashion.

Change one thing!

Let your child figure out one change you can make. Even if that change is small, it will teach your child about ethical fashion.

Make sure they understand that this is everyone’s problem in the whole world. And everyone needs to be his or her part to help solve it.

Reassure them that over time many small changes add up to a big change.

Some ideas:

  • Think of ways to reduce their waste
  • Shop locally. Explain that this means clothes didn’t have to travel across the ocean.
  • Buy clothing with labels that say ‘Made in USA’ or wherever you live.
  • Ask your kids for ideas. Take their suggestions and make them a reality.

Remember, the most important thing is to spark their passion. Once they feel strongly about a cause, the rest happens by itself.

Get Them Involved

Children are natural advocates. When they believe in something, they want to tell everyone about it.

Direct teens to ethical fashion organizations and websites. There are many social media campaigns such as Fashion Revolution’s #WhoMadeMyClothes hashtag.

Students are invited to take selfies with the label showing on their clothing. These photos were then sent via social media to the manufactures of the clothes.

In Conclusion

Children can have as great an impact on the future of fashion as adults. Getting them involved when they are young is a great way to instill lifelong values.

Remember, ethical fashion can be part of an ongoing conversation as you raise responsible children. Don’t force these values on your kids. Let them develop organically based on what you are experiencing as a family.

Next, read 5 great toys for kids who don’t play with toys.