Our Easy Reference Guide to Common Ethical Fashion Terms

At ILNI we believe in the values of ethical fashion and all that it encompasses. However, we also know that it is easy to get lost in the tangle of words, names and terms used in this field. Today we come with help in the form of our easy reference guide to the most common words and phrases in the ethical fashion industry. We hope this simple glossary will be useful in helping you decipher the most common terms and make ethical buying decisions easier. We suggest you bookmark this page for easy future reference.


Something made by hand, by a person. Not machine made or mass-produced. Literally made by an artist.


Something that is able to break down (decompose) rapidly through the action of microorganisms and be reabsorbed into the environment.

Carbon Footprint

A measurement of the amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted directly or indirectly by our daily actions.

Carbon Neutral

A product or service that has reduced their carbon footprint to nil through the process of increased efficiency, reduced consumption and recyclable products.

Conscious consumption

An increased awareness of the impact items we buy have on the environment and on the people making them. Conscious consumption includes buying items that support local economies, have been made by fairly paid employees and that are built to last.

Conscious fashion

A term used to describe a movement to buy fashion items that match our values. Basically, that what we wear, matters. 

Cost per wear

Cost per wear is a formula that takes the total cost of an item and divides it by the estimated number of wears. It is a strong argument for buying quality over quantity.


Products that contain no animal-material and that have not been tested on animals during any phase of their development.


Eco-chic refers to products that are environmentally conscious as well as being stylish or cool.


Something that is friendly to the earth and not harmful to the environment. Eco-friendly products do not add to air, water or land pollution.


The basic principle of empowerment is that each and every person is entitled to equal opportunities. Empowerment in ethical fashion can be seen in action by brands that are offering training and employment to disadvantaged people and communities. Enabling them to permanently lift themselves out of poverty and gain back independence!


Being ethical means avoiding activities or organisations that do harm to people or the environment.

Ethical fashion / Ethically made

Ethical fashion refers to the manufacturing of clothing and accessories that maximises benefits to people and communities while minimising the impact on the environment. Ethical fashion brands often employ artisans with traditional skill sets, provide cruelty-free products, use only certified or safe factories and avoid all sweatshop labour.

Fair trade

Fair trade is a global movement for change that advocates for better working conditions and improved terms of trade for farmers and workers in developing countries. For a product to display the Fair trade Mark it must meet the social, economic and environmental standards set by the certification body Fair trade International.

Fast fashion

Fast fashion refers to the speed that the fashion industry brings new trends to market as cheaply as possible. Fast Fashion encourages a ‘throw-away’ mentality among consumers

Green Fashion

Green Fashion is another name for Eco-fashion. It describes a product that is designed to be environmentally friendly.

Green washing

Green washing describes the practice of using PR and/or marketing deceptively to make an organisation’s products, aims or policies appear more environmentally friendly.

Investment Clothing

Investment clothing refers to items of clothing that cost a little more than you would normally spend, but that you will use for many years to come.

Locally Made

Locally made items have been produced locally. In buying locally we can support local entrepreneurs and businesses.

Micro Fibres

Micro-fibres are micro-plastics (less than 5mm in length) that can detach from our synthetic clothes during washing. These small plastics are causing big problems for our environment and our health.

Natural Fibres

A fibre made from a plant, animal, or mineral. Includes Cotton, Linen (made from flax), Silk, Wool, Cashmere, Hemp and Jute.


Organic ingredients and materials are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilisers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionising radiation.

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals ( PETA) is an animals rights organisation that focuses its attention on the mistreatment of animals in factory farms, in the clothing trade, in laboratories, and in the entertainment industry.

PETA-approved vegan

A brand that is PETA-approved vegan is one that voluntarily commits to using no animal materials in any of its products.

Slow fashion

Slow Fashion prioritises buying quality over quantity. It focuses on well-designed clothing and accessories that are created for longevity, encourage fair trade and fair wages, and are environmentally friendly. It is the antithesis of fast fashion.

Sustainable fashion

Sustainable fashion refers to clothing, shoes and accessories that are manufactured, marketed and used in the most sustainable manner possible. Produced by brands who take into account both environmental and socio-economic aspects of their production and products.


Traceability refers to the ability to trace a brand’s products and their components back through each step of the supply chain, all the way to raw materials.

Vegan (veganism)

Veganism is a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purposes. Products labelled Vegan contain no animal products or by-products.

Vegan leather

Vegan Leather is an animal-friendly alternative to real leather. Favoured by those of us who love the look of leather but are committed to a lifestyle prohibiting the use of animal products.

Zero Waste

Zero waste addresses how we live in the world and the impact of our trash by aiming to reduce what we add to landfills and incinerators to zero.

We hope this list of the essential Ethical Fashion Terms is useful in making great decisions about what you buy and why you buy it.


Ethical Fashion means knowing the difference between

what we have a right to do and what is right to do.