A reflection on the ‘big things’ that have happened in ethical fashion in the 5 years since Where Does It Come From? launched our first collection – by Lucy Kerry, Where Does It Come From? Product Manager

ethical fashion 5 years on
Denim Jeans for Children – one of our first products (and still popular!)

It’s hard to believe that it’s only been 5 years since Where Does It Come From? launched onto a fledging ethical fashion scene, armed with our first collection of khadi denim clothes for kids.  Our mission was then, and still is now, to show customers and indeed the world that clothing production can be kind – kind to the people who grow the cotton, kind to those who make the clothes, kind to the environment and also kind to our customers, who buy the clothes and buy into the ethos. By sharing a code with customers so they can explore the story behind their clothes, we’ve always hoped to inspire that deeper connection and love for clothing (which will hopefully spread to their other shopping choices).

Fast forward 5 years and we are all far more eco and ethically minded in so many ways. Eco concepts that seemed so unlikely back in 2014 are now mainstream and we’re talking and thinking about sustainability like never before. So, on our 5th birthday, let’s take a look back at some of the game-changers, big and small, over the last 5 years:

1.       5p Plastic Bag Charge

zero-waste plastic-free reusable shopping bag
Re-usable Denim Eco-Bag from Where Does It Come From?

We don’t think twice about grabbing our reusable bags now before we head out shopping but do you remember the controversy and kerfuffle back in 2015? Such a simple change has made an enormous difference.  By 2018, plastic bag sales in England’s biggest supermarkets had dropped by a massive 86% and some retailer have stopped offering single-use carrier bags altogether.      

2. The David Attenborough Effect

Who can have failed to be moved by The Blue Planet’s filming of a tiny seahorse curled around a cotton bud? It’s probably no exaggeration to say that our national treasure, Sir David Attenborough, has done more to convince us to limit our plastic use than any government initiative.

3.       Paris Agreement on Climate

in 2016, the agreement was negotiated and agreed by 196 state parties, with the direct aim of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, which will substantially reduce the risks and effects of climate change. But we can only wait and see if this agreement is enough, especially if the US withdraws from this agreement as planned in 2019.

4.       Fashion Revolution: 

Not long after setting up Where Does It Come From? in early 2013 the fashion world was rocked by the devastating news of the Rana Plaza factory disaster in Bangladesh on April 24th. 1138 garment workers lost their lives working in unsafe conditions making clothes for high street fast fashion brands. This disaster highlighted the labour conditions and low pay experienced by the majority of garment workers and inspired the creation of the Fashion Revolution movement. This movement, with it’s key question ‘Who Made My Clothes?’ has grown to be a key force in ethical fashion calling for an overhaul of labour standards in the industry.

Where Does It Come From? has been active from the start – including a Fashion Revolution trip to India to ‘Meet our Makers‘ in 2016, a True Cost Movie Event, collaboration on our Fashion Revolution video and co-organising the London showcase ‘Ethical Brands for Fashion Revolution’ in 2018 and 2019.

We Know Who Made Our Clothes – Fashion Revolution 2017

5.       Surge in New Ethical Brands

Whether it’s due to a slowly growing awareness of the murkier side of fashion, or just utter dismay at big headlines such as Burberry burning £28.6m of branded goods, consumers are much more likely to search out eco and ethical fashion options these days and even the big brands are attempting to produce more ethical lines.  When we first started out, there really were only a handful of truly ethical fashion companies in the UK but now we’re thrilled to be in the company of so many inspiring, eco, cruelty-free fashion businesses who really are stepping up to change the business of fashion.

Looking Back and Moving Forward

Clearly we all have a long way to go and so many of us, consumers and ethical businesses alike, are continually frustrated by what seems like a snail’s pace rate of change.  But sometimes it is worth taking a moment to look back and remember what we all have actually achieved.  So, as we get a little bit nostalgic and emotional on our 5th birthday, we would like to thank our wonderful customers and supporters for helping us to be part of the change for the better.