For Jasmine Mayhead, it was a simple overseas market encounter that first triggered her journey to ethical consumption. A path which now inspires others through her daily life and role as the founder of Ethical Made Easy. The brand directory hopes to make finding ethically-minded labels simpler. Despite her strong stance on ethical over fast fashion, you won't feel any judgment from Mayhead. She says, taking a more considered approach is as easy as starting where you are.
The name seems to be a bit of a giveaway, but what exactly is Ethical Made Easy and who was it created for?
Ethical Made Easy is for the consumer who is at any stage of their conscious consumer journey, whether they’re five years down the rabbit hole or they are just starting to take their baby steps towards living a little more ethically and sustainably.
With Ethical Made Easy, we are providing these consumers with everyday items (clothing, homewares, etc.) that were produced slowly, mindfully, and with intention, so these change-making consumers don’t have to do the hard work themselves (because we’ve happily done it for them!).
What prompted you to start Ethical Made Easy?
I did love a good haggle in the marketplaces of Siem Reap, though after a particularly “successful” one I stumbled across The True Cost documentary, and I’ve not looked back since then.
I actually started Ethical Made Easy as a way of keeping myself accountable on my own ethical fashion journey. More and more people began to join me and before I knew it, a community had grown from my phone, and that incredible group of people has made Ethical Made Easy what it is today.
What is your definition of ethical fashion?
I think the term ‘ethical’ is super loaded, and what’s ethical to me isn’t what it is to others. This is worth remembering, as everybody has different values and are at different stages of their ethical journeys.
For me, ethical fashion is ensuring that the people who make the clothes I wear, as well as grow the plants for the fabric these clothes are made from are all paid a living wage, and work inhumane conditions in the process.
Ethical fashion is based upon ethics - specifically, ethics surrounding people, the environment, and animals - and these ethics dictate and influence every aspect of the ethical fashion supply chain. In comparison, fast fashion is entirely produced with speed and profit in mind, though that’s a story for another time.
Ethical fashion is very much about people and where they fit into the cycle - from raw materials to the point of sale. Why do you think it’s taken us so long to wake up to the importance of checking the impact of the supply chain on people?
I definitely think it has been a case of not connecting the dots. As consumers, we are not exposed enough to the process that goes into the making of our stuff.
I don’t know about anyone else but before I became an ethical fashion advocate, I’d go to the nearest Glassons store and give absolutely no thought as to how all of the clothes hanging on the racks even got there.
Our naivety as fast fashion participants is a reflection of the lack of transparency these companies have. In saying this, we’re in the age of technology now, and the window showing the truth is getting bigger, meaning the time for excuses is coming to an end.
People (and I used to be one of them) are still unaware of the extremely detrimental effects our industries, particularly the fashion industry, has had (and continues to have) on the environment, so given the current climate crisis it has become even more important to be informed about the negative or positive impacts the creation of our goods has had.
This is why it is extremely important to understand how our stuff is made, where it was made, and who made it.
You include a lot of really useful information on EME. Do you feel like you are still learning the ins-and-outs of ethical fashion?
Oh, absolutely! Every single day we learn more and more about the world of ethical fashion, and how the industry ties into climate change, human rights, the economy, etc.
Although we take our jobs completely seriously, we’re really just a bunch of like-minded girls who have bonded over our love of strong coffee, bamboo utensils, and our desire to try and make the world a better place than it was when we came into it (which for some of us is longer ago than we care to admit).
We are not experts and we will never claim to be, but we are advocates for positive purchasing power (say that three times fast) and the good that can come from this. We can all use our money to vote for the world we want to live in, and with Ethical Made Easy we are trying to make this a little bit easier for everyone.
If you could tell readers three current statistics that you think might make them think about their buying habits differently, what would they be?
*cracks neck and twiddles fingers over keyboard*
- In 2015 alone, the fast fashion industry produced 92 million tonnes of waste.
- 85% of our old clothes have ended up in landfill.
- In Australia, an average of 2% of what we pay for an item of clothing goes towards factory wages.
Do with that info what you will you powerful and wise readers.
Vintage, second-hand and small producer clothing has been around for a long time now. Do you think part of the push for ethical and sustainable clothing into the mainstream is because it’s now become ‘cool to be kind’ in a sense?
Yes and no. I think people are becoming sick of not knowing where their clothes are made, and whether or not the companies they support are doing good for both people and the planet.
People want to make a difference and take matters into their own hands when they see that the big players aren’t doing it, and I don’t think we realise how powerful we are as consumers.
Also, as I said before, technology has played (and continues to play) a massive role in this. Ease of information has been crucial to the ethical fashion movement, as we are becoming more aware of the environmental and social abuse rife within the fast fashion industry.
It can be an overwhelming concept, rewiring long-used spending and shopping habits. What is the first thing you would recommend those wanting to ‘go ethical’ can do today?
Take baby steps! You won’t be perfect straight off the bat - hell, I’m still learning and I’m almost four years gone - but small changes really do make a massive difference.
The first thing I would recommend is to take care of the items you already own. This may sound a bit counterintuitive but this is the best thing you can do to live a more ethical and sustainable life. So look after them more, work out ways to pair items together, and if you do want to get new clothes, do things like visiting an op shop or go to clothing swaps. Even make a night out of it with friends!
Grab a coffee (or something a little bit stronger if that tickles your fancy), cook up a mean pot luck dinner and have friends bring three items each that they’d be happy to swap. Sharing is caring, right?
The obvious barrier many see to changing their shopping habits is that they think it’s too expensive to buy ethically made clothing. What would you say to those people?
I’d say that I completely see their point of view. It is definitely daunting going from paying $30 for two dresses from Dotti to paying $100 for an ethically made masterpiece.
With this being said, I can say with total honesty that the latter is the better option. What the fast fashion industry does extremely well - apart from abuse and exploit, of course - is take away the relationship we as human beings have always had with our clothing.
A lot of us no longer see the value in a well-made piece of clothing and have resorted to buying cheap, wearing once, and throwing away.
Ethically made clothing seeks to rectify this sitch we’ve gotten ourselves into. These garments are more expensive because every care was taken in their creation - the workers were paid fairly, the materials used were produced excellently, and the garment itself was designed and made to last through trends and years.
What a lot of people don’t realise is that paying more for a well-made piece of clothing will actually save them money in the long run. Ethically made garments are literally designed to defy trends, destroying the need for the owner to continue succumbing to the fast fashion model of buying once and throwing away.
There’s also the Cost Per Wear factor. If we buy a beautiful deadstock dress from, let’s say, Lois Hazel, for $150, and we know we are going to wear it more than thirty times, this brings the cost down to $6 per wear.
That’s less than half the price of the avo on toast we Millenials buy for brunch every Sunday morning.
Do you think the wave will continue and we’ll eventually see a world where fast fashion doesn’t exist?
I honestly don’t know, but I really hope so. It all depends on the people. If everybody is willing to get on board, to say enough is enough and actively choose to turn their transactions into actions, then there is hope for a fast-fashion free world.
As for me, I’d really just love to see society slow down a little bit. From fashion to food, we’re all living life in the fast lane, and I think we'd all benefit from slowing down, being present, and enjoying the things we take for granted in this fast-paced world of ours.
Much of the ethical fashion developments seem to go hand-in-hand with new innovation such as making swimwear from recycled ocean waste or biodegradable shoes (Native Shoes). Do you have any favourite innovative brands that are blowing your mind at the moment?
Oh, there’s so many; way too many to name here!
Elle Evans / Baiia / Cleonie / Shapes In The Sand - these incredible swimwear companies (led by even more incredible women) are doing great things with ECONYL and recycled ocean waste. Plastic literally never looked so good.
W.R.YUMA - a sunglass company making sustainable magic with 3D printing technology. Definitely one to watch.
What a lot of people don’t know is that most ethical companies actually partner with charities and organisations that are helping to generate a more environmentally and socially positive world.
By buying through them we are actually donating to companies pulling the plastic out of the ocean or creating better opportunities for garment workers, so by buying shopping we can actually make a massive difference.
Who are some of the game changers in this industry you would recommend people follow and read up on?
In terms of further education:
Clare Press is a big one - she is Vogue’s first Sustainability Editor and is just a complete powerhouse in the ethical and sustainable sphere. She has a podcast called Wardrobe Crisis which I urge everybody to listen to!
Laura Wells - we’ve been watching this one for years and she does some incredible stuff in the way of plastic awareness and environmental conservation.
Kate from Ethically Kate - this isn’t just because she’s on the EME team either; this girl is an absolute change-maker.
In terms of epic business owners changing the narrative:
- Frankie from The Dirt Company
- Hanna from Dorsu
- Lois from Lois Hazel
- Ana from Holi Boli
- And just everyone who is on the EME Ethical Brand Directory.
Can you name some of your favourite ethical brands you think are leading the way right now? Are there any we should be watching out for on the horizon?
Oh no. This would be like choosing my favourite child! I obviously have no children yet but I imagine this is what it’d be like.
We’re constantly finding new ethical and sustainable brands that are doing amazing things in the space, but if I absolutely had to choose, the ones I love the most are the ones we have included in our Brand Directory.
We know their story, we know the good they do with their profits, and we are completely and utterly in awe of them.
As a travel brand, we can’t help but ask you about your adventures on the road. You have lived and travelled around the world. Do you have a favourite place you have visited or an experience you have had while travelling?
Having grown up on a flower farm in New Zealand, travelling is something I feel is so incredibly important as it opens your eyes up to completely different worlds and contrasting perspectives. In fact, it was through travel that I started EME.
In terms of favourite places, I’d say Barcelona is a pretty special place. I lived there for six months on a university exchange, and it just completely took my heart.
I may be a little (or a lot) biased, but I’d say if you’ve never been, New Zealand is definitely a very beautiful spot that everyone should adventure round in a van for at least a month.
You also have another business that has been shaped by your journey of discovery in this space. Can you tell us about your consulting?
I just can’t keep still! I studied a double degree at The University of Otago in New Zealand majoring in Marketing and Communications, and it was during my final year that I learnt about ethical fashion and started running EME as a blog.
After graduating, I worked for a marketing agency for a little under a year, and whilst it was great and I learnt a lot, I always struggled with the fact that from 5 am til 8 am, I was finding ethical brands and writing about them, and then I’d go and do digital marketing for what were basically fast fashion companies. I was compromising my own beliefs, which I urge everybody never to do.
I assumed that this was just the norm, but a good friend of mine Frankie, who runs The Dirt Company, challenged me on it.
From there I quit to give EME a good hard crack and worked two days a week helping an ethical biz inhouse with their marketing.
Over the last year and a half, it’s just expanded beyond my wildest dreams. Solely from word of mouth alone, I’ve been able to work with the most incredible ethical and sustainable brands, and help bring them to the mainstream.
Ethical brands typically have smaller margins on their products, and often struggle to have the capital to go to a marketing agency, and I often find the marketing agencies don’t overly understand why they’re doing what they’re doing.
I’ve put my two loves together in a perfect little ethical and sustainable marriage and I’m so blessed to be doing what I love every single day.
What does the future look like for EME? Can we expect more expansion of the site and the brand?
Oh man, the sky is the limit! I’m always coming up with new ideas and ways that the team and I can help people connect the dots to purchasing more ethically, though without the judgement.
We’re all at different stages of our journeys, and Ethical Made Easy is for all. For the remainder of this year, my biggest focus is on slowing down, doing what we do really well, and setting up the foundation for an epic 2020. Stay tuned!
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