If you’ve been following us for a while now, you’ll know that we’re obsessed with brands that don’t just talk about being ethical, but actually stand up and take ownership of the end-to-end impact of their operations.
That’s why we we’ve been crushing on Jasmine Mayhead, Founder of Ethical Made Easy since we found out about her earlier in the year. Since learning the ‘true cost’ of the fast fashion industry, Jasmine knew she had to do her bit to put an end to mindless consumerism and guide people toward living and shopping sustainably.
Jasmine, thanks so much for chatting to us! Tell us, what is Ethical Made Easy and why did you start it?
Ethical Made Easy is an online ethical brand directory that makes shopping ethical, easy. While it’s simple to say, I find hard for most people to get their head around.
So, the aim of Ethical Made Easy to help people connect more with who makes the clothes and products they use, and why the founders have decided to do things differently.
The hope is for people to switch from focusing on how cheap a garment or product is, and instead focus on who made it, and whether they were empowered or exploited, to do so.
What made you start the business?
In terms of why I created it, it was all by accident. I’m generally the type of person to watch a documentary, then a week later I’m disheartened and go back to the way I used to be because it’s easier to put it in the too hard basket.
Once I watched The True Cost documentary (I’d highly recommend giving it a watch if you haven’t yet), I knew I had to do something to keep myself accountable. It started as an Instagram account where I’d find ethical brands and post about them for myself as a place to go and check them out at a later date, and then it all snowballed from there to a site, and then interviewing founders purely because I was curious as to why they do what they do.
Now it’s become a place for others to find brands, and for me two and a half years on to help educate others and help them shop better, where they are, with what they’ve got.
I’ve seen that documentary, it is pretty confronting and a real eye opener.
For people who may not have seen The True Cost, could you tell us a little more about what made you realise you had to do something? Was there something you learned in particular that really struck you?
I think more than anything it was the imagery that really struck me. Sure there are statistics that made my jaw drop like the fact that “the world now consumes a staggering 80 billion pieces of clothing a year” or that “250,000 Indian cotton farmers have killed themselves in the last 15 years” or the fact that “only 10% of the clothes people donate to charity of thrift stores get sold”, but I think more than anything it was connecting the dots between the $5-20 t-shirts I used to hunt out to where the fabric came from and who cut the fabric and made it.
Every single piece of clothing you own, regardless of how cheap it was when you bought it, went through so many human hands to get to you and I think once I really learnt that, I couldn’t look at a cheap bargain the same way again.
Wow. That’s super powerful, and really makes you think twice about consumerism and how much we really need.
Do you think it’s been difficult for others to ‘connect those dots’? Would you say there’s a disconnect for most people about what they buy, where it comes from and how it’s made?
Absolutely. The way we’re marketed to on the daily is about “how good we’ll look” in a product as opposed to the story behind why it’s made and the versatility of the garment. We’re taught as a society to not be seen wearing the same thing twice, and that’s it’s normal to be able to purchase t-shirts for less than the price of a coffee.
Greenwashing is also aiding this disconnect. Consumers expect businesses to have the correct information and to be truthful to them as a consumer, so when they see a product marketed as “recycled” or “eco-friendly” they expect for this to be completely true. I think more and more consumers are beginning to purchase more mindfully, but businesses owe a duty of care to help us do so.
It seems that people are slowly ‘cottoning on’ (pardon the pun) to the fact that not all products are created equally. Do you think we’re becoming more ‘ethically conscious’?
I do believe we are as a whole, however I definitely am in my own little ethical bubble, so when I learn of Facebook groups set up for the sole purpose of finding the “next cheap thing” it definitely makes me realise how much more of this journey we have left to go through. People have to be willing to make a permanent and lasting change, and this can’t be forced upon them otherwise they simply will not be receptive or open.
In saying this, I think people are definitely waking up to the fact that we simply cannot go on like this. Thanks to the rise of social media and the age of the “influencer”, more information surrounding ethical fashion and sustainable living is becoming more readily available to the masses. We have no excuse of hiding behind ignorance anymore – all the information we need to make informed decisions is right at our fingertips!
How would you describe the relationship between consumers and brands right now? Do you see this changing in the future?
I think right now people are definitely starting to ask questions to brands and really voting with their wallet for the future they want, which is a massive step in the right direction. However, I still do think I’m in a bubble in this regard. In terms of the future, I have such high hopes that it will change. The more I see people joining the movement with Ethical Made Easy and watching this community grow, the more excited I become for the future of fashion, as well as for the planet in general.
It’s also an extremely positive sign that more brands and fashion hubs, including The Iconic, are choosing to source more responsibly or add “shop by values” sections, because this means that more and more consumers are asking questions and demanding change. It’s all about that education piece. I truly believe we all care, we just need to know what steps we can individually take that will benefit us as a whole.
What can people do to be more ethical when it comes to what they buy?
It sounds super counterintuitive, but start by not buying anything. The best thing that can be done to start slowing down our process of buying is to cut it off at the source and stop buying entirely – at least for a while. I know this is not sustainable in the long run (we outgrow clothes, we sometimes damage clothes beyond repair, and we will all be tempted by something new), but not buying for a while forces us to no longer be dependent on fast fashion.
I don’t think you should entirely change your current purchasing habits out and purchase ethically. Instead, I feel it should start with using what you currently own and looking after it – learning how to mend items when they break or have a hole in them, learning how to properly wash or dry an item to ensure its longevity, etc. I’d also suggest doing a clothing audit and finding the clothes you wear the most, and then making them core parts of your wardrobe. Basics and staples are the way to go!
From there, I’d say swap with friends and both sell your old clothes and buy online. Thrifting is also a super fun way to find preloved and vintage gems, and participating in events like Suitcase Rummage is also a fab idea! After you’ve done that, then it’s time to head to Ethical Made Easy. The aim for what we do is to make it simple for you to find ethical alternatives all in one place, so from there you’ll be able to find brands that sell what you’re looking for all in one place.
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Jasmine, you really are an inspiration!
Ready to shop ethical brands? Visit www.ethicalmadeeasy.com