Fashion in Action


Global Action Through Fashion (GATF)  is a non-profit organization founded with the vision to create a more equitable and sustainable world through fashion. We provide education & informational resources for consumers, producers & fashion industry professionals.

GATF is an intermediary organization creating a platform for the ethical fashion and conventional fashion communities to network, learn, collaborate, improve and exchange best practices.  GATF also strives to create a stronger and more informed consumer base. These goals are accomplished through educational and networking events; joint practitioner and academic conferences; annual state of the industry reports; online resources; and consulting services.

GATF was founded in January 2010 by Domenica Peterson and Grant Ennis in Oakland, California. With experience in international development and fashion and a personal background as a seamstress, Domenica saw ethical fashion as the ideal tool for solving the critical global environmental and social problems of today. Upon return from the UK where she experienced the ethical fashion community working collaboratively to promote ethical fashion and raise consumer awareness, she found the same was not true in the U.S. While her search for everything “ethical fashion” resulted in the discovery of hundreds of innovative organizations and companies, the US lacked a cohesive MOVEMENT to improve the fashion industry and, in turn, the world. Grant, with over 5 years experience in international non-profits both in the field and in the U.S., sees ethical fashion as the ideal framework for promoting supply chain consciousness among consumers in the first world. Together they founded GATF to create a platform for the ethical fashion and conventional fashion communities to network, learn, collaborate, improve and exchange best practices as well as create a stronger and more informed consumer base for ethical fashion goods throughout the world.


Want to have a positive impact on the world through your fashion choices? We make it easier for you.


Ethical fashion strives to make the world a better place; it is:

Social Responsibility

Ethical fashion means providing workers with fair hours, wages, and rights, as well as a healthy work environment. Further it refers to practices that take into consideration all associated with apparel supply chains including management, designers, production workers, sales and even we the consumers. This includes, but is not limited to:

• Fair and living wages for workers
• Safe, clean working conditions
• Worker’s rights (For example, those outlined in the ILO conventions)
• Workers’ freedom of association and voice in the workplace
• Promote traditional skills
• Promote rural development
• Locally made

Environmental Responsibility

Ethical fashion ensures that the process of getting the product from raw materials to the consumer has as little negative impact on the environment as possible. This can be done in a number of ways, depending on the impacts identified and the design strategies applied:

• Use of environmentally responsible materials (organic fibers avoid chemical use in growing fiber, polyester fibers can be made of recycled materials and require less energy in washing and drying, for example)
• Minimizing negative environmental impact by employing sustainable best practices (shipping, office waste, etc.)
• Reusing, reassembling, and maintaining clothes in use for longer (vintage/used clothing stores, repair services, taking apart old clothes and sewing new finished products with them)
• Designing for disassembly and repurposing clothes so they have a second life (disassembling clothes and using the material to create new finished products)
• Employing energy and water efficient processes for dyes and finishes and using non-toxic substances.
• Does not use pesticides or harmful chemicals
• Use innovative textiles that minimize harm on the environment and follow the precautionary principle with new technologies (produced from recycled or newly engineered materials)
• Minimize load on landfills by using Biodegradable products (e.g., ones that could easily be broken down by the environment at the end of their life cycle. Embodies cradle to cradle concept that materials should protect the ecosystem and be free of waste.)
• Minimal waste in the production process
Innovative new businesses that are not based on the make, use waste principle, but are based on principles of cycles
• Animal products are ethically sourced and vegetable tanned

Has An Impact

Ethical fashion means working to impact the greatest number of people in as positive a way as possible. You as an individual can make a huge difference, small companies can make a big difference, and even the world’s largest companies can be motivated to shift toward more ethical practices.

Conventional Companies With A Social Mission

Using a percentage of sales and re-directing it to non-profit programs and projects around the world. While not always socially or environmentally responsible, these programs bring new values into commerce and make the world a better place.

Why “Ethical Fashion”…?

“Ethical Fashion” encompasses “Sustainable Fashion”, “Eco Fashion”, “Fair Trade Apparel”, animal rights, and cultural concerns. It goes a step beyond to include all fashion that is socially and environmentally conscious.

What About Mainstream Fashion And The World’s Biggest Brands?

We believe the best approach is to work collaboratively with big companies. While not always associated with ethical practices, many of the world’s largest companies are making a huge impact! If a huge company produce even just a few pieces each season using ethical practices, it can have an enormous global impact on cotton farmers and the organic cotton market!

Becoming Fair Trade Certified by a third party organization, for example, can ensure that thousands of farmers and factory workers worldwide benefit from increased income. This is not easy because it can involve implementing complex new auditing systems on hundreds of thousands of farmers and factories across the world. If enough consumers make ethical fashion choices, companies will realize that switching more of their business makes good business sense and that the benefits outweigh the costs.. The consumer shapes the market, and your actions and choices send a message directly to brands on how market awareness of ethical fashion is shifting.

The $450 billion global fashion industry is one of the most important sectors of the global economy, creating jobs and clothes for people all over the world. Unfortunately, as of 2007, only $3 billion or half of one percent of this $450 billion is fair trade or environmentally sustainable. The reality of the industry is that many individual producers in the developing world work long hours under strenuous conditions for pennies on the dollar, far less than a living wage. The products they make are often produced using unclean energy sources and environmentally damaging materials and processes. Lack of consumer awareness and insufficient industry know-how allow these problems to continue and worsen.

Environmental Issues

Fashion has an impact on the environment in many places, throughout the entire lifecycle of a product. This includes the production of raw materials (natural and man made fibers), dyeing, spinning, weaving, finishing, cutting, sewing, packaging, transport, sales, consumption, and disposal. At least 8,000 chemicals are used to turn raw materials into textiles, many of which are toxic, corrosive, or include biologically-modifying reagents.

A few statistics:

• Production of textiles per year is estimated at between 60-70 million metric tons (more than 120 billion pounds)
• Around 40% of textiles produced around the world are polyester. Polyesters, nylons, and acrylics are made from petroleum, a non-renewable resource.
• The dying and finishing stages of the textile production process usually require chemical use and high water use. The majority of compounds used for applying color are highly carcinogenic or otherwise toxic, often being discharged into waterways.
• According to the EPA, the 2.5 billion pounds of post-consumer textile waste in the US represents 10 pounds for every person in the United States.
• Two thirds of a garment’s carbon footprint will occur after it is purchased. Washing and disposal is a big issue.
• A glance at conventional cotton:

• Current consumption of cotton is higher than ever before – with annual demand over 25 million tons.
• Worldwide more than 10% of all chemical pesticides and 22% of all insecticides are sprayed on cotton. The World Health organization estimates 20,000 farmers die a year as a result of the use of agricultural pesticides in developing countries. Developing countries bear the brunt of pesticide use – using only 25% of the world’s pesticides they experience 99% of pesticide-related deaths.
• Cotton is responsible for the release of US$2 billion of chemical pesticides each year – within which at least US$819 million are considered toxic enough to be classified as hazardous by the World Health Organization.
• In India, home to over one third of the world’s cotton farmers, cotton accounts for 54% of all pesticides used annually – despite occupying just 5% of land under crops.
• It takes over 1,800 gallons of water to grow the cotton needed for the average pair of jeans and over 400 gallons of water for one t-shirt.

Social Issues

We know there are sweatshops. We know most of our clothes are made in the developing world. Yet we continue to look for the cheapest possible $10 pair of jeans and choose not to think about the people who made them.

The fashion industry has the potential to be used as a great tool to eliminate poverty and raise the standard of living around the world. Too many garment workers in the developing world make far below a living wage, suffer poor working conditions, work strenuous hours, and have no freedom of association in the workplace while working for companies that bring in huge profits. Many of the least developed and smaller developing countries have built a huge dependency on the apparel sector. For example, it constitutes 80% of Cambodia’s export earnings, 53% of Sri Lanka’s, and 75% for Bangladesh.

In Bangladesh, there are 3 million garment workers, 85% whom are women. The organization War on Want’s investigations found that garment workers toiled unacceptably long hours – up to 80 hours a week, up to 12 hours per day. A 48-hour work week is considered normal, with 60 hours as the legal maximum. It was found that workers were often paid less or nothing for overtime and that physical abuse was common, with workers reporting that factory bosses were quick to belittle or physically assault them if targets were not being met. Women workers in particular were vulnerable – 60% of those that interviewed were subjected to obscene and sexually suggestive language in the workplace. In terms of salary, workers earned less than half a living wage. Bangladeshi protesters in August 2010 shared labels they had been sewing into clothing, including H & M, Calvin Klein, and Tesco.

Over a quarter of the world’s production of clothing and textiles is in China, which has a fast growing internal market and the largest share of world trade. There is no Fair Trade Certification in China. The enforcement of labor legislation is weak and the Chinese government places restrictions on the rights of workers to set up and work together in unions or the right to Freedom of Association.

Better Cotton Initiative 
Clean Clothes Campaign
Cotton Made in Africa 
Ethical Fashion Forum 
Ethical Trading Initiative 
Fair Labor Association 
Fair Trade Federation 
Fair Trade Resource Network 
Fair Trade USA
Fair Wear Foundation 
Fashion Fights Poverty
Fashioning an Ethical Industry
Freedom and Fashion 
Green America 
International Labor Rights Forum 
Labour Behind the Label 
Leather Working Group
Made by
National Cotton Council 
NRDC Clean By Design
Organic Exchange 
Responsible Sourcing Network
Scientific Certification Systems 
Shop for Change 
Sustainable Apparel Coalition
Sustainable Style Foundation 
Sustainable Cotton Project 
SweatFree Communities 
TED (Textiles Environment Design) 
United Students Against Sweatshops 
War on Want 
World of Good Development Organization 

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