Wednesday, December 31, 2008

MIND & BODY: ETHICAL FASHION: You are what you wear

'The reputation I really don't want is 'woolly". So speaks Ali Hewson, the wife of rock-and-roll legend Bono, and the co-founder of socially conscious clothing company Edun (www.edun.ie). She has nothing to fear: 'woolly' is hardly an image she has garnered. Although Hewson has preferred to stay out of the limelight throughout her 23-year relationship with U2 frontman Bono, her image is sleek. It hardly fits the stereotypical 'eco' mould.

Hewson, Bono and designer Rogan Gregory launched Edun eight weeks ago with the goal of providing sustainable employment for factory workers throughout the developing world. For its customers - who include Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Helena Christensen - it's about beautiful, edgy, Art Nouveau-inspired fashion for men and women.

'We know that no matter how much people want to dress ethically, nobody's going to wear a hair shirt,' says Hewson. 'They want to look good and feel good. That's the point of Edun: you buy the design first. The good story behind the clothes is secondary.'

Today's clothing industry relies on 'fast-fashion', where designs are manufactured quickly, at cheap-and-cheerful prices. Cheerful, that is, for the consumers at the end of the chain. 'One thing the fashion industry doesn't have is loyalty', says Hewson. 'It will keep moving for lower labour costs, from continent to continent and from season to season. Producers in Africa can't keep up, which means they can't offer regular employment to their employees. So everyone's living on a knife-edge economy.'

Edun is different. Hewson and Bono source factories in developing countries that pay their employees a decent wage. Rogan designs with those factories' facilities in mind. And, crucially, Edun stays loyal. But it is not a charity: it hopes to succeed in commercial terms, thereby providing a business model for other fashion companies and proving that it is possible to produce beautiful clothes beautifully, and at a profit.

If Edun achieves this, Hewson admits that there is a further stigma to overthrow. Ethical fashion has a reputation of being overly worthy. This doesn't sit comfortably in the chichi world of fashion. But impressive new technology means that more versatile, ethically made fabrics will soon be available. We're talking gossamer silk blended with hemp; lush taffeta made from corn; soft, supple organic cotton which has been farmed without using pesticides and fertilisers, without polluting the environment. According to a survey by the Organic Trade Association, sales of organic fibre products jumped 22.7 per cent in 2003, with women's clothing the fastest-growing category. For the ethical fashionista, a consumer heaven awaits.

PeTA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals; www.peta.org) have had an eye - and, as often as not, a paint-bomb - on the fashion scene for 25 years. Although they support all aspects of vegetarian dressing, their most prolific campaign rallies against fur. PeTA have been let down by both former spokeswoman Cindy Crawford, who later signed a contract with a fur company, and by Naomi Campbell, who contradicted her pledge that she'd 'rather go naked' by wearing fur on a 1997 catwalk. But PeTA's campaign remains defiant. Supported by the likes of Kate Moss, Sarah Jessica Parker and Charlize Theron, PeTA forces fashion giants to choose between celebrity endorsement and fur.

Stella McCartney (www.stella mccartney.com) is a dedicated supporter of vegetarian fashion: refusing to use fur or leather has done her no harm in sales or image, either at her own label, or when she reigned supreme at Chlo. In 2000, McCartney hit the headlines by turning down what anyone might well assume would be her dream job: because of their widespread use of leather, McCartney snubbed Gucci.

Even when it comes to the ultimate vegetarian fashion dilemma - footwear - McCartney remains true to her principles. While high street company Kurt Geiger will launch its Terra Plana line this autumn, with shoes made from recycled Pakistani quilts, sustainable wood and vegetarian tanned leathers, McCartney has already offered slinky plastic heels, parachute silk slippers, plush velvet sandals, and even a flesh-free range for Adidas. All of which is good news because there's little alternative.

The Vegetarian Shoes store in Brighton (www.vegetarian- shoes.co.uk) does a roaring trade, selling to celebrity veggies including Paul McCartney and Joaquin Phoenix, but owner Robin Webb acknowledges that his styles are more led by practicality than fashion. 'You need a lot of confidence to predict trends. We are better sticking to basics,' he says. Men can get essentials there, go to McCartney for best, and head to Converse, New Balance, Vans or Blackspot (www.adbusters.org) for vegetarian trainers.

Principled fashion is becoming de rigueur, says i-D fashion journalist Liz Hancock, who is now launching Project, a socially aware lifestyle magazine (www.project-magazine.com). 'We want to appeal to everyone from light to dark green; from people who have been wearing vegetarian shoes for years to those who just want a magazine with a little more integrity', says Hancock. All the labels featured in Project fashion shoots pass the magazine's standards in terms of ethics and style: they are environmentally, ecologically and socially responsible, and they hit the cutting edge. Hancock explains: 'We highlight which labels subscribe to which system of ideals. It's not passing a judgement, it's just showing people what they're buying into.'

'The cheaper the clothes, generally, the less was paid for them in the beginning', admits Ali Hewson. 'But we can charge a reasonable rate and still make a decent profit. There really is a revolution that can happen on the ground. People are starting to put pressure on the clothing industry to create great designs that they can wear and feel good about themselves - in every way.'

For the humbler wallet, there are mail order lines such as Howies (www.howies.co.uk), American Apparel (www.americanapparelstore.com), Loomstate (www.loomstate.org), and Sienna Miller's favourite, People Tree (www.ptree.co.uk). Meanwhile, shoppers who love their labels as well as their world can shop at Oscar de la Renta, Diane von Furstenberg, Katherine E Hamnett (from September - the 'e' is for 'ethical'), and, yes, at Stella McCartney.

'People are beginning to realise that you can make real change with the money in your pocket', says Ali Hewson. 'How you spend your money says a lot about you. People want to know that their clothes weren't made out of despair.'

Cosmetics

With a ban on animal testing of cosmetics throughout the UK, the Netherlands and, soon, Belgium, it seems a safe assumption that we can shop for cosmetics without worry.

However, throughout the EU, an estimated 35,000 animals are used in cosmetic tests every year. Until the EU bans on cosmetics animal testing (2009) and on the sale of animal-tested cosmetics (2009 - 2013) come into play, ethical shoppers need to take care.

It's also worth noting that that cosmetics that haven't been tested on animals are not necessarily vegetarian. Animal products crop up in soaps and lipsticks, and even make-up brushes are usually made with animal hair, although Origins (www.origins.com) and Urban Decay (www.urbandecay.com) use synthetic alternatives.

by Jessica Moore
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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

An Ethical Clothing Company Story

It may sound like a talkative monkey, but Gossypium is something even stranger- a clothing company that puts farmers first.

Their name comes from the Latin for cotton, and expresses their unexpected belief that the way clothes are made is as important as how they look. All their clothes are made from 100% organic Indian cotton woven on handlooms to prevent wasting energy and the build up of cloth mountains and without the use of any GM seeds.

The cotton they use is grown by farmers supported by the Agrocel farmers centre. Based in Gujerat, Agrocel helps farmers grow their crops completely organically with technical advice, support and regular visits. The 60 farmers are paid a fair, above market price for their produce, and have a long-term sustainable relationship with the company.

Abigail Garner, a director of the company, set up the first clothing collection for Traidcraft and knew how important it was to treat not just the farmers well, but the earth too. Instead of chemical colours, Gossypium uses vegetable dyes, a time-consuming but high quality alternative. No waxes or chemical treatments are used to spin the cotton.

The clothes are stitched in India and Gossypium is working towards total transparency and independent monitoring. Thomas Petit, a company director explains that in the meantime they visit the factories themselves, We try and use the same factories as fair trade organisations use. Where this isnt possible we visit the factories ourselves?. They have also set up an education fund linked to the garments, each item stitched means more money to buy books for local schools.

Gossypium has its own fashion and print designer who adds a fresh edge to the ethical and environmentally conscious company. Their yoga collection is particularly popular because wearers know they are helping others while they reach their higher plane! The collection is already stocked in 30 shops throughout the UK. Its growing fast and is very popular, says Tom.

Their childrens clothes are perfect for sensitive babies and their sensitive parents who prefer not to wrap their offspring in chemicals, and the hardwearing material withstands the games of the most robust kids. For adults the emphasis is on simplicity and comfort, but never at the expense of fit or style. We especially like their slash neck tops and strappy vests.

Gossypium is bent on not just altering the fashion industry but turning it on its head to give power to the producers. Because of this, all profits are shared between Agrocel and the design/sales part of the company. The aim is to get as many farmers into Agrocel as possible, giving them the freedom to work without endangering themselves with pesticides and to be paid fairly for their work. The unique combination of ethics and style will ensure pretty soon everyone will be talking about Gossypium.

Davinos Greeno

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Eco-friendly Fashion

Eco Friendly. Fret not: Our spotlight on the new, eco-conscious style guard has nary a burlap sack in sight (although many designers do incorporate sustainable, environmentally friendly materials like, yes, hemp).

Chic without the suffering: fashion displays its ethical face! Sworn Virgins Clothing "pure eco fashion"

Is Green the new black? Meet the designers of Sworn Virgins, a hip new eco–friendly clothing line whose stylish creations are made from bamboo. Gorgeous clothing. Available at spoiledbrat.co.uk With Sworn Virgins, fashion goes green. Every piece in this beautiful, eco-friendly collection of knit tops and dresses is made from ultra-soft, naturally fluid (and 100% biodegradable) bamboo jersey and bamboo/spandex blends. Minimal chemicals are involved, and even the water used in manufacturing is reclaimed and reused. Of course, Sworn Virgins is as true to fashion as it is to Mother Earth, with up-to-the-minute trends and classics in universally flattering, curve-hugging cuts. If you’re as environmentally conscious as you are style-conscious, Sworn Virgins is for you. Do good, and look good doing it!


For handbags choose Littlearth's stylish Family of eco-fashion Brands!

When Rob Brandegee and Ava DeMarco founded Little Earth Productions, Inc. in 1993 they had a simple but revolutionary idea: design and make fashionable, unique and trendsetting purses and belts by reusing and recycling materials that would otherwise be overlooked or thrown away. Not only did the idea work, but it introduced the world to a new term: ecofashion. In proportion to its popularity, Littlearth has grown from a small company working out of a suburban home into a multi-building design and manufacturing complex in the SoHo district of Pittsburgh. Now in its 15th year of business, Littlearth products from the Littlearth family of brands are starting conversations all over the United States and all over the world with distributors in Australia, Germany, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and the United Kingdom

stuart maclaren
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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ethical Fashion

It’s like that old joke about the shortest books in the world (Italian War Heroes, Swiss Comedians etc etc). “Ethical Fashion” could be the shortest story in the world because it really doesn’t exist.

There are ethical clothes — baggy, beige T-shirts made in Third World worker co-operatives from organic Fairtrade cotton — but not proper fashion.

OK, there are pockets of conscience. Vegetarian Stella McCartney with her stand against fur and leather. Easton Pearson manufacturing all their clothes (apart from the Indian embroidery) in Queensland. Err … and then my mind goes blank.

That’s not to say the fashion world is totally devoid of conscience. There is a lot of tireless work for AIDS and breast cancer charities, but when it comes to the real business of fashion, everything about it is fundamentally counter to current ethical concerns.

It is an industry based on fuelling consumption for things which are defined by their built-in obsolescence; on making people want things they don’t need and buy more than they can really afford; and on seducing us into believing that owning a material object can change our lives.

It is certainly one of fashion’s ironies that while spending $100,000 on a single dress might seem the very apogee of its decadence, it is at the peak of the fashion mountain that you will find the most ethical employment conditions. The “petite mains” (little hands) working in Paris couture salons are treated very differently from the almost slave labour in some Asian clothing factories. The Parisian master craftspeople are valued for their skills and the couture customer can pay the price for it.

It is at the other end of the market where the real horrors lurk. The current trend for cheaper and cheaper great clothes — which I confess I have been guilty of promoting in these pages — marvellous fun as it is for the Western consumer, is inevitably linked to terrible conditions for the people who make them. If we’re not paying for it — someone else is. Sorry if I’ve just ruined the jolly weekend shopping spree you were looking forward to, but that is the fact of it.

And it gets worse. Before you even get on to the conditions in a Thai sports shoe factory and the problem of knowing which big brands really use the ethical labour they — or rather, their contractors — claim, there are the environmental nightmares associated with the textile industry.

Take cotton — actually, don’t. Because the world’s favourite “natural” fibre is not, in fact, “pure and simple” as we have grown up to believe. Lovely as it is to wear and sleep in, cotton is one of the most pest-prone of crops, meaning that to produce it cheaply in industrial quantities, enormous amounts of chemicals have to be thrown at it.

About 150 grams of pesticides are used to cultivate the cotton for one T-shirt (that’s the equivalent of one cup, and it takes two and a half cups for a pair of jeans) so perhaps it’s not surprising that, according to a 1995 report into the industry by Allen Woodburn Associates, a quarter of all the world’s insecticides are used each year to grow cotton.

And when you add in the various soil sterilisers, fumigants, herbicides and defoliants also used to grow this “natural” fibre, we are talking about some of the most deadly chemicals in the world. According to the World Health Organisation, 20,000 people die each year in developing countries as a result of sprays used on non-organic cotton. In Benin, West Africa, 24 people died as a direct result of poisoning from cotton pesticides in 2000, including 11 children.

And that’s just the agricultural part of the textile cycle. At least 8000 chemicals are used at the next stage of processing, to turn raw material into clothes, towels, bedding etc, and some of the substances involved are known to be harmful to human health and wildlife, say environmentalists William McDonough and Dr Michael Braungart.

How are feeling about your “pure” cotton T-shirt now? Of course, all that chemical business happens before the shirt gets on your back and, like so many eco nightmares that are happening somewhere else, it’s easy to block it out.

But there is a growing sense of concern that the chemical toxicity associated with cotton production might not stop at the soil and unfortunate Third World labourers.

Call it the nicotine patch construct, but there is a body of thought that says by having such a highly processed product next to our skin we may absorb residues — such as the formaldehyde used as a dye fixer and anti-wrinkle finisher in some countries — into our bloodstreams. These uncomfortable ideas are contributing to a growing market for organically farmed cotton and naturally processed fabrics of all kinds. It might seem cranky and alarmist now, but I am certain it will one day be as normal to expect an organic option in your clothing as it is in your vegies, or your face cream.

Just like the boom in organic food, awareness of uncontaminated textiles is taking off at a grassroots level, with parents seeking organic cotton baby clothes, towels and bedding for their newborns. If we could absorb chemical residues through our gnarly adult hides, the thinking goes, how much more at risk is the superfine skin of tiny babies and their delicate systems?

It was this concern — as well as environmental impact — that prompted children’s wear designer Annette O’Donnell to launch her range of Gaia Organic Cotton baby wear in 2000. It’s now sold throughout Australia.

“I realised that the very fabric I was using was having a detrimental effect on our environment,” O’Donnell says. “I’d always thought of cotton as pure, but as I learnt it was a chemically intensive growing process, I felt the need to re-look my design direction.”

Russell Lamb and Tim Ower had a similar epiphany about the sheets and towels side of things, which they used to import in large volumes from China. They founded Eco Down Under, a gorgeous range of naturally produced and organic cotton items, sold at Holy Sheet and many other outlets, including their own store in Rozelle.

So that’s the baby and the bathroom sorted out, what about the rest of your organic cotton needs — like actual clothing? Well, this is where it gets tricky. Most of it is pretty yuk. Because Prada, Country Road et al just don’t do organic gear.

In fact, the only prominent designer I have ever known to speak out on the topic is that well-known political animal Katharine Hamnett.

“I thought we were just silly fashion designers not doing any harm, making silly clothes,” she says. “How wrong I was. I did some research into the environmental impact and it made for horrific reading.

“The [fashion] industry does not give a damn, yet research shows that consumers would prefer organic textiles if sold at the same price — and this is possible now. But no one buys sustainably produced clothes because they are worthy. They have to be desirable in their own right.

“That whole granola look has done the whole organic cotton movement a great disservice,” she says. “It’s so unnattractive, it’s foul.”

She’s right. Just as organic food has to be a more pleasant experience to eat than the processed variety, or no one would be willing to pay the premium price, organic clothes will need to be just as stylish as the conventional processed variety, or we won’t buy them.

If you hunt around on the internet, you will find some basic sportswear and underwear lines that are acceptable — greenculture.com for example, which brings them in from the US — but that’s about it. Sorry, I wish I had better news.

So what can we do? If we want change on this issue we have to get active.

First up, support the firms that are producing organic cotton items now because if small organic clothing companies start to do well, and there’s money to be made, the big guys will want a piece of it.

In just this way, the world’s biggest food corporations are now all creating their own organic brands; so the organic pasta sauce you buy, in its ethical looking packaging, may well be owned by Heinz.

I admit it will be hard, at this stage, to find much to buy beyond T-shirts, so write to your favourite designers and shops to tell them you are concerned about cotton farming practices, and would like them to offer an organic alternative — or you might be forced to shop elsewhere.

Wherever you do buy clothes, ask the shop assistants if they have an organic range. They will probably look at you blankly at first, but if enough people do it, word will filter up to buyers and management.

Best of all, explore the possibilities of hemp clothing, which is the real answer to the whole problem. But that, as they say, is another story.

Written by: Sydney Morning Herald
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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Why Buy Fairtrade And Ethical Bags?

Why were the quintessentially English clothing company Mulberry selling African Bags? And what part do bottle tops play in the battle against Aids?

Bottle-top bags may sound like an idea straight from Blue Peter, but Mulberry's version is miles away from double-sided sticky tape and coat hangers. The bags, crafted in Africa from recycled wire and bottle tops are lined with luxurious Congo leather, contrasting perfectly with their eye-catching, deconstructed image. And these bags are not just the latest fashion accessory, but an inspired way of raising money for Action Aids HIV/AIDS campaign.

Mulberrys non-profit bags are the focus of their campaign to halt the rising tide of people infected with HIV/AIDS. The company hopes the bags, retailing at 99 pounds, could raise as much as 100,000 pounds. And just in case you find you have nothing to wear or your budget doesn't quite stretch to the bags, they have also brought out bottle top campaign T-shirts and key rings. Susan Mears of Action Aid is thrilled with the scheme, This is a dream come true project- the money will come in very, very useful.
DEATH SENTENCE

40 million people worldwide are infected with HIV/AIDS, and the majority of them are young: between 15 and 25. The International Aids conference in July warned that in 30 African countries average life expectancy by 2010 would be 27 years of age. Karen Stanecki whose branch compiled the report for US Aid, told The Guardian these levels have not been seen since the end of the 19th century. Many of those dying today from Aids are financial providers, whose deaths leave poor families destitute- 14 million children have lost one or both parents to Aids.

The greatest obstacle to controlling Aids is the stigma surrounding it. In many cases people with the disease are shunned. Prisca, HIV positive for twelve years, has lost her husband, two children and three siblings to AIDS related illness and has been ostracised for speaking out about the disease, Up to this very day, I dont speak to my sister. She says I have tarnished our family name, she told Action Aid. This attitude can obstruct education, the most effective way to prevent the rate of infection rising.

Uganda is one of the few countries to subdue its Aids epidemic. The mobilisation of communities and a willingness to confront the epidemic led to falling prevalence rate. This is largely due to 5,000 projects throughout the country tackling the problem. Educating women and girls is essential in cutting the rate of infection. Unfortunately girls are often removed from education to care for relatives with Aids. In the last 5 years the number of women and girls infected has risen by 40% according to Oxfam.

Cameron, the son of Mulberry chairman, Roger Saul, experienced Ugandas effective education strategies first hand while teaching sexual health education for Students Partnership Worldwide. Anxious to find ways to support the charity, he found inspiration on the arm of a village girl: a bottle-top bag. He believed, once Mulberry-fied, the bag could raise the profile of Aids awareness. The attraction of the bags is partly their novelty, which he hopes will get people asking questions - theyre a fun way to engage people with the serious issues of AIDS/HIV. His father, Roger, visited him in Uganda and was equally pleased to have found such an original way to help the 14,000 people who are infected everyday.

FASHION CONSCIENCE

Action Aid plan to spend the money in Kenya, looking after the 730,000 children who have been made orphans by Aids and the more then 2 million who are currently living with the disease. The charity has fifteen years experience of pioneering prevention and community based care. They believe the best ways to change peoples attitudes and counteract the secrecy and ignorance allowing HIV to gain so many new victims is through loca groups. They support them through training, resources and advice to ensure the people most affected by the disease are at the centre of developing effective responses to the epidemic. SPW will also receive some of the money to allow them to continue to train students to give sexual heath education.

In East Africa, where the bags are made, there is another reason to celebrate. Not only are the bags created from recycling wire and bottle-tops and so are environmentally friendly, but Action Aid pledges the workers who create the bags are both paid and treated fairly. Let's hope Mulberrys bags set a trend for fashion without victims.

Indiann Davinos


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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ethical Fashion: What, Why and Why Now?

Overview

What is ethical fashion, why is it important, and why are we just hearing about it now? Well, to answer these questions we start with what is wrong with clothing production today. Most clothing available in stores today is produced in an unethical manner using sweatshop and/or child labour to ensure a larger profit margin. Manufacturers use unsustainable fabrics like non-organic cotton (dubbed as natural, it accounts for almost 25% of all pesticide use) and polyester (which is a petroleum by-product). They use conventional dying practices which release chlorine, chromium, and other pollutants into the environment posing a health risk to the farmers, assemblers and wearers (7 of the top 15 pesticides used on conventional US cotton crops are “possible” to “known” human carcinogens). The shift to ethical production practices in the clothing industry has been undeniably important for a long time making the market ripe for a positive change. Consumers are starting to demand better.

What is Ethical Fashion?

Ethical fashion is that which is produced using: fairly-paid and fairly-treated adult workers; sustainable fabrics and materials like organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, and reclaimed or recycled materials; low-impact fiber-reactive dyes or vegetable dyes; respect for a healthy environment and/or product for the farmer, the assembler, and the wearer of the clothing.

Why Ethical Fashion?

We are all responsible for how our own lifestyles affect the environment. Simple measures can be taken to achieve big changes by simply switching our buying patterns to include products made of low impact materials. Positive pressure on businesses who have yet to volutarily clean up their acts is very easily applied by simply choosing not to spend money on their products, and helping – little by little – to grow the businesses who have made an explicit commitment to responsible business practice.

Why Now?

The wonderful thing about the booming ethical fashion industry is the huge variety of designs, colours, cuts, fabrics and sizes now available. Long stigmatized as cousin to the burlap sack, the ethical offerings today are design-oriented. Designers with heart are creating beautiful, sexy, edgy, classic, current, imaginative, and, yes, flattering pieces – ethics will simply not be compromised and thankfully neither will the look and feel of their work. Reducing our footprint can be done without making any sacrifices.

One of the main driving forces of the ethical fashion boom is public awareness. Thanks to exposés on large manufacturers, the fact that sweatshop labour is used for the overwhelming majority of production can no longer be ignored. The power of boycotting has been demonstrated, as has the power of voting with our dollars to support good practice. Thanks to accessible work like “An Inconvenient Truth”, the lay person is no longer free to assuage their environmental guilt with the denial of the existence of climate change. Thanks to alternative medical practitioners, who deal with cause instead of just symptom, we're learning that we can build health by surrounding ourselves with and consuming healthy things.

Consumers are growing weary of the quantity without quality mentality. Most designers with an ethical bent to their art, work in small batches, producing high quality goods with exceptional fabrics. Consumers are, in growing numbers, appreciating the right to vote with their dollars; and are exercising it to support expansion of the sustainable textile industry, small farmers and farm co-operatives. We're all looking for ways to reduce our environmental impact, increase our social contribution, ease our consciences, hold on to some creature comforts, and continue celebrating art in all its forms.

Ethical Fashion

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

An Ethical Clothing Company Story

It may sound like a talkative monkey, but Gossypium is something even stranger- a clothing company that puts farmers first.

Their name comes from the Latin for cotton, and expresses their unexpected belief that the way clothes are made is as important as how they look. All their clothes are made from 100% organic Indian cotton woven on handlooms to prevent wasting energy and the build up of cloth mountains and without the use of any GM seeds.

The cotton they use is grown by farmers supported by the Agrocel farmers centre. Based in Gujerat, Agrocel helps farmers grow their crops completely organically with technical advice, support and regular visits. The 60 farmers are paid a fair, above market price for their produce, and have a long-term sustainable relationship with the company.

Abigail Garner, a director of the company, set up the first clothing collection for Traidcraft and knew how important it was to treat not just the farmers well, but the earth too. Instead of chemical colours, Gossypium uses vegetable dyes, a time-consuming but high quality alternative. No waxes or chemical treatments are used to spin the cotton.

The clothes are stitched in India and Gossypium is working towards total transparency and independent monitoring. Thomas Petit, a company director explains that in the meantime they visit the factories themselves, We try and use the same factories as fair trade organisations use. Where this isnt possible we visit the factories ourselves?. They have also set up an education fund linked to the garments, each item stitched means more money to buy books for local schools.

Gossypium has its own fashion and print designer who adds a fresh edge to the ethical and environmentally conscious company. Their yoga collection is particularly popular because wearers know they are helping others while they reach their higher plane! The collection is already stocked in 30 shops throughout the UK. Its growing fast and is very popular, says Tom.

Their childrens clothes are perfect for sensitive babies and their sensitive parents who prefer not to wrap their offspring in chemicals, and the hardwearing material withstands the games of the most robust kids. For adults the emphasis is on simplicity and comfort, but never at the expense of fit or style. We especially like their slash neck tops and strappy vests.

Gossypium is bent on not just altering the fashion industry but turning it on its head to give power to the producers. Because of this, all profits are shared between Agrocel and the design/sales part of the company. The aim is to get as many farmers into Agrocel as possible, giving them the freedom to work without endangering themselves with pesticides and to be paid fairly for their work. The unique combination of ethics and style will ensure pretty soon everyone will be talking about Gossypium.

Davinos Greeno

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Giant Step for Ethical Fashion

Trends

Food companies have been at the fore of responding to consumer demand for more ethical and environmental information on the products they buy, but now clothing firms are following suit.

Outdoor-apparel company Patagonia's website (www.patagonia.com) lets customers track the impact of its wares by giving details of the distance its garments travel, their carbon footprint and the energy used during production.

Timberland (www.timberlandonline. co.uk, pictured) grades its products on climate impact, chemicals used and resource consumption on its labelling.


And Danish high-fashion brand Noir (www.noir-illuminati2.com) is set to reveal the provenance of its fabrics on its labels, as well as an ethical "certification" that details how the product was made.

Thanks to thefuturelaboratory.com

by MIRIAM RAYMAN


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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Business, Ethics, And The Law

The primary objective of a business is to make money. Why would an individual or group of people start a business if he did not want to make money? An argument that is generated by some is: "Should profits be the only function of a business?"

The desire for businesses to make money can sometimes lead to what is considered unethical business practices. Keep in mind the words unethical and unlawful are two separate terms with two separate meanings. One side of the argument states that ethics should not play a part in business as long as the business abides by the law of the land then they should not concern themselves with ethical behavior, but they should act in the best interest of the organization. The other side of the argument states that for an economy to function in a capitalist fashion that businesses must act in an ethical fashion regardless if their actions are legal under law.

Milton Friedman contends that the sole responsibility of business is to increase its profits. Robert Almeder maintains that if capitalism is to survive, it must act in a socially responsible ways that go beyond profit making. The views of these two individuals go to the heart of the argument. This author believes that after reading their material that the views of both are exaggerated. I do believe that a business's responsibilities do go beyond what is legal. A business has a responsibility not only to the owners or stockholders, but also to the consumer who trust the business is acting not only in a legal manner but a safe and ethical manner as well. If a business goes out of its way to act in an unethical fashion then the business has broken their trust with the consumer. Once a business loses the trust of their consumers then profits will plummet. Seeing that profits are the primary function of a business then it is in the businesses best interest to maintain a trusting relationship with the consumers and continue to act in safe and ethical manner.

Keeping in mind that it is not the purpose of a business to propose or to dictate legislature nor ethical behavior to the individual, a business should not be held accountable for what a small population of consumers consider unethical. If the practice of the business is out in the open and hazards of their products are readily published and do not present the possibility of death involuntarily to the consumer then legislature should not dictate ethical behavior to business nor individuals for that matter.

Joseph Brochin

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

what is ethical fashion

We’ve talked a bit about the fashion industry in previous posts, and about the high cost of our cheap clothes. What we haven’t explored is where you can get ethical clothes from. That’s mainly because I didn’t know at the time, and I’ve been on a bit of a hunt.

Firstly though, what is ethical fashion?

I’d say there are two areas to look at - the people, and the environment. Or, if you prefer, fairtrade standards and organic standards.

Fartrade standards

Fairtrade standards are about the workers - both those who sew the clothes, and those who produce the raw materials. There are 30 million cotton farmers worldwide, in 90 different countries. Much of the crop comes from developing countries. Fairtrade cotton ensures that the growers are paid a living wage, and that women and children are not exploited in the harvesting of cotton.

It’s also about the people who make the clothes. Do they get a fair wage? What are their working conditions? What kinds of hours do they have to work? Do they get holidays and time off? Can they form unions to represent their views to their employers? Sweatshops are normal, but that does not make them right. Look up clean up fashion to find out more about this.

Organic standards

Secondly, ethical fashion respects the earth. Growing cotton is a polluting business. Cotton accounts for 3% of all cultivated land, but uses 20% of all chemical pesticides. Eight times more chemicals are used on cotton than on an average food crop. This pollutes rivers and soils, and it also has serious effects on the people working in the fields. A large percentage of the 20,000 deaths attributed every year to pesticides, are in the cotton fields of the developing world. A lot of these pesticides are unnecessary - cotton can be protected from pests with chilli, soap, or garlic. Further chemicals are used in processing and dyeing the cotton. One company estimates that 8000 different chemicals are used in producing a t-shirt.

Ideally then, ethical fashion is clothing that has been made with fairtrade organic cotton, in sweatshop-free conditions.

So where can you find those kinds of clothes? Well, they’re not as easy to find as they should be, but it is a growth market and it’s slowly making its way onto the high street. Here are some brands I’ve found - apologies for the menswear bias. Please add any more you know in the comments.

Marks and Spencer - M+S are leading the way in fairtrade cotton. They don’t use it in everything, so ask if you’re not sure. I believe they plan to use it in their entire range within five years.

Howies - this is a great little outdoor-wear company based in Wales, doing unpretentious high quality clothing with a sense of humour.

American Apparel - made in LA and setting a standard for the US clothing industry. They have a store in London, just across the way from Howies’ on Carnaby Street.

People Tree - a pioneering company making their clothes in co-ops in the developing world. I have a hand-sewn shirt from them and it feels unique and special.

Seasalt - a Cornish company making colourful organic clothing. I found them on holiday over the summer.

THTC - The Hemp Trading Company. There are lots of good reasons why hemp is a great sustainable crop - it grows so fast it doesn’t give weeds a chance, it needs almost no pesticides, and can be grown on marginal land. THTC specialise in music industry t-shirts and sweatshirts.

Kuyichi - streetwise organic denim, named after the Peruvian God of the rainbow, in case you were wondering.

Patagonia - outdoor and hiking company with a genuine passion for the environment.

Timberland - a bigger company taking responsibility, in a lumberjack kind of way.

Gossypium - a good range of environmentally sound and people-friendly clothing.

Ascension - fairtrade organic jeans, trousers and t-shirts for men and women.

Equop - vote for your favourite t-shirt designs.

Little green radicals - ethical babywear

That ought to do you for starters. There are loads more little companies doing interesting things on a smaller scale. Check out Inhabitat’s fashion category for some more quirky suggestions, including belts from recycled fire hoses, and handbags with solar panels, and some sensible things too. The Guardian’s ethical clothing galleries are great too, particularly for women’s wear and more fashionable stuff, and for accessories and shoes too.

What is Ethical Fashion
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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Forget Hippy — Ethical Fashion is Hip


Retailer interest in apparel brands that guarantee workers' rights and are environmentally friendly has reached such a peak that manufacturers now worry whether they can keep up with demand.

Until recently relegated to the fringes of the fashion world, ethical brands are fast becoming more mainstream. Widespread media coverage of the movement — plus platforms at events like Paris's Prêt-à-Porter trade show and London Fashion Week — have raised the profile of ethical fashion, so designers are becoming less concerned about how to find distribution than how to manage big orders.

"I don't know how we'll do the quantities," said Peruvian-born designer Judith Condor-Vidal, whose clothing and accessories made by 26 fair-trade cooperatives in South America and Asia will feature in PPR-owned La Redoute's winter 2007 catalogue.

"In the same way as people want to know where their chicken is from, they want to know where their clothes come from."
Averyl Oates, Harvey Nichols

As well as La Redoute, the ethical fashion movement has succeeded in capturing the attention of a broad spectrum of retailers, including high-end specialty chains.

"We've been watching this movement, looking at eco-type brands which have a strong fashion statement first," said Barbara Atkin, fashion director at Canada's Holt Renfrew, which has picked up Danish socially conscious brand Noir for spring.

"We're of the opinion that you can be fashionable and care about the world," added Averyl Oates, buying director at Harvey Nichols. The British retailer is hunting for other brands to stock alongside Noir, which it has carried for two seasons, and Edun, which it picked up this year. Edun is the socially conscious clothing brand created by Ali Hewson, Bono and designer Rogan Gregory.

"Provenance is key for consumers," Oates said. "We're finding that like the food market, in the same way as people want to know where their chicken is from, they want to know where their clothes come from."

Sales of ethically sourced clothing, which includes organic cotton, fair-trade clothes and recycled items, grew 30 percent in the U.K. to 43 million pounds, or $81 million at current exchange, in 2004, according to the Co-operative Bank's Ethical Consumerism report. Meanwhile, ethically motivated secondhand clothing purchases increased 42 percent to 383 million pounds, or $718 million.

While more recent statistics are not yet available, this year's Ethical Fashion Show, which took place in Paris from Oct. 13 to 16, suggests that growth isn't likely to slow anytime soon. More than 4,000 visitors, including scores of international media, attended the four-day event, a 54 percent jump over 2005. Featuring 60 brands from five continents, the third edition of the trade fair demonstrated how much the ethical category has diversified over the last year. Literally combining grassroots and high-end, designers ranged from newcomers like Yagan, a Chilean jewelry brand made from woven grass reeds, to better-known names such as Edun.

In addition to carrying ethical brands, major retailers are recruiting designers to make collections exclusively for them. La Redoute, for example, has carried its own fair-trade collection for two seasons and this year awarded two designers at the Ethical Fashion Show the opportunity to develop items for its winter 2007-2008 catalogue. Items by the winners, Brazilian brand Tudo Bom and Judith Condor-Vidal, will be available to La Redoute's 13 million subscribers next June. While Condor-Vidal had initial concerns about how she'll manage the orders, the designer, who is a member of the International Fairtrade Association and the U.K.'s Ethical Fashion Forum (EFF), is also an economist.

"It's an amazing opportunity. If big companies buy it, there is a much bigger impact," she said. "If I can help more people, well, that's my role."

Condor-Vidal has begun another partnership with hot U.K. retailer Topshop. The chain will take a collection of Bolivian waistcoats shunned by other retailers that have been redesigned by fashion students to create a line of handbags for spring-summer.

And Topshop announced at the Ethical Fashion Show that the winning designs of a Design4Life Ghana competition it supported are to be retailed at the chain. The competition was run by EFF in collaboration with the nongovernmental organization Tabeisa. The two winners' batik dresses, produced by Women in Progress, a Ghana-based fair-trade cooperative, will be available this spring.

"EFF on this occasion brought Topshop buyers to the table initially as judges," explained Elizabeth Laskar, director of global communications and events at EFF. "Through dialogue, this led to an even more positive outcome."

The backing of the fast-fashion retailer has lent kudos to the term "ethical" and given new confidence to aspiring designers hoping to tap into demand for fashion-forward yet ethical clothing and accessories.

"Brands need to tell a compelling story," said Holt Renfrew's Atkin. "But consumers have to love it and be drawn it to first. Then when they find out that by buying [a brand] they are making a difference, they feel great."

Those were the motivations behind Numanu Label of Love, a collection created using fair-trade and organic silk, cotton and wool, which will open a freestanding boutique in Paris's lively Marais neighborhood next month.

Founded by Anglo-French couple Olivia Lalonde and Emmanuel Walliser, the brand is designed "to attract people who are maybe less informed about fair trade who just like the clothes," according to Lalonde.

Consumers then find out that by buying a silk top, they have helped support marginalized communities in India and Cambodia. Lalonde's former career as a children's rights campaigner and Walliser's as an international banker makes for a formidable business objective: "To create as big a commercial base for Numanu as possible in order to maintain sustainable incomes for the largest number of people," Lalonde explained. The brand, which won the Ethical Fashion Show 2006 award, donated two-thirds of its prize money to its cooperatives.

Likewise Les Racines du Ciel (The Roots of the Sky, in English), a year-old brand, takes its name from a 1956 novel by Romain Gary about the environment. The moniker is meant to highlight its commitment to environmental issues. Yet the quality and softness of the recycled kimonos, silk and organic cotton tops, in soft pinks and grays, are designed to draw a fashion-conscious customer who might be surprised to learn the items are naturally dyed with sweet potatoes and mud.

Nathalie Goyette, the brand's development manager, first saw the natural dyeing techniques when on a trip to China years ago. She kept some material, and a chance meeting with a Chinese student in France connected her to a supplier who helped create the environmentally sound collection. Demand has since boomed. "I started out ordering 50 meters of fabric, and now it's more than 1,000," she said.

Similarly, the founders of six-month-old brand Fées de Bengale (Fairies of Bengal in English) place fashion and ethics on a level footing. Their feminine collection of organic silk and cotton tops targets concept stores and ethically focused boutiques, yet the brand's name conjures up images of the women who hand-sew the collection in India.

"It's a mutual exchange. We wanted to make the most of the women's savoir faire," said Elodie Le Derf, the brand's stylist who previously worked at Vanessa Bruno, explaining the couturiers give them feedback and ideas for designs.

Art. 23, founded by the French Fair Trade Co. in September, is also aiming for a chic yet caring image. The trendy collection of minimalist shirtdresses and tuxedo-inspired shirts was designed by Adam Love, who has worked with Karl Lagerfeld and Antik Batik, yet its name pays homage to its social commitments, providing a decent living for the disadvantaged women who make it in India. Referring to Article 23, the universal declaration of human rights, "immediately prompts consumers to think of the respect of human rights," said Art. 23 commercial director Marie Mamgioglou.

As ethical brands multiply both in number and in style, not to mention marketing savvy, so do calls for greater transparency across the entire supply chain. Participants at this year's Ethical Fashion Show had to answer a nine-page questionnaire covering environmental issues and workers' rights, as well as social and business objectives. Each brand's ethical claims were then identified for buyers, either fair trade, traditional skills, recycling, organic or social projects.

Show organizer Isabelle Quéhé said deciding on a definition of what is in fact ethical is problematic. For Quéhé, pure silk ready-to-wear pieces and evening gowns from designer Torgo based on traditional Mongolian costumes epitomize what is ethical.

"It's about promoting the traditions in less-wealthy southern countries, where the older generation is dying — and that savoir faire with them," she said.

Equally, designers using recycled materials, such as Bilum, which makes funky bags from advertising posters and seat belts, fit her definition. And for the first time the show featured a Canadian designer who employs recycled fur. Quéhé's reasoning: "If it wasn't reused, it would be thrown away in land-fill sites. It's less polluting to recycle it."

The more the ethical clothing category continues to grow, the less it seems another passing fad.

"[Ethics] are part and parcel of modern life," said Harvey Nichols' Oates, pointing to the popularity of Al Gore's documentary on the environment, "An Inconvenient Truth," as evidence of growing sensibilities. "We are not saying that fashion is going to change the world," said Quéhé, "but these amazing stories are just many more drops in the ocean.

"http://50rx3annex.blogspot.com/2006/10/wwd-ethical-fashion-coverage.html
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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ethical, Organic, Sustainable


Ethical, organic, sustainable – you’ve heard these terms but what do they really mean?

Bamboo – the panda’s favourite food can be used instead of cotton to make clothes. Bamboo grass grows fast without chemicals, so provides a ready supply of material.

But the process of turning bamboo into yarn and cloth can involve chemicals and may use a lot of water – some factories are better than others. To make sure the bamboo has been sourced environmentally, it’s a good idea to ask where the raw bamboo comes from and how it’s processed.

Cotton – needs lots of water and fertiliser to grow. Traditionally, farmers use chemical fertiliser and pesticides to grow cotton. The chemicals can damage farmers’ health and pollute the water supply. Growing cotton can spoil the soil quality, leaving it open to erosion, which leads to areas of land around the globe becoming unusable. Organic cotton is better for the environment because the farmers don’t use chemical pesticides.

Ethical fashion – fashion that has been made, worn and passed on in a way that looks after people, animals and the environment.

Fairtrade – the Fairtrade Mark is an independent, consumer label administered by the UK's Fairtrade Foundation and its international partners. If produce carries the Fairtrade Mark, it means the producer’s been inspected, certified and operates to international environmental and social standards. In return, the producer is guaranteed a fair price for their produce. The price includes extra money to invest in community projects such as schools.

Fair trade – the fair trade movement is about making sure producers in developing countries get paid a fair price for their goods. It’s also about improving working conditions for those who produce them. But the words 'fair trade' are not an official brand and have no certification behind them.

Fast fashion – clothing made quickly and sold cheaply in bulk. It means we can afford a new outfit each week but the clothes may not last long and soon end up in the bin.

Hemp – from the cannabis family, hemp can be used instead of cotton to make clothes. Hemp grows easily without heavy use of chemicals and is not as harsh on the soil as cotton. It needs less water than cotton to grow but it does take more energy to process and can involve chemicals. As it’s anti-bacterial, you don’t need to wash hemp clothes as often as cotton ones – better for the environment.

Labour rights – the rights of people who work in the clothing industry from raw material to finished garment. In developing countries, people often don’t get fair wages and have fewer rights. They may be in short-term contracts so may not get sick pay or holiday pay. Many people find themselves working under conditions that may be harmful to their health. One way of safeguarding workers' rights is through a union, but these are often officially or unofficially banned.

Landfill – aka the dump or tip. When you chuck out clothes, they take up valuable space in landfill and chemicals from them can leach into surrounding soil.

Organic – clothes made from materials grown without chemicals or similar.

Pesticide – a chemical that kills the insects and diseases that damage plants. Pesticides are harmful to the farmers growing the cotton - they can cause illness and even death among cotton farmers if they’re exposed to them every day. Pesticides also affect local eco-systems, killing certain plants and animals and causing an imbalance.

Recycled – old clothes or scraps of materials that are turned into new items. Many ethical designers create new clothes from recycled ones or use industry remnants and off-cuts. Hand-me-downs and second hand/charity shop clothes all count as recycled too.

Refashioned/Restyled – wearing an old garment in a new way, perhaps by customising it. This keeps it in circulation and out of landfill.

Sustainable – producing clothes in a way that’s less damaging to the environment. For example, cotton farmers can reduce the amount of pesticides they use, by using natural methods of controlling the insects that damage their crops. Sustainability also includes a social aspect. For example, small co-operatives can employ people from local communities, helping to prevent migration to cities to find work.

Swishing/Swapping/Shwopping – parties or websites where people exchange clothes they no longer wear.

Vintage – fashionable second-hand clothing from yesteryear, be it a 1960s dress or 1970s chunky platform shoes. Kate Moss, Johnny Depp, Kiera Knightly, Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna are all fans.
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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Issues and Trends in the Fashion Industry



The following is a summary of key issues and needs in the fashion industry and a brief overview of some recent trends in responding to these.

A Political Issue
Sustainable trading remains a political issue for the fashion industry despite the soaring levels of ethical consumerism in the UK and the rising spend on ethical fashion.

Proliferation of Tools
To address consumers’ ethical concerns many companies have developed policies, codes of conduct and standards which their suppliers are expected to meet.

No Unified Approach
However, to date no commonly recognised mechanism or unified approach has been developed resulting in low levels of consumer confidence and decelerated development of the ethical fashion market.

Complex & Interconnected
The social and environmental challenges faced by the fashion industry are characterised by their complexity and interconnectedness.

Lateral Thinking
Lateral and innovative thinking is needed to address complex sustainability and corporate responsibility issues on an industry level.

Industry Best Practice
As the demand for ethically sourced products continues to increase, so too does the need to promote industry best practice and commonality of approach in order to achieve greater economic, social and environmental impact.

Networked Learning and Action
Many organizations have begun to think outside the box and appreciate the commercial, social and environmental benefits of networked learning and action (e.g. Nike: the Organic Exchange at www.nikeresponsibility.com, November 2004; GlaxosmithKline’s Hospice care network).

Partnerships
A significant number of companies are making a conscious choice to overcome their organizational differences by convening or joining multistakeholder partnerships.

New Capabilities
Despite the challenges that interorganizational collaboration brings, it is becoming a popular option among those looking to reduce transaction costs, aiming at new positioning in markets and seeking access to new knowledge and capabilities.
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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

How ethical is your fashion?

Police prevented a crush when Primark's Oxford St store opened Ethical fashion
What was YOUR reaction to those pictures of the new flagship Primark store in Oxford Street being mobbed by hungry shoppers?

Did you wish you were there bagging a bargain? Or did you find the whole thing an extraordinary example of Britain's obsession with shopping?

If your answer is the latter, you are in influential company.

Jane Shepherdson, the woman who turned around Top Shop, believes the whole thing is proof we have become a nation that's gone nuts about throwaway clothes.

"It feels like something that has gone too far", she told me.

"It feels like people are addicted to shopping and consuming and having new things all the time. I think it has become really boring. Things are so accessible, you can look like a celebrity immediately and for a fiver."

And does she think people look good on fast fashion?

"Not particularly, no."

Individuals

But Shepherdson, who became chief executive of the Whistles womenswear chain last week, reckons things are about to change radically.

Ahead of the 2008 London Fashion Week, and in her first television interview since leaving Philip Green's empire, she told Newsnight: "Things go in cycles. I feel we are about to come to an end of a cycle and go somewhere different. I think people have become a bit bored with the idea of 'isn't it great, it is so cheap', I am hoping people will start to want to be a bit more individual again."

We need to be tempted into buying beautiful, ethical, sustainable clothes
Jane Shepherdson
So what are people going to start buying instead? Shepherdson has been doing her own research over the last year, and reckons there is a gap in the market for quality, beautifully designed pieces that last.

In the end, they offer more value than all those fast fashion pieces that fall apart after a few months as a result.

Landfill

"Buy less!" is just the clarion call that campaigners for a greener and more sustainable fashion industry have been waiting to hear.

We are buying a third more clothes than we were a decade ago. Every year we buy around 2m tonnes, and about 1.5m tonnes end up in landfill. The clothing industry is a close rival to the chemical industry in its levels of pollution.

We recycle only a fraction of our wardrobes. And clothes are now so cheap because we pay so little to the people who make them in developing countries far from our gaze.

Key voices within the industry are starting to call for a rethink on our extraordinary levels of clothes consumption.

The head of the London College of Fashion, Dr Frances Corner, sets out her stall: "We have to think more carefully before we buy, we have to buy fewer clothes anyway, and pay more for them - and not subsidise people who're living sometimes on 15p a week so we can change our image all the time."

Dissolving clothes

We are spending a third more on clothes than we were a decade ago
Dr Frances Corner, London College of Fashion
Some of the big high street retailers are making efforts to tackle this, but it doesn't change the fact that people ultimately need to buy fewer clothes.

Sainsbury's is helping fund an innovative project at the London College of Fashion: making clothes that dissolve over time. The practical applications are not yet clear.

For now, the point is to promote a debate on sustainable fashion.

Dr Corner is calling for a return to the way we used to dress in Britain - buy classic pieces that last, and develop your individuality through your clothes.

It doesn't mean returning to austerity times - instead it's about finding the fun in holding onto your clothes for longer.

"Customise them," she suggests, "exchange them with other people, eventually recycle them into something different. I think it will be much more fulfilling for people in the end than the throwaway frenzy we have now."

Democratisation of clothes

Everyone agrees it means clothes will have to cost a bit more if they are going to reflect their toll on the environment - and ensure the people who make them are paid properly.

But the argument that low-income shoppers will be excluded from sustainable fashion gets short shrift from Dr Corner: "We are spending a third more on clothes than we were a decade ago, so the money is there."

In other words, the much lauded "democratisation" of clothes is really about everyone now being able to buy LOTS of clothes.

Jane Shepherdson thinks that in a quality market there's scope for sustainable fashion - with one big caveat: it has to look great.

"The whole ethical clothing market has got a long way to go," she says, "We don't want hair shirts, very few people are doing anything interesting and design is critical. We need to be tempted into buying beautiful, ethical, sustainable clothes; not being made to feel guilty… At the end of the day the consumer dictates. The best way to encourage her to buy is to make it as beautiful as you can."

So bury the morals - a depressing message, but doubtless commercially savvy.

Something else that would help is government legislation - for example targets and indirect taxation - to make non-ethical clothes less competitive.

In the words of Britain's first professor of sustainability, Tim Jackson, of the University of Surrey: "All the studies find that even people with strong pro-environmental values find it very difficult to maintain those values. They struggle to lead the lives they want to lead. That is where legislation can help."

By Madeleine Holt
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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

We are Eco-Warriors!



Going green might be old news in the fashion world, but it’s having an effect on high-end designers and British high street brands as we speak. More than a year after making headlines in the tabloids and broadsheets, Eco-Fashion is still a very hot topic.

Only recently, weekly glossy, Grazia, and monthly fashionista favourite, Elle, have dedicated full spreads to becoming Eco-Warriors, saving the earth one ethically (but fashionably) clad foot at a time. The question is, can you be ethical, yet fashionable at the same time?

The answer to this question is a definite yes! You only have to look to the runways of this season to see that it’s not only designers like Stella McCartney and Noir who have a conscience, even affordable brands like Topshop, Marks and Spencers, and H&M are going organic (and have been for some time).

Topshop have a fantastic Fairtrade range, as well as also selling vintage and recycled clothing (check out Peek-a-Boo and People Tree for some seriously fabulous items) that won’t dent your pocket!

It’s not only clothing that’s making headlines, Eco-fashion has now extended to bags, shoes, beauty and jewellery too, thanks to celeb inspirers like Bono’s wife, Ali Hewson and her cult brand, Edun.

And if you’re feeling particularly brave and ethically fashion forward, why not give Sainsbury’s new Eco range a try? With a launch later this year of clothing made purely from recycled plastic designed to feel like viscose and polyester you really will be doing your bit for Mother Earth!

by Gabi Muller
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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ethical Fashion; Overview

What is ethical fashion, why is it important, and why are we just hearing about it now? Well, to answer these questions we start with what is wrong with clothing production today. Most clothing available in stores today is produced in an unethical manner using sweatshop and/or child labour to ensure a larger profit margin. Manufacturers use unsustainable fabrics like non-organic cotton (dubbed as natural, it accounts for almost 25% of all pesticide use) and polyester (which is a petroleum by-product). They use conventional dying practices which release chlorine, chromium, and other pollutants into the environment posing a health risk to the farmers, assemblers and wearers (7 of the top 15 pesticides used on conventional US cotton crops are “possible” to “known” human carcinogens). The shift to ethical production practices in the clothing industry has been undeniably important for a long time making the market ripe for a positive change. Consumers are starting to demand better.

What is Ethical Fashion?

Ethical fashion is that which is produced using: fairly-paid and fairly-treated adult workers; sustainable fabrics and materials like organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, and reclaimed or recycled materials; low-impact fiber-reactive dyes or vegetable dyes; respect for a healthy environment and/or product for the farmer, the assembler, and the wearer of the clothing.

Why Ethical Fashion?

We are all responsible for how our own lifestyles affect the environment. Simple measures can be taken to achieve big changes by simply switching our buying patterns to include products made of low impact materials. Positive pressure on businesses who have yet to volutarily clean up their acts is very easily applied by simply choosing not to spend money on their products, and helping – little by little – to grow the businesses who have made an explicit commitment to responsible business practice.

Why Now?

The wonderful thing about the booming ethical fashion industry is the huge variety of designs, colours, cuts, fabrics and sizes now available. Long stigmatized as cousin to the burlap sack, the ethical offerings today are design-oriented. Designers with heart are creating beautiful, sexy, edgy, classic, current, imaginative, and, yes, flattering pieces – ethics will simply not be compromised and thankfully neither will the look and feel of their work. Reducing our footprint can be done without making any sacrifices.

One of the main driving forces of the ethical fashion boom is public awareness. Thanks to exposés on large manufacturers, the fact that sweatshop labour is used for the overwhelming majority of production can no longer be ignored. The power of boycotting has been demonstrated, as has the power of voting with our dollars to support good practice. Thanks to accessible work like “An Inconvenient Truth”, the lay person is no longer free to assuage their environmental guilt with the denial of the existence of climate change. Thanks to alternative medical practitioners, who deal with cause instead of just symptom, we're learning that we can build health by surrounding ourselves with and consuming healthy things.

Consumers are growing weary of the quantity without quality mentality. Most designers with an ethical bent to their art, work in small batches, producing high quality goods with exceptional fabrics. Consumers are, in growing numbers, appreciating the right to vote with their dollars; and are exercising it to support expansion of the sustainable textile industry, small farmers and farm co-operatives. We're all looking for ways to reduce our environmental impact, increase our social contribution, ease our consciences, hold on to some creature comforts, and continue celebrating art in all its forms.

Article on Ethical Fashion
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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Base Code Principles of Implementation

ETI has developed a code of labour practice - the 'Base Code' - reflecting the most relevant international standards with respect to labour practices which will be used as the basis of its work.

ETI member companies are expected to adopt this Base Code, or to adopt their own code so long as it incorporates the Base Code. The Base Code which is accompanied by a set of general principles concerning implementation, provides a foundation for ETI's philosophy of learning.

Principles of Implementation:

The purpose of ETI is to identify, develop and promote good practice with respect to implementing codes of labour practice.

Critical areas include monitoring and verification, and transparency and disclosure, to determine and communicate whether standards embodied in the code are being achieved. ETI members accept the following as general principles upon which to develop or refine their search for best practice.

1. Commitment
  • The company gives its membership of ETI, the code and its implementation process an informed and explicit endorsement.
  • This commitment is communicated throughout the company and to its suppliers and sub-contractors (including closely associated self- employed staff).
  • A member of senior management is assigned responsibility for the implementation of compliance with the code.
  • The code and the implementation process is integrated into the core business relationships and culture.
  • The company will ensure that human and financial resources are made available to enable it to meet its stated commitments.
2. Monitoring, independent verification, and reporting
  • Member companies accept the principle that the implementation of codes will be assessed through monitoring and independent verification; and that performance with regard to monitoring practice and implementation of codes will be reported annually.
  • Companies will engage with other members in the design, Implementation and analysis of pilot schemes to identify good practice in monitoring and independent verification and share this experience with other members.
  • Company members will draw on this experience in establishing where relevant with other ETI members' work plans to implement programmes of monitoring, independent verification, and reporting, and will report progress against these programmes to and through the ETI in a format and timing to be agreed.
  • Workers covered by the code shall be provided with a confidential means to report failure to observe the code and shall be otherwise protected in this respect.
3. Awareness raising and training
  • All relevant personnel are provided appropriate training and guidelines that will enable them to apply the code in their work.
  • Suppliers are made aware of the code, and the company's commitment to sourcing from suppliers who observe the standards in the code.
  • Workers whose work is covered by the code are, where possible, made aware of the code and implementation principles or procedures.
4. Corrective actions
  • Member companies commit themselves, on the basis of knowledge gained from monitoring to; (a) negotiate and implement agreed schedules for corrective actions with suppliers failing to observe the terms of the code, i.e. a continuous improvement approach; (b) require the immediate cessation of serious breaches of the code, and; (c) where serious breaches of the code persist, to terminate any business relationship with the supplier concerned.
5. Management procedures, pricing and incentives
  • Negotiations with suppliers shall take into account the costs of observing the code.
  • Understanding and implementation of company policy with respect to its code of labour practice shall constitute a positive performance measure when assessing appropriate personnel.

ETI
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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ethical Fashion, Rising

Attention fashionistas! There are now even more opportunities to be smartly dressed in every sense of the word. The Financial Times Weekend features a story about the proliferation of ethical fashion labels. ("Forget Black: Fashion's Going Green" by Dimi Gaidatzi, May 14/15, 2005). These are designers and catalogue retailers who are producing socially and ecologically sustainable clothing lines without compromising high design and style, thus blowing away (yet again) the old tradeoffs between performance, principles and in some cases price -- the exception being the burgeoning eco-lux brands, of course, which are priced beyond most mortals' means, but influencing the "influencers" is a clever tactic as celebrities, for better or worse, set standards.

The article mentions: Edun, the new range designed by U2's Bono and his wife Ali Hewson which is available at Selfridges in the UK, People Tree, veteran designer Katharine Hamnett, Romp Fashion, shoemaker Terraplana, United Nude, Sari, Nathalie Hambro, and Buba London, to name a few in Europe. (Also check out past WC posts mentioning fashion bags with green integrity and eco-designer Jenny McPherson.)

So long gone are the days when sporting eco-friendly threads just meant wearing ugly itchy hemp pants or recycled tire jackets! (Not that there is anything wrong with these per se but the market for these is small.) But seriously, this is a great example of how we can make sustainability work through better design across all parameters. Make something beautiful, make something unique, make something with a story and feel-good values behind it, and make it more accessible and user-friendly -- and you have the catalytic recipe for shifting a niche category into a mainstream phenomenon. (Whadda say shoppers we help this along!)

And sure enough "momentum is building" writes the FT, citing the first ethical fashion show last year in Paris and the socio-environmental Anti-Apathy campaign in London. New research and materials in fibers is producing dividends as well. This is a "long term change rather than some kind of trend."

What these offer are not just ways of curbing child labour or environmental damage, but ways of tackling sustainable development, ethical commerce, environmental performance and aesthetic innovation; all of these factors are a crucial part of their brand and design manifesto.

In other words, this is a veritable win-win that harnesses market and social forces. As David Bowie said, "the more we commodify things, the more we'll want hand-made things out of wood." Something deep is shifting in terms of what people really want, need and desire. We're getting a glimpse of this here. Now, it's time to apply ingenious superior design not just to the quality of consumption but the quantity too. More stuff is still more stuff.

Nicole-Anne Boyer
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ETHICAL TRADING INITIATIVE



  • EMPLOYMENT IS FREELY CHOSEN
  1. There is no forced, bonded or involuntary prison labour.
  2. Workers are not required to lodge "deposits" or their identity papers with their employer and are free to leave their employer after reasonable notice.
  • FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION AND THE RIGHT TO COLLECTIVE BARGAINING ARE RESPECTED
  1. Workers, without distinction, have the right to join or form trade unions of their own choosing and to bargain collectively.
  2. The employer adopts an open attitude towards the activities of trade unions and their organisational activities.
  3. Workers representatives are not discriminated against and have access to carry out their representative functions in the workplace.
  4. Where the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining is restricted under law, the employer facilitates, and does not hinder, the development of parallel means for independent and free association and bargaining.
  • WORKING CONDITIONS ARE SAFE AND HYGIENIC
  1. A safe and hygienic working environment shall be provided, bearing in mind the prevailing knowledge of the industry and of any specific hazards. Adequate steps shall be taken to prevent accidents and injury to health arising out of, associated with, or occurring in the course of work, by minimizing, so far as is reasonably practicable, the causes of hazards inherent in the working environment.
  2. Workers shall receive regular and recorded health and safety training, and such training shall be repeated for new or reassigned workers.
  3. Access to clean toilet facilities and to potable water, and, if appropriate, sanitary facilities for food storage shall be provided.
  4. Accommodation, where provided, shall be clean, safe, and meet the basic needs of the workers.
  5. The company observing the code shall assign responsibility for health and safety to a senior management representative.
  • CHILD LABOUR SHALL NOT BE USED
  1. There shall be no new recruitment of child labour.
  2. Companies shall develop or participate in and contribute to policies and programmes which provide for the transition of any child found to be performing child labour to enable her or him to attend and remain in quality education until no longer a child; "child" and "child labour" being defined in the appendices.
  3. Children and young persons under 18 shall not be employed at night or in hazardous conditions.
  4. These policies and procedures shall conform to the provisions of the relevant ILO standards.
  • LIVING WAGES ARE PAID
  1. Wages and benefits paid for a standard working week meet, at a minimum, national legal standards or industry benchmark standards, whichever is higher. In any event wages should always be enough to meet basic needs and to provide some discretionary income.
  2. All workers shall be provided with written and understandable Information about their employment conditions in respect to wages before they enter employment and about the particulars of their wages for the pay period concerned each time that they are paid.
  3. Deductions from wages as a disciplinary measure shall not be permitted nor shall any deductions from wages not provided for by national law be permitted without the expressed permission of the worker concerned. All disciplinary measures should be recorded.
  • WORKING HOURS ARE NOT EXCESSIVE
  1. Working hours comply with national laws and benchmark industry standards, whichever affords greater protection.
  2. In any event, workers shall not on a regular basis be required to work in excess of 48 hours per week and shall be provided with at least one day off for every 7 day period on average. Overtime shall be voluntary, shall not exceed 12 hours per week, shall not be demanded on a regular basis and shall always be compensated at a premium rate.
  • NO DISCRIMINATION IS PRACTISED
  1. There is no discrimination in hiring, compensation, access to training, promotion, termination or retirement based on race, caste, national origin, religion, age, disability, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, union membership or political affiliation.
  • REGULAR EMPLOYMENT IS PROVIDED
  1. To every extent possible work performed must be on the basis of recognised employment relationship established through national law and practice.
  2. Obligations to employees under labour or social security laws and regulations arising from the regular employment relationship shall not be avoided through the use of labour-only contracting, sub- contracting, or home-working arrangements, or through apprenticeship schemes where there is no real intent to impart skills or provide regular employment, nor shall any such obligations be avoided through the excessive use of fixed-term contracts of employment.
  • NO HARSH OR INHUMANE TREATMENT IS ALLOWED
  1. Physical abuse or discipline, the threat of physical abuse, sexual or other harassment and verbal abuse or other forms of intimidation shall be prohibited.

The provisions of this code constitute minimum and not maximum standards, and this code should not be used to prevent companies from exceeding these standards. Companies applying this code are expected to comply with national and other applicable law and, where the provisions of law and this Base Code address the same subject, to apply that provision which affords the greater protection.

Note: We have made every effort to ensure that the translations of the ETI Base Code and Principles of Implementation are as complete and accurate as possible. However, please note that in both cases it is the English language documents which should be treated as the official versions.
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Friday, August 29, 2008

What is Ethical Fashion

Photo credit: Kuyichi organic fair trade jeans.

Ethical fashion means fashion which takes into consideration the people behind the clothes we wear, as well as the environment. When you buy a piece of clothing, you may not think twice about where it was originally made, by whom and under what conditions.

The clothing industry is a complex one - and all the clothes we wear have a story behind them. It is quite common for one piece of clothing - say a pair of jeans - to be made up of components from five or more countries, often thousands of miles away, before they end up in our high street store.

All the steps in the production of this pair of jeans affect the people working to grow cotton, to weave the denim and to make the jeans. These steps also affect the environment we live in.
The journey of a pair of jeans from cotton plant to rubbish tip
  • Growing the cotton - Cotton provides nearly half of the worlds textile needs and it is often seen as a natural or environmentally friendly product. In fact cotton uses nearly a quarter of all the world's insecticides. These are harmful both to the farmers growing the cotton, who may suffer from blood poisoning as a result of using them, and to the environment.
  • Weaving, dying, bleaching, and softening the fabric - If you have ever borrowed any of your parents old clothes from the 60's and 70's for a fancy dress party you might notice how rough and itchy they were. Nowadays fabrics used for clothing are much softer on the skin. That includes denim. This has a lot to do with the chemicals used to soften the fabric they are made from. As well as softening agents, dyes and bleaches are an important part of making your jeans look and feel the way they do. Many of these chemicals, if not used or disposed of properly, can be very toxic to people and to the environment and even to the person who wears the jeans when they are complete!
  • Sewing the jeans - Because labour costs are cheaper, clothing is often made in some of the poorest parts of the world; for example in Asia, Africa, and South America. Although this can bring real benefits to communities through providing work and steady incomes, in many parts of the world it means unfair and unsafe working conditions, long hours, and pay which is so low that it does not allow workers enough income to pay for food, healthcare, or other basic needs.
  • Transporting the jeans to the UK - Because most clothing is made in poorer parts of the world and the markets where it is bought are in richer parts of the world (eg. Europe and the USA), it often needs to travel thousands of miles before reaching its destination. This involves transportation by sea, by road and even by air: all of which is dependent upon the use of oil, petrol and diesel. The use of these fuels pollutes the environment we live in, and is responsible for global warming.
  • Buying the jeans from a high street store - Over the last twenty years, the costs of the clothes we can buy on our high streets has gone down and down. In fact you can probably buy a pair of jeans for as little as £4 in some UK high street stores. Prices this low mean that less and less money is going to the people who make the clothes on the other side of the world.
  • Throwing away the jeans - Low prices also mean that we, as consumers, are buying more clothes than ever before. We have more clothes than we need and this means we are also throwing away more clothes than ever before. When you throw away a pair of jeans, it will probably end up on a rubbish tip or a landfill site. Unfortunately this is not the end of the story; clothing made from synthetic fabrics will not decompose, while any chemicals used as part of the garment process can leach into surrounding soil.

An ethical fashion industry

The fashion industry does not need to be this way. Many companies are trying to find ways to overcome the problems at each step in the chain, and to produce clothes in a way which benefits people and does not damage the environment. As somebody who buys fashion, you can do a lot by supporting companies which are taking a more ethical approach, or by customising and re-using your own clothes.

Here are some of the things to look out for or consider:
  1. Organic standards - Organic clothing is made without the use of toxic chemicals. See article on organic and eco fashion for more details. 2. Fair trade standards - Fair trade means paying a fair wage to workers and making sure they get a fair deal. See article on fair trade and fashion for more details.
  2. Recycling and customisation - Many designers and companies are now making clothes from recycled clothing or fabrics. You could also consider transforming your own clothes by customising them.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blast/art/articles/what_is_ethical_fashion.shtml
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