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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