Thursday, February 26, 2009

London on parade to show that ethical clothes can cut it on the catwalk

London Fashion Week has a longstanding reputation for creative exuberance. But yesterday it became clear that the city was gunning for a more grown-up label too: that of the most ethical of the four leading fashion capitals.

The British Fashion Council, who organise the five days of shows, chose to open the event not with a high-energy extravaganza from a bright young thing, but with the launch of Estethica, its showcase of ethical designer fashion.

The ethical initiative, now in its sixth season, has gained such standing that it has won government backing. Yesterday, Defra chose the event to launch its Sustainable Clothing Action Plan - Scap as it is rather unglamorously known.

Drawn up by leading names in fashion manufacturing and retail, Scap outlines commitments to make fashion more sustainable throughout its lifecycle - from design, to manufacture, to retail, to disposal. Many of the actions pledged by those involved are already underway and aim to have a marked effect on the environmental impact of throwaway fashion which sees two million tonnes of clothing end up in landfill every year.

As part of the deal:

• Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Sainsbury's have pledged to increase their ranges of Fairtrade and organic clothing, and support fabrics which can be recycled more easily.

• Tesco is banning cotton from countries which use child labour.

• Oxfam and other charities will open more sustainable clothing boutiques featuring high quality second-hand clothing and new designs made from recycled garments.

• The Centre for Sustainable Fashion at the London College of Fashion will be resourced to provide practical support to the clothing sector.

• The Fairtrade Foundation will aim for at least 10% of cotton clothing in the UK to be Fairtrade material by 2012.

Lord Hunt, the minister for sustainability at Defra, boomed that he was "fantastically excited" to be launching the action plan at fashion week. From a lectern on the catwalk and dressed in a crumpled suit, Hunt said: "I couldn't think of a better place to be launching the roadmap."

Estethica aims to bring together like-minded ethical designer labels. It was founded by the fashion council three years ago to raise the profile of eco-sustainable fashion, making its image more cutting-edge and less worthy. The 37 designers in the showcase must adhere to at least one of Estethica's three principles: organic, fair trade or recycled.

Peter Ingwersen, the founder of Esthetica's most high-end label, Noir, said: "We all look to inspire the industry and consumers that sexiness, luxury, fashion, corporate social responsibility and ethics can work in harmony together without compromising style."

Yesterday's Noir collection highlighted the point that ethical fashion needn't be dowdy. The look on the catwalk was elegant with an edge, with a restrained colour spectrum that ranged from black leather to navy silk. Antique gold sequins and exposed zips provided the details.

This year London Fashion Week is celebrating its 25th birthday, but in keeping with the economic climate no inappropriately lavish parties have been planned. Instead, organisers are stressing that even in a recession, fashion matters. Figures were released showing that the event is worth £20m to the capital's economy in direct spending - from hotel bookings to food and drink - and generates clothing orders worth £100m.

The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, gave support earlier in the week by pledging to spend £40,000 to make sure that the world's top buyers attend. It had been feared that international buyers from the US would tighten their purse strings by skipping the event altogether and flying straight from the New York shows to Milan. A fear made more palpable by the fact that London Fashion Week has, this season, been squeezed into fewer days with longer hours. Johnson said: "Fashion, like other creative industries, plays a vital role in London's economic success. It is essential that we do everything we can to support the fashion industry." The investment from the London Development Agency will be used to fund 30 key buyers' trips to the event.

Despite the serious focus and the tighter schedule, fashion week is not expected to be a dull affair. Hilary Riva, chief executive of the fashion council, said: "It would be trite to say that the recession won't affect us, but London's designers have never had big budgets, and creativity comes out of the conditions our designers work in anyway. We've always been poor."

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Ethical Fashion Tops the Bill in London

The British Fashion Council, who organise the five days of shows, chose to open the event not with a high-energy catwalk extravaganza from one of the city's bright young things, but with the launch of Estethica, its showcase of ethical designer fashion.

The ethical initiative, now in its sixth season, has gained such standing that it has now won government backing. Today, Defra chose the event to launch its Sustainable Clothing Action Plan - or Scap, as it is rather unglamorously known.

Drawn up by leading names in fashion manufacturing and retail, Scap outlines commitments to make fashion more sustainable throughout its lifecycle: from design, to manufacture, to retail, to disposal. Many of the actions pledged by those involved with Scap are already under way and aim to have a marked effect on the environmental impact of throwaway fashion.

Lord Hunt, minister for sustainability at Defra, boomed that he was "fantastically excited" to be launching the action plan at fashion week. From a lectern on the catwalk, dressed in a crumpled suit and with the air of an embarrassing uncle, Hunt enthused: "I couldn't think of a better place to be launching the roadmap."

Estethica aims to bring together like-minded ethical designer fashion labels. It was founded by the BFC three years ago with the aim of raising the profile of sustainable fashion, making its image more cutting-edge and less worthy. The 37 designers now involved in the showcase have to adhere to at least one of Estethica's three principles: organic, Fairtrade or recycled.

Peter Ingwersen is the founder of Esthetica's most high-end label, Noir, who showed its collection on the catwalk today. He commented: "We all look to inspire the industry and consumers that sexiness, luxury, fashion, corporate social responsibility and ethics can work in harmony together without compromising style."

Today's Noir collection highlighted the point that ethical fashion needn't be dowdy. The look was elegant with an edge, with a restrained colour spectrum that ranged from black leather to navy silk. Antique gold sequins and exposed zips provided the details.

This year London fashion week is celebrating its 25th birthday, but in a nod to the economic climate no inappropriately lavish parties have been planned. Instead, organisers are keen to stress that even in the depth of a recession, fashion matters. Figures released show that the event is worth £20m to the captial's economy from direct spending - from hotel bookings to food and drink - and generates clothing orders worth £100m.

The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, added his support to the catwalks earlier in the week by pledging to spend £40,000 to make sure that the world's top buyers attend LFW. It had been feared that international buyers from the US would tighten their purse strings by skipping the event altogether and flying straight from the New York shows to Milan. This fear was made more palpable by the fact that the London event has, this season, been squeezed into fewer days with longer hours.

Johnson said: "Fashion like other creative industries plays a vital role in London's economic success. It is essential that we do everything we can to support the fashion industry." The investment comes from the London Development Agency and will be used to fund 30 key buyers' trips to the event.

Despite the serious focus and the edited schedule, fashion week is not expected to be a dull affair. Hilary Riva, chief executive of the BFC, commented: "It would be trite to say that the recession won't affect us, but London's designers have never had big budgets, and creativity comes out of the conditions our designers work in anyway. We've always been poor."

Read more ...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Handbag With Environtment in Mind

It all started when Ken Kobrick, an ex-welder, and Angela Greene, an inventor who doesn't even carry a handbag, decided to dive headfirst into the incredibly competitive world of the accessories market.

The idea was born when, in 1999, Angela purchased a backpack made from inner tubes. Inspired to create their own collection, they decided to take on the creative challenge of using discarded tractor tire inner tubes and converting them into high-end, luxury accessories. Deciding to make a "green" impact on the accessories market was logical, because Kobrick and Greene are both committed to recycling, and they were passionate about creating products that were functional as well as unique and classic in design. Neither had any formal design background, but soon the couple was experimenting with hand sewn designs.

"We started making the bags in our 900-sq.-ft house, and had to throw away our old couch to make room for the industrial sewing machines that we purchased with our 401K,” explains Kobrick about the brand’s modest beginnings. “The only room that didn't have inner tubes or a sewing machine was the bathroom."

Passchal incorporates leather trim and sides to their rubber bags, keeping them lightweight and enabling the introduction of new colors and textures. In keeping with their eco-friendly beliefs, all leathers used are by-products, vegetable dyed and chrome free, and all bags are handcrafted using the highest quality hardware and materials available. The inner tubes are collected in VA, Ohio and GA, and undergo a rigorous but environmentally friendly, multi-day cleaning process. To date, Passchal has recycled approximately 20 tons of inner tubes!

The line launched in May of 2004, and through word of mouth, instantly caught the attention of both media and celebrities.
Passchal bags have been featured on The Today Show, and in Entrepreneur and Rolling Stone magazines, to name a few. They have also been featured at the Billboard Music Awards and at Olympus Fashion Week.

In early 2008, Angie and Ken rented the property next door, and converted the 1500-sq-ft house into a design studio. All of the inner tubes are still stored and processed on their property. But – for the record – they got a new couch.
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Thursday, February 12, 2009

'Ethical fashion is about being creative'

eco friendly clothes

Jo Wood
, founder of Jo Wood Organic. She explains why now is the time to make a big change.

My understanding of ethical fashion started in my teens. My mother is a doll maker and so I was always surrounded by fabrics, buttons, Victorian petticoats and old dresses. I'd watch her turn old clothes into beautiful inventive outfits and it became clear to me from a young age that clothes can be used and reused.

I would mix, match and recycle clothes from those early times. In fact the day, or rather the night, I met my husband I was wearing my granny's old dress. Even though I've been lucky enough to have access to some of the world's best designers and their new collections, I find nothing more exciting than finding an old item of clothing and giving it a new lease of life.

For a while in the 80s I bought a lot of new clothes. I was living in America and got swept up in the sheer number of shops, designers and the gluttonous consumer attitude that was sweeping the globe. It was during my time in the States that my sister and I found some of Ronnie [Wood]'s old flares and dressed up in 70s style, accessories and all. Laughing, we strode into the room where Ronnie was. He took one look and announced: "Mark my words, that look will be back in fashion one day."

He was right and it raises an important point; you only have to pick up Vogue from the last few decades to see how looks come back around and something that seemed simply unwearable one year is top of the fashion class the next. I have kept everything that Ronnie and I have bought since that time in the 80s and regularly dip into the 'treasure trove' to unearth some classic number. If I'm not in there, my daughter Leah is. If it's not her then the parents of my grandchildren are in there sourcing stuff for the young ones.


I'm not saying I never buy new clothes because I certainly do. I still buy well-made dresses and tailored jackets but more and more I am conscious of where the clothes are from and the impact they have had both sociologically and environmentally on the planet.

I am a total organic, live a strict an organic lifestyle and am passionate about being aware of where food, cosmetics, and clothes have come from. The more I have explored the path that consumables have taken to reach their buyers, the more concerned I have become about the ethical state we find ourselves in.

Over 90 million items of clothing are thrown away each year in this country alone. It seems to have become a habitual pleasure to throw something away and go straight back to the shops for more. Part of the cause of this problem is with the major distributors battling to provide the cheapest possible price for their consumer.

Garment workers throughout the globe are traditionally paid the minimum wage and work long hours in substandard, environmentally hostile conditions in order to produce the clothes that we take for granted. In the developing world, countries such as Indonesia and China mass-produce enough clothes to reach to the moon and back every day. This routine production and exploitation in the name of fashion means we can buy a new T-shirt for 50p while retailers reap huge profits from these suffering workers.

Over two thirds of the world's cotton is grown in developing countries and the former Soviet Union. Valued at over $32 billion every year, global cotton production should be improving lives. But this "white gold" too often brings misery. Along with the poverty and appalling working conditions created, the impact environmentally is enormously detrimental due to the chemicals used and the vast distances these items have to travel to get to the future buyers.

The problems don't stop there.

Discarded clothing and shoes are typically sent to landfill. There, textiles present particular problems. Synthetic products do not decompose. Woollen garments do, but in doing so they produce methane, which contributes to global warming and climate change.

At a time when the issue of global waste is on the political lips of leaders all over the world it is time to decide how we can do our bit. In a very basic sense it means that we take into account worker's rights, social justice and environmental issues. Ethical fashion is about being creative and embracing eclectic style. It's about cutting up an old T-shirt, some old jeans or a dress that's been hiding for years to give it new life. Dusting off those belts and hats. It's about being cautious about what you throw away; it's about wearing fashion that respects our planet; it's about creating a demand for ethical products so big fashion houses rethink their strategy. Ethical fashion is about buying garments from suppliers you can trust. Ethical fashion has cool scribbled all over it.

The chance to make a big change is here; we just need to take it.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Beauty Without Beastliness

Chilean Lip Panache
Looking good doesn't need to be bad news for the natural environment, provided you opt for brands with a sustainable approach. Try our five greener choices below and, naturally, dispose of them in a responsible fashion once you're done.

Eco concerns

• Palm oil deforestation. Many toiletries contain this near-ubiquitous ingredient which, as Fred Pearce explains, is having a huge impact on Borneo and elsewhere in south Asia.

• Chemicals. As Lucy Siegle notes, there are serious concerns over the toxicity of many cosmetic chemicals and the environmental impact of their supply chain.

• Animal testing. While UK law prevents animal testing for cosmetics, it doesn't stop companies selling beauty products here that were tested on guinea pigs elsewhere in the world, as our Lucy explains.

Top 5 green choices

1. Lush – massive range of Valentine's wares from bath-bombs to massage bars, produced to stringent ethical standards – as well as avoiding animal-tested ingredients, Lush won't deal with any supplier that's engaged in animal testing in any way.

2. Essential Care - the first firm to cook up an organic-certified shampoo, Essential Care has now branched out into organic makeup including everything from blusher, mascara and eyeliner to foundation, bronzer and lipstick.

3. Perfume – avoid synthetic fragrances with Lucy Siegle's guide to eco-perfumes.

4. Dr Hauschka – this highly-respected German natural beauty brand has a spread of gift boxes for Valentine's including, refreshingly, one for blokes too.

5. Babylis Eco Dry – this hair dryer uses just 1,000 watts, half the amount of an average one. It doesn't, however, take twice as long to dry your hair, says Babylis' "indepedent" tests.
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Monday, February 9, 2009

Glitz and gongs as ethical fashion steals the limelight

Not so long ago, ethical fashion was perceived as the preserve of a tiny hemp-wearing, sandalled fringe. But further evidence that it is increasingly part of the glamorous fashion set came in London last night as models including Daisy Lowe and Pixie Geldof took to the catwalk wearing one-off creations by leading designers such as Vivienne Westwood and Zandra Rhodes at the finale of the world's first ethical fashion awards.

The Re: Fashion awards, judged by industry stalwarts including Katherine Hamnett and Jane Shepherdson, were designed to reward companies that have tackled headfirst issues like poverty, sustainability and the environmental impact of fashion. Many of these are small concerns, unfamiliar names to the high street shopper, but providing vital support and development in their areas.

Cristina Cisilino, who founded the jewellery company Made, won an award for the best practice in manufacturing in Africa. "I hope this award will mean that more people will place business there," she said.

"This time last year we were in the midst of the Kenyan uprising - but this just proves that even political unrest doesn't need to unsettle a solid business. Only this week we expanded the size of our workshop - and our workers are learning skills they can pass onto the next generation. They also have bank accounts for the first time, and can send their children to school."

Other winners included the website retailer Adili; the trainer brand Veja, for their consideration of the environmental impact of the production process; and the Fairtrade fashion company Pachacuti, who won awards both for their business model and their commitment to improving workers' lives. Marie Claire magazine won the award for consumer awareness of ethical fashion.

Ethical fashion has seen huge growth in the last few years. According to the Cooperative Bank's Ethical Consumer report, sales of Fairtrade and organic clothing grew by 70% to £52m in 2007, and this year is scheduled to see still further growth, despite the credit crunch.

The Ethical Fashion Forum also cite changing attitudes among consumers: in 2007 a survey by TNS Global found that 60% of under-25s said they bought what they wanted, regardless of where or how it had been made. This year that figure had dropped to 36%, suggesting that exposes and child labour scandals have made their mark.

Adding high-profile awards ceremonies to the mix may well help thriving but still vulnerable ethical fashion to weather the financial storm ahead.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Eco and Fashion at the 2009 Golden Globes.









eco fashion handbag at golden globe awards

Justin Bruening, from Night Rider and Alexa Havins, All My Children star, pick out new Eco-Friendly handbags by Passchal at the 2009 Golden Globe Awards.


Eco and Fashion at the 2009 Access Hollywood TV Celebrity gift Lounge in celebration of the Golden Globes.


This year the fusion of fashion and eco friendly has taken a giant leap forward. The Passchal bag is being embraced by Hollywood's Fashion Elite.


Justin Bruening, with the Messenger Bag, and Alexa Havins, with a Yellow Scrunch, stop by the Access Hollywood Gifting Lounge at the 2009 Golden Globe Awards in Hollywood, California. They were admiring and picking out a new Eco-Friendly handbag by Passchal.


 


 




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Consumers’ ethical concerns over fashion hit record high

Nearly three quarters (72%) of British consumers think ethical production of the clothes they buy is important – up sharply from 59% last year, according to the latest Ethical Clothing Report from TNS Worldpanel Fashion. The most dramatic shift in attitudes occurred among young consumers: Last year 60% of under-25s said they bought the clothes they wanted and didn’t care how they were produced; this year only 36% say they do this.

At the same time people are more sceptical than ever of the ethical claims made by certain retailers and manufacturers: Over half (57%) express such reservations, a significant rise from last year’s 45%, and two thirds (67%) say retailers should use ethical practices across all their ranges, not just such marked as “ethical”.

When it comes to the factors that matter most, an overwhelming 72% of people say an end to child labour and sweat shops is very important, closely followed by offering producers a fair price (59%). While this is in line with last year’s results, consumers have become more concerned about the social impact of clothing production. In a list of criteria that are important to them when it comes to “ethical” clothing, respondents now rate “benefits to the producing community” higher than “no damage to the environment” (49% vs. 43% respectively), while “profits given to charity” and “organic fabric” remain the least important factors at 25% and 17% respectively.

An increasing number of consumers are also prepared to put their money where their mouth is: One third (33%) say they are willing to pay more for ethically produced clothing and footwear.

While one might think of young people as most concerned about ethical and environmental issues, the interest and the demand for ethical clothing is actually highest among consumers over 55. They make up one third (31%) of those who think ethical clothing is “very” or “quite” important, are more sceptical about ethical claims (63% of all 55+) and more willing to pay a bit extra (38% of all 55+) for ethical clothing.

Elaine Giles, Research Manager, TNS Worldpanel Fashion, said: “With the increasing attention brought to ethical issues by the media, awareness of the potential cost to humanity for ‘unethical clothing’ has reached unprecedented levels. Retailers must wake up to this significant consumer demand and increase their efforts to demonstrate their trustworthiness across all their ranges. Consumers will not be convinced by what they perceive to be tokenistic actions. There is a strong need for retailers to communicate their ethical practices more clearly and if they do this well, they can create a real point of difference for themselves that wins consumers’ trust.”

An executive summary of the report is available upon request.

- ends -



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Sunday, February 1, 2009

A rare breed Ethical fashion company Izzy Lane wins RSPCA Good Business Award for sheep-friendly practices

A Yorkshire fashion company that creates clothes from the wool of rescued sheep was rewarded at the RSPCA Good Business Awards in London last night.

Izzy Lane, an ethical knitwear label that was only founded 18 months ago, was named small fashion retailer of the year in a ceremony at the Natural History Museum.

The company's founder, Isobel Lane, said she was "absolutely delighted" to win, and for the opportunity to "give a voice to farm animals".

"Lots of people are quite conscious of where their food is coming from now, but not many know where their wool is from", she said.

Izzy Lane rescues Wensleydale and Shetland sheep that would otherwise be sent to slaughter, and uses their wool to create high-end clothes and accessories. Around 600 sheep have been rescued since the brand's inception.

"They're very sweet", Lane said. "This award is for them, really."

A British company using British wool in its garments is a relative rarity in today's fashion industry. Fleece prices are so low that they often don't cover the cost of shearing.

"Around 80% of the wool we use in this country is imported from Australia and New Zealand", Lane explained. "It's ridiculous - there has to be a back to Britain campaign."
The Izzy Lane autumn/winter '08 collection The Izzy Lane autumn/winter '08 collection. Photograph: Isobel Lane

The company supports Britain's dwindling textile industry, employing one of the last remaining worsted spinners and one of the last dyers in the Bradford area. The cloth is woven at a mill in Selkirk using traditional machinery. From woolly coat to coat hanger, everything is made within a 120-mile radius.

Izzy Lane was highly praised by a panel of judges for combining a passion for fashion with a commitment to good animal husbandry and sustainability.

Wayne Hemingway, co-founder of Red or Dead, said: "Izzy Lane shows how a passion for animals can equal a truly luxurious and cutting edge fashion label."

Marks & Spencer was awarded the large fashion retailer prize for setting higher standards on the high street, while Natural Collection, the online store, was recognized for its 'commitment to change'.

The Good Business Awards were set up by the RSPCA four years ago to encourage companies to adopt animal welfare-friendly policies.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/oct/10/izzy-lane-ethicalfashion
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