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.


amiable amy said...

just doing my rounds here, enjoy blogging

marifen said...

Nice to know fashion could make such big difference in people’s lives. Nice post :)

amy said...

visiting here....