From our archive

Article written in September 2012

Confusion in ethical fashion…

Sometimes movements can be confusing, often conflicting.  I have the feeling that ethical fashion is very close to being that.  

The ethical fashion movement is by no means established.  Despite Monsoon sponsoring  ‘Estethica’  fashion events at the past 12 London Fashion weeks, I am not sure if you asked a normal shopper on the high street what they thought ethical fashion was, they would have a clue.  I am not 100% sure that I do.

Ethical fashion has struggled to create the type of recognition that very similar movements, such as the fair trade movement, the FSC forestry standards, and the organic movement has with people not 100% invested in it. I think this is because it is too bold, and at times, contradictory.

The most recent Estethica review is a bold, colourful review of some great young designers doing great things.  It is, in the fashion world itself, a definition of what ethical fashion is for that season. The most prominent ethical fashion event of London Fashion week.  The Estethica review has a mix of ‘sustainable’ fashion brands – and in this iteration, upcycled or recycled products are the focus.  There are two fair trade producers featured, with a Sri Lankan lingerie company and Pachacuti and fairtrade hat and accessory producer.  The rest of review features ‘buy British’ promotions and interviews. Then there are some curious additions including an article about how Nike, Addidas and Puma can save the world and a one page feature on a 3-D home printer.

To review – the review – Ethical is:

  • up-cycled and recycled as we consume too much, fair trade because people should be paid well in developing countries;
  • buying British to reduce ‘fashion miles’ and help local craftsmen;
  • a printer which can take craftsmen out of our purchasing and reduce food miles (see something you like online and press print);
  • and multinational sportswear brands who have ethical codes.  

If I were to stop you on the high street would you get all of that?

Now.  The contradictions, which lead to confusion…  I sat through a presentation nearly  a year ago that pointed out that well over a billion people are involved in the ‘fashion industry’ from farmers, to factory workers to sales assistants etc.  Then, in the same presentation, was told that I should try to not buy anything new.  In the Estethica review we are being inspired about Pachacuti and their beautiful handmade, fairtrade hats – made by traditional skills in developing countries – and told about a 3-D printer that could print out the hat for us in the future, bypassing those producers.  Buy british and buy Sri Lankan.  The problem is that all of this is correct and great to think about, but it is riddled with confusion.  

I would love to be able to tell a customer that Danaqa is an ethical fashion outlet, and that person understand exactly what we