Today I start my journey into the world of ethical fashion. How am I doing this?Well, it all started with a gift from my partner: Eco Chic:The savy shopper’s guide to ethical fashion by Matilda Lee.
One of the first quotes in the introduction is by fashion writer, Susannah Handley, “Fashion encourages ‘wants’ not ‘needs’, and sits in an uncomfortable partnership with ecology. How can the industry most founded on article and perpetual change evre really become a genuine friend of the earth? “
Below you will find a paper I wrote during the second year of my BA Fashion Design degree course. At the time, I didnt know much about the movement towards sustainable fashion. I probably dont know much more now, but I hope this book will enlighten me.
Recycle, Rethink, Reconstruct: RE-
The fashion industry has an enormous impact on not only the environment (http://www.bbc.co.uk), but also on the lives of the many people working within the garment manufacture industry (http://www.ethicalfashionforum.com). And as a community, the fashion industry is finally stepping up to the plate, and taking note of the changes that need to be made in order to produce sustainable, eco-friendly, ethical fashion, which will (over time) result in the improvement of the quality of our lives and the environment we live in (Keats, A). In this essay, I will briefly discuss the concepts: sustainable fashion; eco-fashion; and ethical fashion. I will then mention Linea Academy’s contribution to this global movement in the form of the RE- project. I will then conclude that all the concepts mentioned above are intertwined, and have similar purposes.
In all actuality, sustainable fashion and eco-fashion are concepts that are one in the same, as they are both designed to be environmentally friendly. The idea of sustainability is about using environmentally friendly materials and methods in clothing production, such as reducing wastage and chemical usage (http://www.august.synthasite.com). It is also about progression and being able to “implement progressive sustainable practises across the fashion industry chain” (http://www.ethicalfashionforum.com). The goal of sustainable fashion is to make unsustainable fashion a thing of the past (Keats, A). August Designs in India practices sustainable fashion in the form of their breakthrough patented technology called DPOL. The DPOL technology not only keeps costs low, but most importantly produces ready to stitch, shaped, woven garment components that reduces fabric loss by 15-20% (http://www.august.synthasite.com). It especially supports sustainability, because it reduces chemical and other wastages such as dyes, yarns and energy (http://www.august.synthasite.com).
This brings me to the concept of eco-fashion, whereby garments are manufactured using environmentally sensitive fabrics and responsible production techniques. It also includes organic clothing and recycled materials; however, eco-fashion does not have to be made from organic fibres (http://www.bbc.co.uk). According to the Sustainable Technology Education Project (STEP), eco-fashion also takes into account the health of consumers, and the working conditions of people in the fashion industry (http://environment.about.com); thus linking eco-fashion and ethical fashion. Heatherette designer, Richie Rich, stated that the highlight of the FutureFashion show he participated in was a skirt he made from corn fibre. Local “Darkie” designer, Themba Mngomezulu always incorporates recycled fabrics and clothing into his collections. And in fact, the first garment he created was a skirt made from ties (Elle, May 2008). As much as some local designers are supporting the concept of eco-fashion, it is argued by some that most of the responsibility is put on the more established designers, with the new generation designers not being held equally accountable (Keats, A). As a new generation designer myself, I believe that there is a perception that there is not much that an un-established designer can do, and that there are no resources available to you. However, South African designer and writer, Abigail Keats advises new generation designers to research, and utilise manufacturers who promote fair employment, and do not subject workers to unsafe, cruel working conditions.
With more consumers, wanting to know more about where and how goods are being manufactured, it is vital that the clothing designers produce, is done in an environmentally and humanely ethical manner (Camins, L). Majority of the world’s garment manufacture is concentrated in the poorest parts Asia; there is the opportunity for the fashion industry to create sustainable livelihoods, and to lift communities out of poverty (http://www.ethicalfashionforum.com). However, regardless of these opportunities, workers are still being paid extremely low wages, and are working in unfair, unsafe conditions. Another critical part of ethical fashion has to do with the impact the fashion industry has on the environment. Hazardous chemicals used in garment production, are not only harmful to the workers, but also to the local eco-systems, therefore killing certain plants and animals.
Due to the bad state of the global economy, more people are moving away from the “throw-away” lifestyle; whereby as trends in home ware, fashion etc. come and go, people used to frequently throw things away. But now, people are more open to recycling and making the most of what they have available to them. This is what the RE- project is all about. We at Linea Academy have taken old clothes and fabric wastage, and through innovation and creativity, we have created something new and exciting. This project illustrates what eco-fashion is all about: recycling, and taking responsibility for the impact we have on the environment.
Eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, and ethical fashion are all intertwined. They all have similar purposes: to put an end to the exploitation of the environment, and people alike.