Ethical fashion or just fashion?


For fashionistas/os all over the world Christmas has come early in the guise of Fashion Week. Be it New York, London, Paris or any one of the numerous fashion obsessed cities of the world, well coiffed people everywhere are ready to discover exactly what Santa/Marc Jacobs/Karl Lagerfeld/(insert designer name here) has in store for them.

Just as thrilling are the street style snaps of the glamorous, beautiful and often gloriously eclectic fashion people that collect at these shows like moths to a flame. It’s a spectacular event that spirits us away from the mundane and fills us with inspiration for the coming season.

Fashion Week is upon us, and like many a fashion lover we here at JUST seek to delight in its inspiring and dazzling ways. If, like us you’re partial to a side of ethics with your fashion, Fashion Week is more than obliging.

Edun is part of an initiative to create sustainable growth opportunities in Africa by supporting manufacturers, infrastructure and community building initiatives. Rodarte has implemented environmentally friendly practices into their designs, including the use on non-toxic dyes and reducing waste. And long time eco-conscious designer Stella McCartney is known for her eco-credentials. She has her finger in a number of ethical and sustainable pies, uses renewable energy to power production and has committed to initiatives working to improve conditions for garment workers.  And that’s just the tip of the ethical fashion clad iceberg.

But hang on a gosh darn second, what exactly is ethical fashion? As you may well have noticed you cluey and observant reader you, even just by examining the three designers above, the expression “ethical fashion” incorporates a whole lot of different practices under its stylish terminological umbrella.

And to complicate the matter further, ethical fashion goes by many different aliases. There’s slow fashion, sustainable fashion, eco fashion, green fashion, no sweat fashion, fair fashion and it goes on. Gah! No wonder we can’t see the ethical fashion forest from the unethical trees most of the time

We here at JUST have a solution. We propose an adjustment to the fashion vernacular. A change that defines fashion (just fashion, no pun intended) as something that respects the communities and the environment that it is made in, rather than exploiting them. We believe that clothing should not only express our identity, but our values as well. We argue that all fashion outside of this paradigm should be called out for what it is and clearly defined as unethical fashion. “Here here!” I hear you bellow.

It looks like the fashion industry might just be heading that way anyway, if not by choice then by necessity. In a project entitled Fashion Futures, undertaken by Levi Strauss and Co. and Forum for the Future, researchers generated four scenarios that projected what the fashion industry would look like in 2025. Not surprisingly, none of the scenarios predicted the continuation of the unsustainable/unethical production and consumption that goes on today.

Simone Ciprani of the Ethical Fashion Initiative claims that in 10 years time, ethical fashion will no longer be just a segment of the market but mainstream fashion. He argues that the Italian fashion industry started out as an ethical industry because it was about artisanal production, slow movement, quality and people, and that we are likely to see a return to that way of thinking.

Dare to dream? We think so! A change is a comin’ as more brands, retailers and designers are realising that it will no longer pay to be unethical. Mainstream fashion as ethical fashion is the way forward. Who knows, maybe soon we will see Fashion Week as not only a fantastical forum for innovation in aesthetic and structural design, but in social and environmental sustainability as well. Our fingers (and toes!) are crossed.