Ethical Fashion

I’ve always been a pretty principled person. When I say “principled”, yes, I mean I was the crazy kid who talked to her plants (convinced it helped them grow) and ranted about animal rights. Then I grew up and figured out that this side of me didn’t make me crazy – it just meant I cared. And now, as an adult, I’m proud to still care about all these issues – from sustainability to animal rights and a lot of other causes in between. Just call me Ethical Eva Lena. The difference is that now, it’s cool to care.

One of my other passions in life has been fashion. Indeed, these two passions, of ethical living and stylish threads form two of my specialisms in my translation and transcreation business. But, for a long time, these two topics weren’t exactly natural bedfellows. Think about it: fur, waste, carbon (I’m thinking of all those first class flights, Ms Wintour), exploitation….fashion wasn’t exactly a shining bastion of care and concern for the planet or its people.

Thankfully, things are different now. In fact, I’d go as far to say that the fashion industry has turned things on their head. Now, in 2017, I can legitimately talk of a new era, and I’ll revamp an old phrase to do so. Many, no millions, of people label themselves fashion conscious, but the difference now is that fashion, too, is conscious – we’ve finally, fantastically, got conscious fashion.

You only have to do a quick Google search to see how the number of ethical fashion brands has skyrocketed in the last decade. Furthermore, fashion houses are now committing to taking responsibility for their impact and their ethical standpoints. In my research for a recent project, I was delighted to see this encouraging update:

A lot of effort has gone into improving the working conditions of garment workers in textile factories in countries such as Bangladesh and India following the tragic collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in 2013. However, one country decided to take things one step further and in July 2016, the Netherlands brought together trade organizations VGT, Modint and Inretail, trade unions, the local government together with five non-profit organisations and Lilianne Ploumen, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development to sign an agreement for sustainable textiles. The textile covenant is the first of numerous international corporate social responsibility agreements initiated across the globe to make the fashion industry more sustainable and ethical.

Obviously, it would be better if tragedies didn’t have to occur before such action was taken, but, in years gone by, the whole issue would just have been swept under the ferociously expensive Fereghan – now, not only does the fashion industry seem to care but (more importantly) people are held accountable and (most importantly) change is effected.

Concepts like “circular fashion” are now mainstream (if you haven’t come across it, it’s where all unwanted garments are reused or recycled) with giants like H&M targeting 100% circular fashion. They’ve started well on this journey too, collecting 12,000 tonnes of textiles through their in-store drop-off schemes – although obviously they still have a long way to go on their ethical path!

It’s not just high street stores becoming more responsible (and transparent) about their environmental agenda – fashion house Stella McCartney published its first-ever environmental profit and loss report for 2015 (although, if we’re fair, Ms. McCartney has always been an eco-champion in the fashion world, so it’s not surprising she’s leading the way!)

We already had the Ethical Fashion Show in Berlin in January 2017, but as fashion houses put their best foot forward on the catwalk in years to come, will ethical fashion be a one season wonder or is it here to stay?

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