Monday, 27 September 2010

Day 133: Ethical Chic

Paris Fashion Week is upon us. The deliciously flamboyant couture houses will no doubt churn out some remarkable, if a little off-the-wall, creations. We all know, however, that fashion ain't necessarily the 'nicest' of industries - for many reasons. It may be pretty to look at, but the ethics of it are more than a little fluid. So as not to waffle on about sweatshops, unsustainable products and, dare I say it: fur, lets take a different tack.

Now in its seventh year, the Ethical Fashion Show is a chance for sustainable and ethical designers and retailers to show off their creations. Note the distinct lack of 'earthy' types with clothes made of patchwork fabric tied together with hemp. There is not a garment in sight that is there purely because it's ethical, it has to have style too - this is Paris, after all.

Now held in the rather grand 'Docks en Seine' building, home of the French Fashion Institute, it seems like 'ethical' fashion need not be frumpy. Besides, who could call a couture dress made entirely from recycled film stock 'frumpy'? Hot names at this years show include: Terra Plana, Diffus and Ciel.

Up until recently, I have passed off 'ethical' fashion as a bit of a fad. Something that just won't, given the nature of the fashion industry, work. No matter how 'good' an item of clothing is (ethically speaking) if it's not aesthetically pleasing, it's not going to cut it. Shows like this, and the rather surprising statistic that the industry is now worth around £175 million in the UK alone, seem to point to a significant shift in our thinking. Are we now at the point where we are happy to sacrifice our fashion? Will we be saying 'no' to paying hundreds of pounds for a garment made by a child, in Malaysia, from unsustainable sources? I think we are. It's been a long time coming, but the timing feels right. All we need now is for these 'big' ideas to filter down through the high street so that us lowly 'masses' will have the luxury to make the choice ourselves. Failing that, we need a fit celebrity and a major fashion house to launch a ludicrously lavish campaign of some sort - I'm not holding my breath on that one.

- James
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