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What is Ethical Fashion

The definition of what constitutes ethical fashion can be quite elastic. It can be difficult as a consumer to obtain appropriate information in the crowded ethical market place. This is what Ethical Fashion means to us:

1. Locally made - Ideally with local or sustainable materials, where possible.

2. Environmentally friendly - sustainable / organic fabrics - Using natural fabrics which are grown with minimal pesticides and water usage and negative impact on the local environment. The use of natural or non toxic dyes in the production and printing process. Reducing "clothes miles", with global supply chains your clothes have probably seen more of the world than you have.

3. Fair trade - This includes fair prices for producers of raw materials and workers on farms and in factories. Fair trade also include long-term relationships, capacity building and empowerment of the producers as well as compliance with labour and environmental regulations (visit www.fairtrade-advocacy.org for a definition of Fairtrade).

Fairtrade Certified Cotton is the only independant guarantee that cotton farmers are paid a fair price and that a social premium goes to the coop of which the farmer is a member. www.fairtrade.ie

World Fairtrade Organisaton - WFTO - is a membership organisation which aims to improve the livelihoods of disadvantaged producers by linking and promoting fairtrade organisations - www.wfto.org

4. Ethical Trade - Tends to be defined in manufacturing terms and includes codes of conduct and factory auditing - eg SA 8000. The UK based Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) (www.ethicaltrade.org) consists of companies, NGOs and Trade Unions "working to improve conditions of employment in the supply chains" of the goods sold on the High Street in the UK. However ETI does not have power of inspection or enforcement. Without independent verification consumers have to trust that the companies adhere to these codes.

5. Recycling, Upcycling, Vintage, 2nd Hand, Swopping - Whether you are remodelling a cardigan into a bolero or a man's ties into a swing skirt, recycling clothing is predicted to become a main stream trend in the coming 5 years. A spot of second hand & market shopping always uncovers some treasures.

6. Respecting Animal Rights - No Fur; Either no leather or greater traceability in terms of where the animals comes from and how they were treated.

Ultimately legislation and independent labelling or verificaton are the way forward. Just like the people pressure to mainstream fairtrade and organic food products we can do the same with clothing. Fashion supply chains are particularly complex, but it is fascinating & very luxurious to know the story behind your clothes.

To make a difference through our shopping, requires that we buy less & shop less and buy items we will love and cherish.