Undressing London Fashion Week

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The glitz and glamour of London Fashion week is approaching! From the 17th – 22nd February models working for designers such as Orla Kiely, Mulberry, Vivienne Westwood and many others will be strutting their stuff on catwalks all over London. On the face of it this might seem like a purely exciting event, but we went undercover in an attempt to find out a bit more about the organisations behind it all.

The event has many sponsors, and amongst the most prominent are the high street fashion outlets Monsoon and Topshop/Topman.  Topshop is continually promoting its few fair-trade or organic cotton lines but is a long way from being an ethical company. It is part of the Arcadia group, which is the only major high street retailer which hasn’t signed the Ethical Trading Initiative. This initiative guarantees that the workers who made the garments sold in UK shops have fair working conditions. Without it we have no way of knowing how bad conditions are for the people who make our clothes. To find out more about this initiative visit people and planet, a student-led website:   http://peopleandplanet.org/redressfashion/briefing/ethics

Monsoon is a little better – they have signed the Ethical Trading Initiative and there is a Monsoon Accessorize Trust, which funds a limited number of community projects in India. Monsoon also sponsors Estethica, a scheme for London Fashion Week which a few designers participate in. Unfortunately, to qualify as an ‘ethical’ designer only one of three criteria needs to be fulfilled and it is not clear exactly what these categories are. Nonetheless, the Esthetica review: http://www.londonfashionweek.co.uk/content.aspx?CategoryID=847, which accompanies the exhibition, is quite interesting. It highlights a few issues in the fashion world, like the unfair use of labour for skilled work such as embellishments. Sequins are often sewn on by hand and for more detailed pieces this can be incredibly time consuming work. Other issues like the use of plastic bags and quality over quantity are also touched on.

The Ethical Trading Initiative guarantees fair working conditions

A few of the designers in the Esthetica collection do explicitly state their eco credentials, for instance Makepiece state that part of their brand philosophy is to make clothes “made to be worn for decades, out of materials which are sustainable, low impact and local to us”. Reclaim to Wear use “remnants and off-cuts” and state their brand philosophy simply as “reclaim, re-use, re-adore”. Many of the other designers cite locally sourced fabrics and reclaimed fabric, although one or two worryingly don’t mention what makes them green in their blurb.

Other ethical fashion companies include People Tree: http://www.peopletree.co.uk/ or Fashion Conscience: http://www.fashion-conscience.com/. There are actually hundreds of ethical clothing companies out there; it’s easy to find them once you start looking!

You can also discover ethical fashion a bit closer to home – on the 17th and 18th February Southampton University is hosting an ethical fashion show as part of a 2-day ‘futures festival’. Check out the details here:  http://www.southamptonclimateforum.org/index.html. Tickets are available from the box office now!

Jessica Killaspy and Olli Niyi-Awosusi

 

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Hi, I am a third year English student but while writing for the Wessex Scene I have my Erasmus hat on! I am one of the buddy scheme co-ordinators for the Erasmus society this year and hope to keep the university informed about activities organised by the society and international life in Southampton, among other things.

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