Understanding Ethical Fashion as a budding Fashion Designer
Being in fashion after a number of years I am sure you would have come into contact with the term “Ethical Fashion”. This has been championed by various organizations over the years to support fashion business and also create great awareness on its positive impact on individuals, societies as a whole.
“Ethical Fashion is an umbrella term to describe ethical fashion design, production, retail and purchasing. It covers a range of issues such as working conditions, exploitation, fair trade, sustainable production, the environment and animal welfare,” Victoria and Albert Museum, the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, explained.
An Ethical Fashion Initiative image
Designers, especially in Africa, have in recent times been encouraged to make prioritise ethical fashion in high fashion, luxury or mass market production. Fashion brands are beginning to recognize how important sustainable fashion is to their consumers and the overall supply chain and as such are becoming very conscious of how to capitalize on making ethical fashion pieces.
In 2009, the Ethical Fashion Initiative was established by Simone Cipriani as a United Nation fashion project to connect artisans from the developing world to the international value chain of fashion. In doing so, the Ethical Fashion Initiative harnesses fashion as a vehicle for development. Artisans can change their lives for the better by manufacturing luxury value-added ethical fashion products for top fashion designers.
Being a strong supporter of the African fashion industry’s potential for growth, The Ethical Fashion Initiative works with the rising generation of fashion talent from Africa and encourages the forging of ethical, sustainable and creative collaborations with artisans from the continent.
The likes of Mina Evans, Kiki Clothing, Christie Brown, Studio 189, AAKs, Duaba Serwa, Ameyo, Mimi Plange and Kofi Gyedu all from Ghana have benefited from the projects of Ethical Fashion Initiative. Other African designers include Orange Culture, Anita Quansah, Lisa Folawiyo, Maxhosa by Laduma, Sophie Zinga, Monaa, NicholasCouttsamongst others.
A Duaba Serwaa design
A Mina Evans design
These African designers were taken through a series of trainings, ethical manufacturing, education and opportunities for growth on making sustainable brands using local artisans. The Ethical Fashion Initiative has been working in African countries such as Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Kenya, and Ethiopia.
According to the Ethical Fashion Forum, the industry body for sustainable fashion “ethical fashion represents an approach to the design, sourcing and manufacture of clothing which maximizes benefits to people and communities while minimizing impact on the environment.”
Some of the issues that Ethical Fashion addresses include exploitative working conditions for in the factories that make cheap clothes for the high street.
Locally, the “Made in Ghana” campaign, by several brands in Ghana, is another way of ethical fashion which ensures that products made locally greatly impact Ghanaians by promoting our own ways of doing things as well as give opportunities to these human labor that is associated to making those pieces.
Some of the areas that ethical fashion addresses include the social, environmental and commercial aspects of fashion.
Clothing is important to the society and ethical fashion addresses the social issues that affect fashion by ensuring that the people and community behind the fashion brands we see and love are fairly paid for their work and efforts. It takes care of issues relating to exploitation of minors, women in fashion and poverty and ensures that the human workforce is appreciated in the overall supply chain.
This addresses the environmental impact of fashion businesses by creating awareness and supporting initiatives that minimizes the use ofanimal, plants and chemicals in production.
Sustainable fashion requires that there is a viable business model that ensures that products made are quality, meets international market and is fairly marketed without others being taken exploited in the process.
Understanding how ethical fashion is important can lead you as a fashion designer into making sustainable products that impacts not just social lives but the community and the environment at large. It also makes your brand a loveable one as consumers believe that by purchasing a piece of your brand, they are in one way or the other improving the lives of an individual and simulating job growth locally.