Amelia’s Magazine | Fashioning an Ethical Industry Conference 2010

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Last week an email dropped into my inbox announcing that the March 2010 Fashioning an Ethical Industry : Fast Forward conference will be held in London. Fashioning an Ethical Industry -the educational division of Labour behind the Label project- is offering students the opportunity to present ethical and socially responsible research and design projects which address the following key themes at the forum.

• Social responsibility in the garment industry (with an emphasis on garment
workers’ rights)
• Teaching ethics within fashion education
• Approaches to education for sustainable development relevant to fashion
education

Project Abstracts (500-700 words) need to be completed by the 30th October 2009.
Final Papers need to be 5-6000 words long and will be published online under a creative commons license. Each accepted project will have a presentation time of thirty minutes.

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The aim of the project (funded by the EU) and the accompanying book: Sustainable Fashion: A Handbook for Educators book (available online here) is to encourage fashion design lecturers to raise student awareness about their responsibility towards the rights and physical exertion of workers who construct garments for the textile industry.

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Fashion has the ability to capture the imagination, help it subsequently has the possibility to influence and reflect social change. Think of the Land Girls during the 1940′s and the popularity of Dior’s New Look after the war. Chanel continued championing – arguably as a stylish choice- the right for women to wear trousers; the possibility of not being able to, pilule seems alien today. Fashion changed as Women’s rights developed and it reflected this change through the clothes that became available in the shops. There is nothing to stop it changing now, information pills by reflecting a desire to protect the environment. Moreover the fashion industry must enter discussions surrounding sustainability now, because of the impact of fast fashion and ever changing ‘trends’ on landfills. A conversation Amelia’s Magazine welcomes having long supported sustainable living that does not impede on those who work in the garment industry’s physical health.

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The Fashioning an Ethical Industry International conference aims to equip students “with the tools to design the way we make and consume fashion differently… It brings together educators, industry experts, academics and selected students to explore how fashion can be taught to inspire responsibility for the rights of the workers making our clothes.” The site features examples of student’s work exploring the possibilities of ethical fashion from up-cycling to sustainable materials. Earlier this year Amelia’s magazine reported on Fashioning an Ethical Industry’s reassuring research highlighting the increasing interest of fashion students towards using of sustainable materials to create ethical fashion.

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The Fashioning an Ethical Industry conference is a great opportunity to become involved with debates on social responsibility. Students should be encourage to utilise the current explosion in internet fashion reportage to press these topics into the public domain. The popularity of fashion, specifically because of it’s potential to help buck the recession in newspapers and magazines features offers designers and students the chance to express the importance of human rights in all aspects of life, including the places where are clothes are made. Katherine Hamnett wears her thoughts on her chest, is it not time we did too?

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Find out more about sweatshop conditions here:

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Categories ,Ethical Fashion Forum, ,Fashion, ,Fashioning an Ethical Industry, ,Labour behind the Label, ,Student, ,Sustainable

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Amelia’s Magazine | Fashioning an Ethical Industry: A Two Day Conference

It was a bittersweet moment for Fashioning an Ethical Industry supporters last month as they invited educators, information pills students, sales designers, labour activists and business thinkers to join them at RichMix in East London for a well-attended workshop on sustainable fashion. The project is now at the end of its three year funding term and hosted this two day conference in order to explore what fashion educators can do to inspire future designers to assume responsibility for the workers involved in the creation of their clothes; recognising that their job as educators is to equip students with the tools to design ethically-conscious clothes. 

Funded by Labor Behind The Label, the FEI works with tutors and students through the help of guest speakers worldwide to give an overview of how the industry works, from the moment a seed for fibre is sown to the time it reaches the shops. The life cycle of clothing, or any other product, has become more transparent as consumers become better informed, but every inch of that process and its effects need to be considered. 

The workshop opened with an exercise aimed to give the participant an idea of what it’s like to work in a factory, with patterning and cutting assignments being distributed and a meet-your-neighbour workplace atmosphere. The result: a cute little paper dress shirt.  We were then introduced to guest speaker and self-proclaimed haute-couture heretic Otto Von Busch who is known for ‘critically hacking and re-forming the operating system of fashion and the industrial modes of production.’ A tall slender Swede in tight all-black industrial chic, his brilliant ideas and hot designs had everyone wanting more. Much has been said about the importance of community in structuring our efforts in sustainability as well as managing labour rights in this Big Bang thrust of global production. And to this, Otto’s ‘Neighborhoodies’ project plants one right on its chin. Otto explains, “Your neighborhood has an impact on your stride, your gestures, your actions – the tacit signals of your body techniques. how do you dress for your hood and how does it dress you?”

So participants are invited to reflect their neighborhood through an image that’s then printed onto fabric and made into a specially designed hoodie – a ‘neighborhoodie’ as he calls them. A source of super cool ideas and an warp-speed thinker, he was certainly the highlight of the day.
But before we get ahead of ourselves the focus of this conference was to address the issues that designers rarely even see. The rights and conditions of those gathering the materials; the producers of the textiles; the garment manufacturer, and even those shipping the goods; not to mention of course the effects on the environment at each stage. It’s enough to make your head spin! People in the audience, clearly willing but at times confused asked how they were supposed to keep track of certifications, like labels we encounter on food, and know the difference between ethically/sustainably produced/sourced and all their variations. The panel offered some advice, “Focus on one thing, like materials, labour, factories. We do need a lexicon but having a universal label opens it up to panacea.” Excellent advice for those who find it all a bit overwhelming. 

Throughout the day we heard from labour rights activists such as Anannya Bhattacharjee, whose organization Asia Floor Wage Campaign is involved in the complex business of unifying, representing and demanding a universal minimum wage for workers throughout Asia. Progress has been made as brands like M&S are now mediating and influencing factories to implement a fair wage because, as she puts it,”the supplier market and government shouldn’t have to.” Therefore, we need to make sure brand leaders of the future understand the leverage they possess and make use of it properly. Check out her film here.

Another point that often arises in these multifacted overhauls is ‘who’s checking to make sure everyone is doing what they say they’re doing?’ Sophie Koers from the Fair Wear Foundation who monitors the workers’ environments explains, “Fair trade focuses on the workers of raw materials, we want to focus on the factories. We’re governed by NGOs, trade unions and business associations which keeps us credible and independent. Even though they announce their audits they conduct off-site interviews the week before, collect info and call them later to see what factory managers might have falsified.”

Nieves Ruiz Ramos used to work, tirelessly though well-compensated, for high street brands for years until she realized the effects of the consumerism she was supporting and started her own fair trade fashion label Bibico. Working closely with women’s cooperatives in Nepal and India she encourages us to consider the value in getting close to your suppliers and personalizing the process. The name ‘bibi’ was her childhood nickname and also a hindi word used to respectfully refer to women. 

At the other end of the world, as well as the fashioin food chain, Alex McIntosh from the Centre for Sustainable Fashion explained how his organization supports fashion businesses by addressing how their aesthetics interact with their ethics. Often, he says, they deal with young designers whose work was not born with an interest in ethical fashion but can elevate and help power the movement with the help of the centre’s research and curriculum. 

A lovely little play, first performed in 1908, named Warp and Woof: Food for Thought perked everyone up from a long day of information overload. Adapted by Dr.Clare Rose it was a period-piece peeking into the world of labour rights auditors in early 1900 London and served to drive the point home in a way videos of far off regions could not. 

The second day of the event was rounded off with a panel discussion of authors and editors on the sustainable fashion shelves, titles such as ‘Eco-Chic: The Savvy Shoppers Guide To Ethical Fashion‘ by Matilda Lee and ‘Eco-Chic:The Fashion Paradox‘ written by Sandy Black, were available to leaf through. In addition to books, guests took advantage of the chance to engage speakers of particular interest, such as Annie Dibble on the Himalayan giant nettle’s incredible fibre yielding properties and the Rai women who cultivate it, or the Pechakucha style presentations by Carolina Gomez-Auber on her project ‘Social Alterations‘ in El Salvador, which aims to reappropriate waste in an effort to save cultural craft skills from extinction. Dimitra Giannopolou’s project ‘Tell Teens Tales’ addresses how to reach marketing-weary teenage girls with the message about sustainability through fairy tales. Check out her video, too.

 And so dynamic discussions were popping off left and right, numbers and emails were exchanged and the seeds of future collaborations were planted. It was reassuring to see, after hours of discussion on topics of such gravity and scope, that furrowed brows gave way to a broader perspective and, finally, optimism.

Is sustainable fashion an oxymoron? Read more here.

Categories ,Asia Floor Wage Campaign, ,Bibico, ,Centre for Sustainable Fashion, ,Communities, ,East London, ,Enviroment, ,Fair Wear Foundation, ,Fashioning an Ethical Industry, ,FEI, ,India, ,Labour, ,Labour behind the Label, ,LCF, ,Matilda Lee, ,Neighbourhoodies, ,Nepal, ,Nieves Ruiz Ramos, ,Otto VOn Busch, ,Rich Mix Cultural Foundation, ,Sandy Black, ,Sutstainability, ,Tell Teens Tales

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Amelia’s Magazine | Ethical Fashion Forum – Global Sourcing The Market Place Event – One to Watch

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I love the Ethical Fashion Forum. For the past year they have been developing the Spotlight on Sourcing series (the last of which happen in August, drug Spotlight On Africa). The culmination of the 2009 series, drug titled The Annual Industry Marketplace for Suppliers of Sustainable Fabrics, Components and Manufacturers to the Fashion Industry will happen on Friday 20th – Saturday 21st November 2009 at Chelsea College of Art and Design.

The two day conference promises to be an exciting informative event continuing the EFF’s excellent work with regards to building links and contacts between designers, suppliers and warehouses who desire to produce sustainable ethical fashion.

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The culmination of the 2009 series is The Global Sourcing Marketplace event. As aforementioned the event aims to build links between designers, businesses and entrepreneurs who want to work in an ethical environment. The initiative started as a result of the numerous emails the EFF receives each month from business representatives and social entrepreneurs requesting advice or recommendation for manufacturers, suppliers and cooperatives who work to high ethical standards.

Therefore, if you are looking to produce ethical sustainable fashion but are unsure how, this is the event for you. Likewise if you want to exhibit and discuss the creation of your sustainable products you can participate as part of the exhibition stands. Find out more and how to apply here

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Dani the event’s organiser spoke to Amelia’s Magazine about the event, explaining there will be “a series of short seminars during the day, when exhibitors are invited to introduce innovative and exemplary fabrics, components, and manufacturing processes.”

The event is not for profit and all the money raised from the entrance fee will be used to continue the development of sustainable ethical fashion. As the website states the ultimate goal is “to reduce the environmental impact of the industry, support fair and equitable trade, and reduce poverty.” It is held in conjunction with Fairtrade and the World Fairtrade Organisation.

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In addition to the aforementioned series and their already well-established EFF Network, a place where like minded people can gather online to discuss ethical fashion initiatives. The EFF have now started a monthly event: The Ethical Fashion Social. The first of which was hosted a few weeks ago in London, Bristol, New Dehli, Narobi and Washington DC.

Joey Instone, the brains behind the meeting spoke to Amelia’s Magazine about her desire to encourage the groundwork established by the online network to move into face to face discussions. The concept for the socials being to pass on individual knowledge regarding the difficulties facing the establishment and development of ethical fashion companies.

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Eventually Joey hopes for the socials to be self sufficient happenings across the globe that build ethical communities through a combination of business and social relationships. From my own inbox I can see one has sprung up in New York and having experienced the welcoming atmosphere where everyone was keen to pass on information and discuss the state of the fashion industry. This is one idea that will run and run across the world.

Whilst at the Social I met a range of people who had been involved in all aspects of fashion – from the positive steps being taken by the High Street to witnessing the negative side of environmental pollution created as a result of the unregulated textile companies. It was a really fantastic event, watch the EFF website for future dates across the globe!

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Let’s all get involved! If you trying to produce sustainable fashion, this is the event for you! Find out more on the EFF Website.

Watch this space for further news on the EFF Socials, Amelia’s Magazine will be in attendance.

Categories ,Chelsea College of Art and Design, ,fairtrade, ,The Ethical Fashion Forum

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