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 | Fashion and Ethics – A timely discussion


Ciel (photography by

The V&A have a knack for putting on stylish events for the stylishly minded and the “Fashion and…” lecture series was no exception. Taking off in conjunction with London College of Fashion, one that attracted Amelia’s Magazine’s was the “Fashion and Ethics” forum.  The forum brought to our attention the extreme passion many people have for making a difference within the third world for garment workers. The guest speakers; designer Sarah Ratty of CielChristian Kemp-Griffin from clothing range Edun and Matilda Lee from the Ecologist represented different areas of the industry. Posing the question “is green still the new black?” the talk raised awareness of what is being done and what still needs to be done for a fairer trading world.


Ciel (photography by

Essentially the forum broached the difficult subject of responsibility. Now that we as a shopping public know about the ‘behind the scenes’ of clothing retail, should we change our shopping habits? The popularity of the talk highlights the extent to which we are aware of these issues. With ‘cheap-fashion-fix’ culture taking over, consumers are buying more and more cheap clothing, instead of investing in more expensive pieces as our grandparents’ generation did. However, the human price is far from cheap, poorly paid labour, stark working conditions and unfair treatment are all linked in order for the shops to turn out cheaper and cheaper clothing yet still make a profit. The profit is coming from the worker.


Ciel Wool (photography by

Two of the in-house speakers, Sarah Ratty and Christian Kemp-Griffin, were there to represent design houses that refuse to compromise on worker rights. Sarah Ratty of Ciel designs clothing alongside Peruvian farmers whose lifestyle would otherwise have died out. Creating luxurious pieces from alpaca wool, Ratty’s designs help keep the coloured alpaca stock alive as they are suffering from the popularity of their white alpaca brothers. The farmers who raise the stock are also ‘kept alive’ by Ratty’s industry as she provides them with working conditions which can allow them to continue with a way of life that has lasted for years. Ratty is a business woman and a designer, but one who wants to make a difference.


Sarah Ratty of Ciel (photography by

Similarly, Edun, represented by Christian Kemp-Griffen, are another company whose main purpose is to aid garment workers and promote fair trade. Famously fathered by Bono and his wife Ali Hewson, the label seeks to aid sub-Saharan African countries through trade. Believing that promoting trade will put an end to the need for world aid, Edun encourages garment manufacture in countries such as Uganda. The old maxim, “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat forever” certainly seems to be of utmost relevance here.



With rousing forum interchanges following the initial “speeches”, the passion of the audience for ethical fashion was evident. Debating the relative benefits of organic cotton over its abundant water usage, the speakers had to admit that they could not do everything; for success within this field, it is necessary to pick and choose a path to follow. These designers are following the path of creating admirable working conditions and promoting trade to poor countries.

The talk centred around the future of the industry, pondering the invention of intelligent and GM fabrics. While GM fabrics had a distinct “no” from both Sarah Ratty and Matilda Lee, the use of intelligent fabrics was deemed interesting for the future of fashion. Inevitably, the debate overran the allotted time slot, and our London College of Fashion host had to silence those still attempting to pose questions.



Following the success of the night, I will leave you with my main thoughts on the proceedings. In a world in which fair trade food is widely appreciated and endorsed, isn’t it time for fair trade fashion to follow suit?

Categories ,Ali Hewson, ,Bono, ,Christian Kemp-Griffin, ,ciel, ,Edun, ,Ethical Fashion Forum, ,fairtrade, ,Fashion and… lecture series, ,London College of Fashion, ,Matilda Lee, ,Sarah Ratty, ,the ecologist, ,va, ,War on Want

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Amelia’s Magazine | Fashion at Forty Winks – relax with fashion

This weeks listings; arts, website like this training, information pills films and festivals. Make sure you check out C words at some point, where Platform are putting on 50 events in the run-up to COP 15.

Illustration by Andrea Kearney

The Alternative Food Shopping Tour!
Tuesday 27 October 2009

An event to accompany C Words: Carbon, Climate, Capital, Culture – an exhibition by artist-activist group PLATFORM and their collaborators. Join James from action hero on a guided tour around Bristol’s alternative food shopping. Where to buy, what to choose, and how the hell it got there!

Time: 10.15am
Venue: Arnolfini 6 Narrow Quay, Bristol BS1 4QA

Embedded! Arts, Energy and Climate Change
Wednesday 28th October 2009

Another event in the programme C Words: Carbon, Climate, Capital, Culture. This day conference is aimed at arts and cultural organisations facing up to the challenge of moving towards low impact and carbon neutral operations. Looking at the investment structure of the arts into funding into climate change as well as discussions into a radical reduction in dependency on carbon and on fossil fuel based economics

11.30am – 4.30pm
£20 / £10 concs

3rd Native Spirit Festival
Friday 30th October 2009?


The 3rd Native Spirit Festival will be held in London, it is held to promote the Cultures of Indigenous people. The annual season will include films, talks and performances. All proceedings made at the festival will go towards educational resources for schools in indigenous communities.
Venue: London, Amnesty International Human Rights Action Centre

Healing the wound: the struggle for truth and justice in Mexico
Friday 30th October 2009 ?

Film screening of 12.511 Rosendo Radilla case: An open wound from Mexico’s Dirty War. Q&A follows the film showing with human rights defender Tita Radilla to discuss the struggle in Mexico over the past decades.

Venue: Frontline Club, 13 Norfolk Place, London W2 1QJ
Time: 7pm

CAAT National Gathering 2009
Saturday 31st October 2009 ?

Join Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) supporters from around the country for a day of speakers, discussion and inspiration!
There will be an array of workshops on topics from arms fairs to corporate mercenaries to challenging the arms industry’s jobs argument. The event will have opportunities to hone your skills in making the most of the media.
With an election looming and BAE Systems taking advantage of the recession to claim it invests ‘more and more in UK manufacturing’, this year’s event will provide the facts, skills and passion you need to challenge government support for the arms trade and tackle the arms industry’s spin.

Time: 10.15am – 5pm
Venue: Toynbee Studios, London, E1 6AB

Training for Gaza Freedom March
Saturday 31st October 2009

Seeds for Change are putting on training for those interested in taking part in the Gaza Freedom march. There is a central London venue, crash-pad accommodation available on Fri and Sat evenings.


Croydon Eco Veggie Fayre
Sunday 1st Nov 2009


The Croydon Eco Veggie Fayre is a superb day out for the whole family and is the perfect introduction into an eco friendly veggie friendly Fair Trade way of life. Over 50 stalls now allocated, to browse, buy and

Venue: Fairfield Halls, Park Lane, Croydon, Surrey CR9 1DG
Admission £3 for adults, £1 for Kids under 14

Designers are always looking for the perfect location to showcase their collection, viagra 40mg so when what German Vogue describes as ‘the most beautiful small hotel in the world’ opened its doors to the fashion crowd during London Fashion Week, shop designers were fighting to get in.


40 winks is the boutique hotel and home of London interior designer David Carter. Recently he has been opening up his gorgeous abode for a series of Bedtime Story soirees- guests relax in their vintage pyjamas, whilst sipping on some champagne and listening to bedtime stories red by professional actors. The success of these nights and the hotel’s increasing popularity amongst the fashion crowd led David to launch the London Fashion Week ‘pop-up’ showroom.


Visiting the event felt a million miles from Somerset house– the soft lighting and intimate atmosphere ,divine furnishings and artwork, cocktails served in vintage crockery and sweet treats from Vintage Patisserie all added to the ambience.


Designers spread their wares thoughout the rooms, as models sported some of the more show-stopping pieces. My favourites were the red, metal dress by Alexandra Kaegler, as well as the tweed skirts and jackets by Timothy Foxx, jazzed up with printed linings.


Katherine Wardropper‘s sculptural fabric creations made true statement pieces of jewellery. The talents of Lisa Gibson, Ruti Danan and Atelier Annick were also on show- all names to watch!



If you missed 40 Winks over fashion week, don’t worry! Fashion is back for the exclusive new event ‘TART’, brought to you by vintage guru Naomi Thompson, pin-up queen Fleur de Guerre and the dandyesque David Carter. In the fabulous 40 Winks setting, you’ll be able to slip into a vintage gown from Vogue favourites Vintage Secret, have your hair and make-up done by Lipstick and Curls, and make-up artist to the stars, Bella Cruikshank, whilst sipping on some bubbly and nibbling on cakes and chocolates from Vintage Patisserie.

tart-1 copy

Naomi and Fleur will be on hand to transform you into your inner starlet. Inspired by your new look? Update your wardrobe with some of the cool creations from young designers including Minna, milliner Katherine Elizabeth, and eco couture jewellery from Seraglia.


All a little too taxing? Relax with a massage from the well-trained hands of Xhilarate. What better way to spend a Saturday afternoon?! The dates are 14th November and 12th December; if this isn’t the perfect present to give your mum/sister/best friend, or indeed to ask for yourself, I don’t know what is!

All Photographs except the “Tart” Image and Seraglia were taken by Paula Harrowing

Categories ,”TART”, ,Alexandra Kaegler, ,Atelier Annick, ,Bella Cruickshank, ,David Carter, ,Forty Winks, ,German Vogue, ,Katherine Wardopper, ,Lipstick and Curls, ,Lisa Gibson, ,London Fashion Week, ,Ruti Danan, ,Timothy Foxx, ,Vintage Patisserie, ,Vintage Secret, ,vogue

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