Equa Blog - News, Views and Ethical Styling...

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Our Biggest Challenge

I often get asked what the biggest challenge for the ethical fashion industry is. I was asked this recently by a journalist. I told him that the biggest challenge is for the 'ethical' fashion sector to be seen not as a niche market that deserves only a small amount of shop floor space in Top Shop or M&S, but as a norm.

When I see Top Shop's Fair Trade Foundation certified organic cotton fair trade t-shirt, I am pleased that large fashion companies see that fair trade fashion is something worth investing in, but it always makes me wonder what it says about the rest of their collections... Is an £18 pair of fair trade, organic cotton jeans really 'ethical'?

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Ethical Fashion

By Penny Cooke, Director of Equa

This is a new thing for Equa. With this blog we hope to bring to you our thoughts on ethical fashion, inside secrets from the boutique, first look at new collections including Equa staff's favorite pieces from the season, and raise issues regarding ethical consumerism and generally continue the debate.

The end of the season is coming, the sale is still on and we are selling out of many lines. Looking back at this season, which is our 5th, it has been a really exciting one. There have been many changes to the boutique itself, and we have added a few new labels. We have just had a bit of work done at the shop to improve lighting and space... all of which raise ethical issues of their own which I am sure I will talk about at another point.

My favorite new label from this season has to be Annie Greenabelle. This new label is designed by Rachel Plant and has without doubt been the most popular label this season, and having seen her collection for this coming Spring/Summer I think this trend will continue. The new collection is due in the boutique mid-February. Very exciting!

Annie Greenabelle was inspired from the make-do-and-mend philosophy that our grandparents were brought up on. This dress pictured is a combination of organic cotton (the white body), and reclaimed fabrics from end of rolls of fabrics. It works so well, using end of rolls means that each dress is limited in the numbers that can be produced providing an amount of exclusivity on the item... ever sick of seeing the same thing on every other person on the high street, I know I am.
This is just one new label that is striving to provide an alternative to the fast fashion high street that has become the reality of the fashion industry in the UK and around the Western world. Personally I detest the mostly badly made clothes that you can buy on the high street, that will end up in your bin, or in the Charity shops within a few months or even weeks. Throw away fashion is something that I struggle with, but seems to be something that we have become so used to.
When out with friends recently I noticed that when complementing someone on what they were wearing, the first response from her was 'It's great, only cost me £40 from Top Shop'. This seems to be a common theme amongst my friends, price comes up again and again as if that is the only reason for buying something. If you have only spend a nominal amount on something can you really place any value on that item, is it something that is going to be loved and looked after, or is it something that will be worn once or twice and then end up at the back of the wardrobe and eventually in the bin. The fact that 900,000 items of clothing are thrown away each year in the UK alone suggests not. I am proud that I still wear some clothes that I bought 10 years ago (and that I can still fit into them).
This is not to say that clothes need to be expensive, but I really believe they need to have some value or they are worthless and become disposable. I know that I love and look after something much more when I have coveted it for a while and decided it is something I want to invest in. It is not always the case that expensive clothing is better made, but it is a good rule of thumb. Look at the label, if it has been made from high quality fabrics by skilled tailors, and you look after it well, then there is no reason why you can't be wearing it in two years time.