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31-05-2006
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An article in the UK newspaper, the Telegraph, in Feb

Fashion goes green
(Filed: 12/02/2006)


High-street retailers are rushing to introduce ethical clothing ranges, which delights the eco-activist Woody Harrelson. James Hall reports
'Wow, Marks & Spencer, I'm really proud of them," says Woody Harrelson, the Oscar-nominated actor, ethical activist, vegan, raw foodist, yoga devotee and party animal, in his low Ohio drawl.
"I am amazed by these percentages. Seventy-eight per cent of people say they would like to know more about the way clothes are made, including the conditions in the factory, where they come from and the use of chemicals in their manufacture. Seventy-eight per cent! Fifty-nine per cent avoid buying food they think is not up to scratch. These are major percentages," he says between mouthfuls of crunchy roughage from Fresh & Wild, the organic food shop.
Harrelson, who is starring in the West End production of Night of the Iguana, is reading from an M&S press release about its new "Look behind the label" campaign to inform customers about how its products are sourced and made. It also includes details of a new, 60,000-item range of Fairtrade cotton clothing that M&S will launch next month.
"This is the first major retailer I've ever known do this. This is great news," Harrelson says.
Ethical clothing is very much Harrelson's home ground. The actor, who wears hemp or bamboo grass clothing most days ("I haven't always been the most stylish fella but certainly I've felt clean on a moral level"), could fairly be described as both a celebrity and an eco-warrior.
But his steely glare - used to such great effect in Natural Born Killers, the blockbuster film - breaks into a grin when he hears about what M&S is doing. Next he hopes that M&S will move into organic cotton, which requires no pesticides (the majority of Fairtrade cotton is not organic).
And spring-summer 2006 is certainly the season that will see ethical clothing moving from the underground into the mainstream. Topshop, the retail chain that is part of billionaire Philip Green's Arcadia empire, is launching a raft of organic cotton babywear ranges in April. The retailer even has a buying executive dedicated to sourcing ethical clothing.
Others are at it too. Last month Bono, the U2 singer, launched Red, a fashion label that will sell ethically sourced products and give a slug of its revenues to fight Aids in Africa.
Gap, Giorgio Armani and Converse are among the large companies signed up. Bono's wife, Ali Hewson, also designs a separate ethical clothing line. The list goes on.
Green is fast becoming the new black. The market for ethical clothes rose by 30 per cent to £43m during 2004, according to the Co-operative Bank's Ethical Consumerism Report 2005. Boycotts of companies because of consumers' concerns about sweatshop labour or animal welfare rose by 8 per cent.
But can mainstream chains make money from ethically sourced and manufactured clothing, or are they just jumping on a conscience-cleansing bandwagon that is populated by celebrities and eco-warriors?
According to Harrelson, the retailers' move into ethical clothing is more than a marketing ruse. He believes the public is more concerned about what is going on behind the scenes than it ever was, and this goes for what they wear, eat and are told by people in power.
"This is part of a bigger picture. Fahrenheit 9/11 [the film about America's war on terror] was the real proof that people are concerned with progressive ideas. It was the most watched documentary of all time," he says.
Safia Minney, the founder of People Tree, one of the ethical clothing manufacturers that will supply Topshop, says retailers are responding to a new consciousness among consumers. She believes shoppers have "had enough" of not knowing where their clothes come from, and says 50 per cent of people reassess a purchase if they doubt a garment's provenance.
She thinks there is a backlash against store groups' recent move into so-called fast fashion - in which cheap clothes are sourced at short notice from factories close to the UK. Retailers are starting to rework their supply chains to respond to these criticisms., she says.
But do the economics stack up? Ethically sourced clothes cost more to produce than conventionally sourced garments. This is because of the extra work, special processes and checks that go into manufacturing the products.
But retailers pass this extra cost on to the consumer. A Fairtrade T-shirt from M&S's range, for example, will cost £7, £1 more than an equivalent normal T-shirt. Given that customers appear happy to spend more to buy such clothes, the extra cost is not really an issue.
There is little profit advantage either. M&S sells its Fairtrade clothing at the same margin as its other fashion lines. Indeed, it has made a policy commitment not to take additional margin from its Fairtrade clothes.
In other words, the economics of selling ethically sourced clothing are the same for M&S as selling normal clothes - it just charges more because the products cost more to make.
So far, so inconclusive. Where the economic argument for big retailers selling ethical clothing begins to falter is in the labour-intensive manufacturing process and the re-engineering of the supply chain that such a move requires. The whole process remains hugely inefficient.
For example, for the Fairtrade cotton that M&S sources from its farmers to be spun, huge cotton mills have to stop their production runs of conventional thread and be cleared for the Fairtrade batch. Economies of scale are lost.
There is also an issue with volumes. M&S uses 50,000 tons of cotton a year in all its products, yet the total volume of Fairtrade cotton produced globally is between 600 and 1,000 tons. This again limits production.
People Tree's Minney says it takes a lot of time, money and work to establish a truly ethical supply chain. It took People Tree's Japanese arm eight years to reach profitability, against five years for the UK business. Such delays are unlikely to be tolerated by big retailers' shareholders.
Nevertheless, baby steps are being made in the right direction, says Stuart Rose, M&S's chief executive. He admits that M&S's ranges will be limited because of supply limitations, but is hopeful that ethical clothing will grow as part of the business. "All the signs are that this is something we will want to build on," he says.
Harrelson points out that when organic food was launched in the UK it was dismissed as a fad. It now accounts for 3 per cent of the market. He says there is a clear business case for mass market retailers to move into ethical clothing and that they simply wouldn't do it if it did not make financial sense.
"The reason M&S is doing this is because of the bottom line, because customers are interested in that kind of thing. These guys are at least on the pulse."
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/mai...2/ccfash12.xml

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31-05-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fash ho'
There is little profit advantage either. M&S sells its Fairtrade clothing at the same margin as its other fashion lines. Indeed, it has made a policy commitment not to take additional margin from its Fairtrade clothes.
That's very promising. I feel like many retailers do take additional margins from organic food, and while that doesn't neccessarily hurt sales, the extra high prices make organics available to less people. thanks for the article fash ho'!

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01-06-2006
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Get crafty, sustainable style
I can't sew for tuppence, but I really admire people who re-fashion and make new clothes from old. Some examples . . .

Fifty RX3 (NY blogger on sustainability and style) made a cool dress and little jacket from umbrellas that she found on the streets of NY.
http://50rx3annex.blogspot.com/2006/...-projects.html

TFSer Susiebubble's lovely dress made from an old silk skirt (photo http://stylebubble.typepad.com/style...dress_day.html)


I also heard on fiftyrx3 (http://fiftyrx3.blogspot.com/), about site about a group called Wardrobe Refashion (http://wardroberefashion.blogspot.com/) who have pledged to re-fashion clothes for a specified amount of time and blog the process.

There's seems to be something about spending time re-making an object that kind of inbues it with more meaning than picking up a cheap top from H&M or somewhere. I think that having this kind of different relationship with your clothes is a reaction against the throw-away fast fashion that is everywhere. If we loved our clothes more, maybe we wouldn't need so many . . .
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01-06-2006
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susie's dress

don't know why it isn't showing as a thumbnail too?
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File Type: bmp Susie's dress.bmp (39.9 KB, 2 views)

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Last edited by fash ho'; 01-06-2006 at 03:40 AM.
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01-06-2006
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^ Great article, and I'm every bit as pleased as Woody Now we need it stateside ...

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02-06-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fashionista-ta
^ Europeans seem to be far ahead of us when it comes to "green"
Not neccessarily...in many cases Europeans care less about green issues. In the States people can't rely on their government to protect the environment as much as they would like so there's a feeling of activism that you don't see in Europe.

Strange but true.

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02-06-2006
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^ Hmm, interesting. Darn right about the government here

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02-06-2006
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------being ethical-----------

for me means simply buying from where ever with this..................

(and just by setting one up you can pay for an african teachers salary for 5 weeks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) - disgrace not to really............

http://www.oxfam.org.uk/what_you_can...creditcard.htm

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02-06-2006
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This thread is like an emotional roller coaster.......I am sorry but I don't think age or a hectic lifestyle is a justified reason to rape the third world!

However, sista's like Fash ho', Lena, Fashion-ista (forgive the spelling) and the like make my heart swell! Thanks so much to everyone for sharing websites and articles to spread awareness and fuel a more dynamic fair trade industry.

I am not into dreads or patchouli, but I believe in socially and environmentally conscious consumption. For this reason, I generally gravitate to vintage but know that won't last forever either. "Fashion" vintage will not last, nor does it help the peeps who sweat out 16hr work days in obsenely poor countries. I am giddy to think that lots of talented designers are thinking on a different level these days. Ironically, some of this change IS in fact greed driven, with high fashion labels focusing more on couture and bespoke to avoid being knocked-off by the budget mall / chain stores. However, if this gives a momma in Bolivia a chance to make a decent income and develop skills that will finally be considered valuable, then whatever works is fine with me.

I know that humanity will have to go through this "uncomfortable" phase where you will have to pay $40- $100 for a halter instead of $15. However, if this means that a momma who ate dirt for breakfast can finally make a decent wage sewing it, then you have to realize that ultimately, a momma in Detroit will consequentially be making a decent wage selling it. It's is hard to wrap your head around but this is all relative (see Economics 101, first year Uni). I am not trying to patronize, as it is a bit complicated, however it is not above ANYONE'S head and is actually very easy to understand if you can handle the conscious that accompanies the knowledge.

I mean, come on, if you are willing for fork out $1000 for a freakin' Balenciaga bag that 10million other bimbos have, then you can be an individual and purchase a $1000 quality handbag made by an artisan......

I know how angry I sound but vanity, greed and ignorance frustrate me!

This is a store in Victoria, Canada that carries clothing on the not so sinful side:

www.notjustpretty.com

This shoe line makes HANDMADE shoes that are also vegetable dyed. Admittedly, some of the product is a little granola, but some of it is mouth watering..... www.cydwoq.com

I sin, I love lycra in my clothing even though it is probably the biggest polluter in the apparel industry. Has anyone ever heard of any lycra substitutes out there in the textile industry?

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03-06-2006
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love this thread. thank you contributors for being so educated and informative!

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04-06-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scandababian

I know that humanity will have to go through this "uncomfortable" phase where you will have to pay $40- $100 for a halter instead of $15. However, if this means that a momma who ate dirt for breakfast can finally make a decent wage sewing it, then you have to realize that ultimately, a momma in Detroit will consequentially be making a decent wage selling it. It's is hard to wrap your head around but this is all relative (see Economics 101, first year Uni). I am not trying to patronize, as it is a bit complicated, however it is not above ANYONE'S head and is actually very easy to understand if you can handle the conscious that accompanies the knowledge.

I mean, come on, if you are willing for fork out $1000 for a freakin' Balenciaga bag that 10million other bimbos have, then you can be an individual and purchase a $1000 quality handbag made by an artisan......
Karma for this reality check

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05-06-2006
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Quote:
Biodegradable Phone by NEC
via ecofriend.org

Biodegradable phones! You must be pondering, how it is possible! But, that’s an unique innovation the Japanese can mate. NEC’s N70i cell phone case is made from potatoes, corn and kenaf, making it biodegradable. With delicious recipes cooking in your mind – as it seems to taste great with butter and a little salt, you must be worrying about a phone being perishable, rather ‘biodegradable’.

Don’t worry. The cute clamshell will simply rot and decompose when you chuck it in the compost. And the most environmental contribution of the innovation lies in the manufacturing process itself. It uses far less CO2 than your average petrochem-based plastic mobile. Thank you ‘The Raw Feed’ for informing about this wonderful eco-friendly mobile. But, the saddest part of it is that, it is currently only available in Japan.
I thought this was interesting, as I remember reading somewhere that people tend to change their phones and other gadgets every two years. That's got to add up to a lot of garbage...garbage that we can't really afford to have if we want to keep Mother Earth healthy. I know this thread has been about organic/fair trade clothing, but there's no reason why we can't extend it to other things, right?

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05-06-2006
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^that's so rad! i hope it becomes more widely available soon!

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05-06-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scandababian

I know that humanity will have to go through this "uncomfortable" phase where you will have to pay $40- $100 for a halter instead of $15. However, if this means that a momma who ate dirt for breakfast can finally make a decent wage sewing it, then you have to realize that ultimately, a momma in Detroit will consequentially be making a decent wage selling it. It's is hard to wrap your head around but this is all relative (see Economics 101, first year Uni). I am not trying to patronize, as it is a bit complicated, however it is not above ANYONE'S head and is actually very easy to understand if you can handle the conscious that accompanies the knowledge.

I mean, come on, if you are willing for fork out $1000 for a freakin' Balenciaga bag that 10million other bimbos have, then you can be an individual and purchase a $1000 quality handbag made by an artisan......
Anyone who spends more than $500 on part of an outfit or accessories, like a skirt, or a shirt/blouse, or a handbag, or whatever, that is made of cheap materials, cares soley about looking like he or she is rich. With very rare exceptions, the materials used to make an outfit or accessories doesn't cost jack. In my opinion, anyone willing to spend $1000 for a bag quite frankly has something wrong with them, but I feel the same way about diamonds--what a frickin' waste of money! What's wrong with cubic zirconia? "Oh my, it's fake, it doesn't have flaws in it! It wasn't mined! Oh my goodness, how terrible!"

It's getting to the point where virtually all large corporations in the U.S. have become corrupt, and the companies that don't follow suit usually die off. CEO's can make over 500 times the pay rate of the employees below them, and just so they (ceo's) don't have to take a cut in pay, they turn around and fire thousands of people so they can outsource jobs to countries with cheap labor. Corporations in the U.S. have more rights than individuals (unless they're very rich individuals).

Yes, it would be great if people could primarily buy clothing and accessories from small businesses and individuals, but for the huge percentage of people making only minimum wage, spending $100 for a halter is out of the question.

The only way that we can help this problem is by promoting change in the laws dealing with corporations. Telling people to only buy from small businesses is basically telling people to boycott large corporations, which, because they've become so big and make so many types of products, is virtually impossible.

Doing the "ethical consumer" thing is a nice idea, but it quite frankly doesn't do any good. It's as useful as the phrase "why can't we all just get along?" If everyone did it, yes, it would make a difference, a huge difference, but you're not going to convince the minimum-wage making people to spend 10 times the amount they're paying now for everyday things, and the gap between the rich and the poor is getting bigger every day.

Now, even what I'm suggesting is sort-of a catch-22. Politicians generally are there -not- for the individuals, but for business, commerce, and for their own gain. The idea that politicians would actually do something that would reduce the amount of campaign contributions and personal checks they receive from ceo's and major stockholders of corporations is unrealistic.

Basically, I'm saying that I really don't know what the answer to this problem is.

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06-06-2006
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well, in the interim, i think its better to have sustainable/ethical choices available, rather than not at all. even if its won't solve all the world's problems and is not affordable for everyone, it can give exposure to what lies beneath the things we buy (and who's lost out along the way) and may eventually help pull the market along (with the help of governments, ngos and international organisations) towards sustainability.

wishful thinking, maybe . . . but as you say yourself, what are the alternatives?

i agree that there the root of the problem doesn't lie with consuming more ethical products. i think for the individual, its about consuming differently. we need to understand and interrogate why we need to consume so much in the first place. that's why the voluntary simplicity idea is so appealing. if you understand that having more stuff doesn't fill the gap, no matter how many shoes you own, than you can relinquish the desire for more more more and decouple yourself, (at least a little bit) from the mad consumer carousel. (that's my theory, but not necessarily my reality, btw!)


there is no one answer to the problem. sustainability (economic, social and environmental) issues are complex, diffuse, pervasive and often characterised by uncertainty. no one actor alone can solve the issues and only a diversity of innovative approaches will make a difference.

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Last edited by fash ho'; 06-06-2006 at 10:23 AM.
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