Eco fashionBy TheStudentGuide
It's more than just the latest trend
Image courtesy of Edun Fashion
Eco-fashion is changing the way that people dress. Forget designers and brand-names – ethical and eco are the only labels that matter these days.
What is eco-fashion?
To put it simply, eco-fashion is all about creating clothes that are socially and environmentally responsible. Everything from the textiles used, to the working conditions of the people making the clothes, is taken into account in the question to make fashion fair.
Protecting the environment
Clothing production is an environmental nightmare. Cotton is the main offender, wreaking ecological disaster across the globe. According to eco-fashion magazine, E-Couterre, the cotton growing industry is not only responsible for using more toxic pesticides than any other crop, but it also uses more water than any other industry on the planet, apart from agriculture.
The result of cotton growth is an environmental disaster double-whammy. The harmful chemicals used in clothing production can have a devastating effect on local communities. The World Health organisation estimates that pesticides are responsible for 220,000 deaths across the planet each year. And that’s not all. In 2006, Greenpeace reported that hazardous substances such as lead, nickel and formaldehyde (all commonly used in clothing production) are major causes of cancer, reproductive disorder and damage to the immune and nervous systems in the people handling these chemicals.
The huge volumes of water required for cotton growth can also cause long-term problems. To name just one example, cotton growth in Central Asia has resulted in the disappearance of the Aral Sea, a huge lake in Kazakhstan. The lake was once a hugely important resource for thousands of people. Over-irrigation means that today it is less than 15% of its original size, and is heavily polluted.
Eco-fashion is changing all this. Designers are increasingly changing the way in which they make their clothes. Eco-fashion is all about organic raw materials; cotton grown without pesticides; recycling of textiles and plastics; and no harmful chemicals or bleach dyes.
Making fashion ethical
Ethical fashion takes into account the social impact clothing manufacture has upon the people who make the clothes. Ethical-designers are firmly against sweatshop labour. Working conditions must be safe, and wages must be fair.
Western shopping chains have, in the past, been accused of exploiting workers in developing countries, often forcing them to work seven days a week, paying them a little as 11p an hour, in order to push down the price of clothes at home. Thanks to ethical campaigns such as Labour Behind the Label, this is slowly changing. Fashion increasingly has the power to have a positive impact on local communities.
Take Vivienne Westwood for example. She has recently teamed up with the International Trade Centre for the launch of her second ethical range, ‘Ethical Fashion Africa’. The scheme has so-far provided livelihood and jobs for more than 7,000 of the poorest women in Kenya.
Vivienne isn’t the only one. Everyone from Emma Watson to Bono has put their name to eco/ethical clothes collections.
Learn more about eco and ethical fashion: