It's probably unusual to see a fashion blog at the moment with very little reference to the big four (NY, London, Milan, Paris), but i'm going to do something a bit different and introduce you to a fifth - Oxford Fashion Week. This event was established in 2009 and has expanded every year since then. Initially it was an event focused around the students and locals in Oxford, but both designers and models now come from far afield. Last night I attended a debate between a number of people within the fashion industry which was focused around three issues. I'd like to take just a couple of posts to give my opinion on these as I found the event so thought provoking, and tomorrow I will be attending the couture show (FROW!!!) so keep your eyes peeled for lots of photographs from that. If anyone is interested, here is a link to the website where you can find out a bit more about OFW - http://www.oxfordfashionweek.co.uk/home.
So the first question posed to the panel last night was as follows - 'Do consumers care about ethical fashion and supply chains?'.
What do we even mean by 'ethical fashion'? For me, ethical fashion is all about labour standards, but it can go so much further than that. It can include buyer standards (are we paying a fair price for what we are getting?), environmental considerations and sometimes even the moral standards of the country in which any given item is produced. I think that every brand needs to consider ethics otherwise people just aren't going to buy from them - it's too much of an issue in this day and age. But there is definitely a balance to be struck - it won't always be viable from a retail perspective for a brand to focus 100% on ethics.
I care about ethics within fashion - I would never condone the use of child labour, for example, and I would never wear real fur. But in all honesty i'm not entirely sure I make conscious decisions about where I shop on this basis. I don't shop at Primark but that has nothing to do with me boycotting a brand so often associated with unethical practices - I just don't like the clothes, and quite frankly, don't spend my money on cheap things that are going to last me a week. I can afford to go elsewhere, so I do. I take comfort from the fact that I am not contributing to their unethical practices, but that's more of an added bonus than the driving force behind my decision. Yes, most of the clothes that I wear are probably made with ethics in mind, but this is just incidental to the fact that I like to spend good money on what's in my wardrobe. Who knows, maybe i'd feel differently if I discovered that the likes of Isabel Marant or Z&V were exploiting children in third world countries, but I can't say that for sure until it actually happens, which hopefully it never will. I have a feeling that i'm not the only person out there who thinks like this, and who feels a little bit guilty about it. Can we really say that we 'care' about ethical fashion and supply chains when we are never actually forced to make conscious decisions on this basis? It just seems a bit too easy. To care surely means to do something slightly more positive about the situation?
On a slightly lighter note, it's great to see that a lot of designers are embracing environmental ethics. Giorgio Armani has been known to use hemp as a material in some of his designs, and Stella McCartney sticks religiously to her no leather and no fur policy. It's cool to care!
This is such a big question and i've approached it from only one of many perspectives, not even beginning to do it justice. If anyone has any other thoughts then please do message me. I'd also like to take this opportunity to apologise for the lack of pretty photos this time round, but prepare to be amazed on Sunday morning!!
Until next time xoxo