Tuesday 21 January 2014

Eco-Fashion: The Year Ahead

A fascinating overview/chat/gallery went up on Ecouterre in the New Year. They asked 37 movers and shakers in the ethical fashion biz for their predictions as to what 2014 would hold for the industry. The whole thing is certainly worth a look, but it's interesting to parse out some of the recurring themes of the piece.

Firstly, most experts seem to agree that transparency is going to be increasingly important in 2014. Consumers are becoming more and more aware and inquisitive about the origins of their clothes, and savvy eco-friendly manufacturers are plugging into that, letting their customers (virtually) meet the people who produce their clothes. Transparency has another benefit, that becomes vital when you consider just how many miles a t-shirt will travel in its journey from cotton field (or perhaps nettle patch or hemp hollow) to your wardrobe. Enabling a clear chain of information about the many stages that a modern piece of clothing goes through makes it easier for manufacturers to clamp down on abuses to their well-meant but loosely-applied working practices, and for those abuses to be reported and halted.

This takes us neatly onto the next big concern from many in the interview chain: respect for workers. The Rana Plaza collapse will be seen by many as a watershed in global labour relations, as it showed just what a poor state the relationship between workers, factory owners and the conglomerates that pay them had become. In the chase for profit, the workers are very clearly the victims, and the spike in industrial action following Rana Plaza has shown that they have had enough of being treated as second-class citizens. Support for worker's rights, which includes union recognition, has to be a part of the ethical fashion blueprint.

As an offshoot from that, Orsola De Castro, co-founder of London Fashion Week's ethical offshoot Esthetica, summed up the thoughts of many when she said:

  "I believe that in the high-end sector there will be a rush to re embrace artisans and manual skills, and that crafts will become a tool for modern luxury once again."
Quite so. The skills at play in many hand-crafted goods that savvy suppliers like House Of Wandering Silk, Senhoa and Quasi ship to the global market show that there is a real demand for objects that mix art, skill and beauty in a wearable form. I agree with Orsola: we're likely to see some stunning pieces this year that have the most humble of origins.

Picking trends in the New Year is inevitably an exercise in defeat: we're still waiting for the tin-foil clothes and wearable tech that future fashion gurus have insisted will be on our backs soon. But general trends like the three I've picked out would seem to be not only sensible, but inevitable.

So what do you think? Is there something obvious that I've really missed out on?

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