The Ethical Fashion Show


A few weekends ago I visited the annual Ethical Fashion Show, an event hosted in the heart of Paris at the Tapis Rouge (one of Paris’ oldest department stores). Whilst there I attended a workshop facilitated by Fashioning an Ethical Industry.

The workshop invited a series of speakers to explore ethics within fashion, the presentations alternated between French and English (headsets were given out to tune into translations). The workshop was action packed and covered a range of topics for example:

Social responsibility  – highlighting the role of the consumer and what alternatives are available. How do we engage with industry to promote ethical production strategies? 

Student awareness – what is the role of Universities and students? 

The workshop was designed to promote ethical literacy and practice and the audience was comprised of students, tutors, designers and industry. The speakers introduced a variety of past and present projects tailored to address these issues. 

The Univeristy of Delamore ran a practical workshop connecting their students directly to industry. Their objective was to demonstrate considerations for the design and development of “sustainable garments”. The students were divided into groups focusing on different areas such as social, use and concept. The students were linked directly to IPC, a Factory School in Honduras and worked collaboratively to deliver end outputs which was a series of garments. Visit their blog for further information.

I liked that their project was a tangible example of design interventions that were both functional and deliverable… there was also end outputs so the theories were met with practice.

IFM in Paris were also working directly with industry through a global collaboration project linking Paris, FIT New York and China. This live one year project allowed the students to meet at each location once and work to experience every aspect of the supply chain. This offers the students a real time perspective through a hands on learning strategy. It looked like this really informed their decision making process and promoted a sustainable actions.
Fashioning an Ethical Industry delivered an inspirational presentation with an introduction to what they do and their resources . Visit FEI website to access these resources there is an educational handbook available and lots of papers and pod casts available to download.

They advised delegates to engage with others via social networks this can help build a dialogue around “sustainable fashion” but also link up institutions, students, designers and industry. I think identifying opportunities to connect and promote global conversations which can lead to exciting collaborations through thinking and practice.
The Ethical Fashion show itself was a fantastic showcase of ethical fashion that was both functional and desirable. The designers were on hand to introduce the thinking behind their collections, explain the production process and answer any questions. 



The EVER Manifesto & Cittadellarte Fashion: Bio Ethical Sustainable Trend

During Milan Fashion Week at the Cittadellarte Fashion: Bio Ethical Sustainable Trend event Princess Charlotte Casiraghi, daughter of Prince Caroline of Monaco, introduced the Ever Manifesto. A new publication she is producing which aims to explore sustainability through fashion, art, education, politics and ecology.

Ms Casiraghi describes the publication as a “communications think tank” inviting designers, artists and experts to come together to focus on the idea of sustainability and how they can combine skills to transform society. The publication will be distributed free at Corso Como, Milan Fashion week and will then available from Colette in Paris.

The Cittadellarte Fashion Event invited eleven designers (selected by Italian Vogue) to explore ecological materials and processes within their work. The designers included Marco de Vincenzo, Silvio Betterelli, and Marta Forghieri, all from Italy; Osman Yousefzada and Mark Fast, Britain; Siri Johansen, Norway; Mary Katrantzou, Greece; José M. Nunes da Silva Giralt, Spain, Matthew Ames, United States; and Sandra Backlund, Sweden.

Event organiser Mr Pistoletto, 76 said he organised the event because he felt fashion needed an Eco boost as it was under explored within the Milan fashion industry. He claimed it was about “unifying aesthetics with ethics…” I think the relationship between the ethics and aesthetics is an interesting and valid point, for sustainable fashion to be truly desirable and demanded for by consumers it needs to be really beautiful and functional as well as ecological. There has been huge developments of late and as more designers explore ecological materials and processes it pushes the boundaries creating new and exciting outputs for the fashion industry. The Cittadellarte Fashion: Bio Ethical Sustainable Trend will be showcased in Milan from 23 September 2009- Feb 2010.

Sandra Backlund – Slow Stitches in Time

I have been observing and admiring the work of fashion knitwear designer Sandra Backlund for some time and I think its a good representation of what it means to combine the words ‘slow’ and ‘fashion’ together in the same sentence. I have been thinking a lot lately about about the word ‘slow’ and its relationship to fashion.

Sandra Backlund studied at Beckmans College of Design, Stockholm and she formed her own label in 2004 immediately after graduating. Her knits are all produced by hand and she constructs the sculptural forms as she works, allowing herself the freedom to improvise as and when she likes. She begins her process with the same patterns blocks and then builds upon this structure to create new 3-Dimensional forms. Each piece takes hours upon hours of hand knitting skills, she is said to spend up to 20 hours per day locked away in her studio knitting and produces two amazing ten piece collections per year!

Her work is constantly changing, shifting and re-forming and I am truly inspired that each piece is crafted by hand. She stated in an interview with BLEND that she was taught to knit as a child by her grandmother and often gets her mother to help out when pressed towards deadlines.

I love the idea of skills being handed down between generations and re-interpreted. Backlund says “my work is very personal to me… I am fascinated by all the ways you can highlight, distort and transform the natural silhouette of the body with clothes and accessories… The handicraft process and the handmade feeling is also significant. I do experiment a lot with different materials and techniques… but its through my heavy wool collage knitting that I have found the ultimate way to express myself. ” The time, precision and quality invested in each piece can make it very difficult to categories her collections – are they truly fashion wearables or art forms? And how do you market or put a price tag on such a high level of innovation and craftsmanship? She could be labeled as a knitting visionary as she pushes the boundaries between traditional hand craft by creating fashion forward garments that are truly iconic and cutting edge. When asked to explain her thought process she explains there is no formula to it… she just experiments through the stitches. Once the panels are formed she pins and constructs them in front of a mirror to shape and form. It’s an interesting discussions as sometimes designers find it difficult to explain their method behind the process, it is an intrinsic part of the design process that is unexplainable and can not be taught.

I think investing lots of time and energy allows us to perfect and reflect a technique but I think there is also a little magic behind the new thoughts or concepts that emerge. I love Sandra’s work. I have linked to her website to view the 2009 collections. If only we could all use hand knitting in such an inspiring way we would have the answers to slow fashion at our fingertips!

Fashioning an Ethical Industry Annual Conference 2010

Call for Academic/Research Papers and Student Projects Fashioning an Ethical Industry International Conference: Fast Forward Supported by the Northumbria University School of Design 2nd and 3rd March 2010 London Fashion both reflects and influences social change.In a time when we are increasingly concerned with the impact of the industry on people and the planet, students need to be equipped with the tools to design the way we make and consume fashion differently.

Fashioning an Ethical Industry (an EU funded project taking place in the UK, Netherlands, Austria and Poland) is part of a growing global movement within fashion education that is addressing how the business of fashion impacts on garment workers. This two day international conference will build upon the success of previous national events and the publication of the Sustainable Fashion: A Handbook for Educators. It will bring together educators, industry experts, academics and selected students to explore how fashion can be taught to inspire responsibility for the rights of the workers making our clothes.

Alongside their set programme of speakers with expertise in the industry, they will provide the opportunity for the presentation of academic research papers and for students to present their project or dissertation work at the conference. Each paper will be presented in a 30 minute session. Double sessions of one hour are available. All of the papers and projects will be presented in a workshop setting and the presenter should allow time for participants to comment and contribute to the session.

Academic/Research Papers: Papers are welcomed that address the following or related themes: Social responsibility in the garment industry (with an emphasis on garment workers’ rights) Teaching ethics within fashion education Approaches to education for sustainable development relevant to fashion education Student Presentations: Students are invited to apply for the opportunity to showcase their project, design or dissertation work which addresses social responsibility in the garment industry. If you are a tutor please encourage your students to make a submission. Procedure: Academics and students interested in participating in this event should submit an abstract by 30th October 2009 of 500‐700 words to Abstracts will be peer-reviewed by a committee chaired by Doug Miller Inditex/ITGLWF Professor in Ethical Fashion at University of Northumbria. Final papers should be 5-6000 words long. The papers will be published online on the Fashioning an Ethical Industry website under a creative commons license and may be published more formally. Important Dates: Abstract submission deadline: 30th October 2009 Feedback on submissions: 29th November 2009 Final paper/project submission deadline: 30th January 2010 Final Conference: 2nd/3rd March 2010 For more information visit their website.

2012 Imperative Teach In

The Victoria and Albert Musuem will host the 2012 IMPERATIVE TEACH-IN on the 12th October followed by participating institutions on the 13th October. This event will broadcast live online and speakers include Andrew Simms of the New Economics Foundation, John Thackara of the Doors of Perception, Richard Hawkins and Christian Hunt from the PIRC, Ben Gill from BioRegional, designers Jonathan Crinion (Crinion Associates) and Stephanie Hankey (Tactical Technology Collective).

The 2012 Imperative aims to embed ecological and sustainability literacy in design education by 2012. There is a social network to support new connections and conversations. Visit their website for further information on booking tickets or where to watch the broadcast live.

Junky Styling “Wardrobe Surgery”

Junky Styling “Wardrobe Surgery” by Kerry Seager and Annika Sanders is available to purchase via their website. Junky Styling are a fashion brand who upcycle clothing to create new wearables and they offer a wardrobe surgery consultancy service that allows consumers to update their wardrobe using existing garments.

Working with used and already constructed clothing can be restricting but they have engineered this element into their design aesthetic and the overall look of the transformed garment is both stylish and wearable. A must have book for any fashion DIY enthusiast or any fashion consumer. Wouldn’t a few tips and tricks to update our wardrobe be valuable?

Fashioning Now

Fashioning Now, changing the way we make and use clothes is an exhibition and symposium at University of Technology, Sydney 28 July – 28 August 2009. The exhibit features innovative research projects from Australian and International practitioners including three members of staff and research from LCF Prof Helen Storey MBE, Dr Kate Fletcher and Jennifer Shellard.

Fashioning Now addresses all stages of the clothing lifecycle exploring the production and use of garments and addressing how and why they become discarded. The work has been submitted in an array of different mediums from garments,textile objects, time based art, photography and fashion illustration. The designers have used upcycling techniques, zero waste production, slow fashion, bespoke services, traditional craft and many more methods to present a series of sustainable solutions and poise scenarios for further research and development.

Visit the Fashioning Now website which hosts information about the event, the exhibitors and their work. Case studies are available to download and the website will be updated regularly making is a valuable resource for those with in an interest in sustainable fashion and textiles.