It has been almost three weeks since the Bangladesh tragedy, where more than 1000 workers in a garment factory were killed. This is the not first horrific incident of this kind to have happened in a garment manufacturing unit in the country, but it is the deadliest disaster to hit the garment industry in Bangladesh that is worth $20 billion annually and supplies global retailers.
The cost of cheap fashion is getting unbearably high and this probably might work as the final trigger for the fashion industry to take the measures necessary to avoid any such tragedies in the future. In fact, as this story reports, H&M, C&A, Primark and Inditex, owner of the Zara chain, said they would sign a five-year contract that requires companies to conduct safety inspections, make factory conditions public and cover the costs for repairs. It also calls for them to stop doing business with any factory that refuses to make safety upgrades.
As the debate about ethics in the industry gains further momentum, it would also be the right time to discuss international brands that have adopted ethical and sustainable practices as a core philosophy for their brands. These are brands and designers that are trying to make a positive difference through fashion, and without any compromise on quality or style. Here are our 5 picks:
1. Stella Mc Cartney: “I design clothes that are meant to last. I believe in creating pieces that aren’t going to get burned, that aren’t going to landfills, that aren’t going to damage the environment,” says Stella Mc Cartney. One of the first designers to adopt the ethical and eco-friendly approach to manufacturing fashion, she made sustainable fashion a serious business. And she made it chic. Mc Cartney’s animal-friendly (no leather, no fur) designs and healthy-living attitude extends into her offices and studios in the UK that are powered by wind energy and abroad, they use renewable energy to power their stores and offices and a large part of their operations are run on 100% renewable, green energy. Read more at www.stellamccartney.com.
2. Edun: Launched in 2005 by Ali Hewson and her husband, U2 singer Bono, this brand works to bring about positive change through its trading relationship with Africa. In 2009, LVMH bought a significant stake in EDUN and provides essential support, investment and infrastructure. As a 100 percent African “grow-to-sew initiative”, the brand’s sister line E Live has produced 700,000 African made T-shirts. In 2012, Diesel and Edun joined forces to further apparel trade and development in Africa and Diesel+EDUN was born. Learn more about their work at www.edun.com.
3. Toms: Toms ‘one for one’ concept is one of the most popular charitable initiatives take on by a fashion brand. When Toms sells a pair of shoes a pair of shoes is given to an impoverished child, and when Toms sells a pair of eye-wear, part of the profit is used to save or restore the eyesight for people in developing countries. Gives you a good reason to splurge on their signature espadrilles. Read more about their work at www.toms.com.
4. People Tree: Designer collaborations with Thakoon and Bora Aksu are just some of the highlights, People Tree manages to achieve design excellence and embrace a green ethic with style. The company aims to use only organic and Fairtrade cotton, natural dyes, sources locally where possible and chooses recycled products. Their fairtrade initiatives span 20 developing countries. Learn more at www.peopletree.co.uk.
5. Marks and Spencer: The brand has been a pioneer in the sustainable approach when it comes to the high street. They introduced the ‘Shwopping’ initiative with Oxfam that allows shoppers to donate an unwanted item of clothing that will go on to be re-sold in Oxfam, re-used or recycled, cutting waste while raising funds for the charity. Their sustainable men’s suit uses components such as linings made from recycled PET bottle polyester from a hi-tech processing plant in Japan, recycled polyester zips, reclaimed pocket linings (surplus from their own production lines) and reclaimed stray buttons which would otherwise end up in landfill. Read more at marksandspencer.com/Shwop