London Fashion Week: Is anyone talking about ethical and sustainable fashion?
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As the doors open in London to fashion’s most glamorous and exciting event, some observers will wonder whether the glitzy and often eccentric designs on the catwalk will carry a much-needed message about sustainable clothing. With designers, celebrities, influencers, buyers and the press gathering at London Fashion Week (LFW) to set the trends that will define the season, it is natural to think ethical fashion should be one of their top priorities. While there are ethical designers like Christopher Raeburn and Faustine Steinmetz shining a light on the issue, not everyone believes sustainability is being embraced the way it should be. Alicia Taylor, co-founder of Gather&See – a UK-based online store stocking ethical and sustainable fashion brands – said: “We haven’t been made aware of any specific presentations or events taking place (at LFW) to promote ethical and sustainable fashion. “Although there are sustainable and ethically minded designers who show at LFW or in the Designer Showrooms, there is no promotion of the fact that they are there or that what they are doing is different and commendable.” She also believes that given LFW’s influence in the British fashion industry, high-street fashion will take inpiration from the best in the business – making it all the more important to drive the sustainable agenda. Taylor says: “Buyers from small independents like Gather&See to big global players such as Zara and H&M will be looking both at what is on the catwalks themselves and also what the fashionistas and influencers in attendance are wearing for clues as to what is going to be big for the next season.” Debbie Coulter, of Ethical Trading Initiative – an organisation that works collaboratively with retailers, brands and their suppliers to ensure that they take responsibility for improving the working conditions of the people who make the products – believes it’s not just LFW but the industry as a whole which needs to change. “It’s the sector as whole, working collaboratively, that drives change, and there’s a growing awareness that fashion cannot ignore the workers that make their clothes,” she says. “From major brands to the smallest workshops, London Fashion Week is the shop window for all that is best in UK fashion. In order to ensure a virtuous circle, everyone must prosper. “That means not only the designers and the fashion houses but also the garment workers, wherever they are based – and that can be in the UK or overseas. “Whether those taking part in London Fashion Week are global brands or small production houses, they all have a responsibility to source ethically.” Over the years, pleas have been made by environmental and human rights activists to make brands more accountable on how their clothes are made. The shady practices of certain manufacturers were brought to light when a building collapsed in 2013, killing more than 1,000 and injuring 2,500 garment factory workers in Bangladesh, raising serious and disturbing questions about the fashion industry’s ethical standards.
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