Being ethical has always been a controversial issue in fashion, with influential personalities such as Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfeld staunchly pro-fur and many others vehemently against it. Animal rights activists like PETA have campaigned against American Vogue’s use of fur, some violently and others peacefully, and in some fashion circles the use of leather is beginning to become unacceptable too.
PETA recently launched its own fashion awards to highlight and reward those who are making animal-friendly and cruelty-free vegan clothes and accessories accessible and affordable for all. Judged by Sadie Frost and Meg Matthews, the awards went to high-end designers and high-street alike, with Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney, H&M and River Island all winning some sort of award.
The production of cosmetics is another issue that affects animals too. With the final deadline for the ban on cosmetics that have been tested on animals in the EU, the focus is on cruelty-free cosmetics. Companies like Lush pride themselves on being natural and ethical from the business side of things (and paying their taxes) to the products themselves, i.e. what they are made of and how they are packaged.
However, the way animals are treated or killed isn’t the only ethical issue. In many African countries, the UN Ethical Fashion Initiative aims to pull talented people out of the dregs of poverty through fashion by making the skills of artisans from the developing world available to renowned designers and large manufacturers.
Another example of such initiatives is the ‘Red Carpet Green Dress’,s a competition that champions designs made from sustainable, recyclable, natural or organic fabrics. Founded by Suzy Amis Cameron, the wife of James, the competition has garnered support from Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney. The winning dress of last year’s competition will be worn by Skyfall Bond girl Naomie Harris to the Oscars.
Designer Bruno Pieters also believes that they way designers run their businesses should be transparent too, and they should start by revealing their supply chains. Collaborating with journalist Kristopher Arden-Houser, he has created a competition to find an honest fashion designer; “With this prize we would like to reward designers who are able to create collections with a story behind them which is just as beautiful as the design.”
So next time you’re looking to invest in a piece for the new season, just stop and think about the consequences of your actions, who made that piece and who or what does it help? With the ethics of fashion so strongly and widely debated, from high street fashion like Nudie Jeans to couture designers like Vivienne Westwood, these days there is no shortage of choice.