Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ethical Fashion - Style & Story*








KOWTOW - 100% ORGANIC COTTON

My interest in Ethical Fashion was reignited a couple of months ago when I made contact with Carlie from Indigo Bazaar. Carlie runs an on line store that exclusively sells items with 'Style & Story'. She is committed to providing an alternative to the mainstream without sacrificing great style. Her belief that Fashion really can be ethical and sustainable has lead her to develop a well curated collection of organic cotton, hand made and ethically produced treasures.

I've really valued my conversations with Carlie and her willingness to share her vision and passion with me over many an email. Mostly, I've loved her measured approach to the way the western world consumes fashion and the way it is produced in developing nations.

I asked Carlie if she would be willing to share some of her vision with us here at The Beetle Shack.



*****

April 2008 was the month I stumbled upon a realisation that took hold of my passion, creativity and inspiration. At 5000m above sea level, on a trek in the Nepal Himalaya's I knew I was going to take the path less travelled and create an ethical fashion business one day. Fast forward to 2013 and Indigo Bazaar has become a reality and is celebrating it's 1st birthday this month.

So what is ethical fashion I hear you ask? Well, let me first remove the word ethical (which is really the industy term that is less than stylish) and replace the word with fashion that has style and story.

All the clothing we buy at Indigo Bazaar has a story,  the main different with ethical fashion is it's focus on creating empowering stories for the garment workers, giving them sustainable livelihoods, safe working conditions and allowing them to build a future and provide for their families. I guess you could say it's going back to the good ol days of fashion, where things were made well and made to last. Where people earnt a living wage for a good days work, and worked in safe working conditions. 

Unfortunately somewhere through the era's of fashion, the industry took a very sharp turn for the worst, and the demand for cheap fast clothing has created a fashion monster. Few industries in the world touch as many lives as the garment industry, so it is something we do need to educate ourselves on, ask questions at our local retailers and create a connection again with our clothing.

Ethical fashion also encompasses the use of sustainable fabrics and natural fibres such as organic cottons, silks, hemp - which is not so hippy anymore:-) - and dying techniques which no longer contain Azo's and formaldehyde chemicals. 

For a designer to take the ethical and sustainable fashion path it's certainly a challenging decision, which requires complete transparency from seed to finished garment and all the pieces that make up the supply chain inbetween. However there is nothing more rewarding than knowing your creating industry, happiness, health and a sustainable future for the people behind the manufacture and helping protect our planet. 

I get so excited when I stumble upon new brands for Indigo Bazaar. Seeing images of people happily working away in workshops, earning award wages or more, where they can have their children minded, take a break and have a life outside of their work. Normal kinda stuff really. I stock a beautiful brand called Near Far which is manufactured in Sierra Leone. Steph Hogg who is the English designer behind this brand, grew up in Sierra Leone because of her fathers work and wanted to provide a place for local tailors to gain their independence again and sustain a living after the ravages of war.

The New Zealand brand, Kowtow has built their brand on the belief that no one would buy fashion armed with the knowledge that it was produced in a slave trade economy, this has inspired them to give people the buying power and choice to choose clothing that is ethically made using certified organic cotton.

Athinaeum is also a beautiful label using Guatemalan antique hand woven textiles from traditional dress. Made using local, traditional workmanship and combining it with the highest quality Guatemalan leathers to create a range of one-off art pieces that will be handed down for generations.  Their Grande Maletta is the perfect baby bag!

My mission is to bring back the value in fashion, and create an emotion behind fashion shopping. Buying a top for me now, isn't just buying a top...it's buying food, shelter, education, health, quality of life and, importantly, often sustaining a beautiful traditional craft that mass manufacture is sadly destroying.

Things will start to change for the better in this industry, they have to, because they cannot possibly get any worse. The designers I work with are changing the face of the fashion industry, and it excites me to the core. For now though, while many of us fighting the ethical fashion battle feel out on a limb, misunderstood and/or tree huggers we can never remove what we know goes on behind  many of the garment factory doors used by major retailers. Because clothing has no beauty if it causes the heartache, pain and tragedy of 1000's of peoples lives.


*****


Thank you SO much Carlie. Your ideas have certainly ignited a renewed interest in the bigger picture for me.

Next up we'll take a look at organic cotton!

*this is not a sponsored post. I asked Carlie if she would share her approach to ethical fashion. She has  done so in the post above and in the way she deemed appropriate. Neither party paid the other for this post.

25 comments:

  1. Wonderful post. Thank you for sharing some insight into the world of fashion with a conscience.

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    1. Thanks Meg *nervously scanning for spelling errors* ;) ahhhehiiee

      xo em

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  2. Lovely post Em. Thanks for sharing. Just clicked through and love the sound of the hand-blended perfume. x

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  3. What a lovely post. Such an under talked about issue I think. I was watching Q & A last night and the comment that really struck a cord with me was the concept of 'taxing people so that they change their way of of thinking and their way of approaching matters'. A bit like eating organically though, it's the cost of dressing from the cheap shops that draws me away from 'doing the right thing' ... it shouldn't. But it does.

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    1. I'm EXACTLY the same... it's tricky isn't it?!

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    2. You know since you published this post I've noticed a few more blogs post similar posts. It's an issue that has always been at the back of my mind, but I must thank you for bringing to the front of my mind a little more ... and the other blogs too of course. I just found out that ASOS has a green room - for clothes that are absolutely created ethically. Hopefully more of those sections emerge so that we can be budget, fashion and ethically conscious all at once!

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  4. This is the reason why about 75% of my clothes are purchased from op shops, since having a baby & now only working part time i can't afford new clothes & i certainly don't want to buy from the cheap dodgy shops with questionable ethics. I'll be checking out these pages you've listed for when i can afford new clothes again!

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    1. I resect your stickability there- I wish I could do the same~!

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  5. Great post. It's a topic that should be talked about more!

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  6. Thanks for sharing! I have my own ethical fashion and accessories online shop www.treefirelimited.com and have found a bigger uptake in our products since the Bangladesh disaster.... it's so sad that such an horrific tragedy has raised awareness worldwide, but hopefully it will encourage everyone to be more aware of what they are buying and how it was made.

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    1. I love your shop! You've got some good colour going on in there :)

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  7. I think Carlie is spot on here - this is a great post, but I am confused how this sits with you when Target is in your sponsor sidebar?
    Carol

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    1. Hey Carol,

      Yes, Carlie knows exactly what she's on about and is doing a great job of bringing stylish ethical fashion to the market.

      Thanks for asking after the Target issue. I agree, It seems contradictory. I signed a 3 month deal with target before the bangladesh tragedy was bought to the forefront of Australian media (as it should have been)- as soon as I was aware of the incident, I emailed their PR to obtain some info on their stance.... information was not forthcoming but I have since found Target's 'Fair Trade' policy on their website.

      Issues of ethical consumption are of a personal interest to me but i'm not going to lie, I shop at Target, Sportsgirl, Myer DJ's and so on. In doing the series for Target, I was mindful not to promo any of the clothing, as this is what was being manufactured in Bangladesh but truly, it's a massive can of worms... one which i've obviously dealt with poorly.

      Anyways, please let me know if that answers your question at all. I'm happy to keep talking.

      Em

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    2. Thanks for the reply Em - I admire you responding to my question, which try as I did to word it sensitively and as a sincere question could still have been interpreted as hostile. I appreciate you seeing it for what it was.

      I was rocked by the recent 4 corners report and until then had 'ethical clothing' in the periphery of my conscience. As in -"Isn't it awful, something should be done but aren't the Target $14 coloured jeans for my daughter cute?" kind of way (I'm not proud). It is such a struggle - today my son needed a generic red tshirt for sports day - school mums were rushing to Kmart for the $2 polo shirts in their child's house colours (actual price $2 !!! such a low price that it makes me miserable to think who made it and how it was made). It took me a week and a half to find a plain red in the op shops where I paid $4.

      I also struggle with the knowledge that paying more for the garment doesn't mean the workers are paid more. I do appreciate articles like Carlie's. I am trying really hard to buy less and buy ethically (and usually end up spending more money).

      Thanks again for the reply, for raising the issue and acknowledging the struggle for the majority of people who want to purchase ethically but have budget constraints that mean the low prices hold some appeal.

      Carol

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    3. Not a problem Carol, thanks for taking the time to engage in a dialogue about it. That was the intention of the series- the explore, discover and discuss, So I didn't take your comment as hostile at all (the comments over at gomi, that's a whole other issue).

      I agree whole heartedly with your thoughts/ feelings- I too am guilty of the 'GASP, how could THEY!!??' when really, I so often support the 'lowest price' as it's good for my budget... and I agree, paying more does not solve the problem... buying local, handmade, mumma owned does not solve the problem either. It's a HUGE issue that really goes all the way back to how cotton is grown and fabric is produced, then we get to how garments are made.

      I certainly don't profess to only buy ethically produced clothing, I truly wish I had the stickability to follow the hardline (wherever that is) but i love clothes!

      It's a journey!

      Thanks again Carol

      x

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    4. p.s I'm wearing a target scarf in my wearing post going up tomorrow! OOHHH THE SHAMMMEEEEEEEE.

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  8. It's so nice to hear that there are so many companies embracing eco-friendly fabrics and making eco-fashion that's actually fashionable.

    If you're interested in learning about other eco-friendly fashion, you should definitely check out sustainable fashion company lur apparel. We make all of our apparel from 100% recycled materials, including plastic water bottles.

    Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I would love to share more info about our products with you. luke@lurapparel.com

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  10. Here is the best tips for online shopping. wow nice collection of clothes.I have found the useful information which was really important for me.Thanks for information.

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  11. Adolescence is a time to gain your own fashion identity. Experiment with different styles to find the type of clothing that represents you best. Once you have figured out your style, look for fashion ideas in magazines, see what celebrities are wearing and look at the girls in your community.
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  12. شركة نقل عفش بالرياض وجدة والدمام والخبر والجبيل اولقطيف والاحساء والرياض وجدة ومكة المدينة المنورة والخرج والطائف وخميس مشيط وبجدة افضل شركة نقل عفش بجدة نعرضها مجموعة الفا لنقل العفش بمكة والخرج والقصيم والطائف وتبوك وخميس مشيط ونجران وجيزان وبريدة والمدينة المنورة وينبع افضل شركات نقل الاثاث بالجبيل والطائف وخميس مشيط وبريدة وعنيزو وابها ونجران المدينة وينبع تبوك والقصيم الخرج حفر الباطن والظهران
    شركة نقل عفش بجدة
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    شركة نقل اثاث بالرياض
    شركة نقل عفش بالدمام
    شركة نقل عفش بالطائف

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Thanks so much for your words of encouragement, advice and solidarity.

xo em