Category Archives: Seminar

What does it mean to be ‘ethical’ in fashion? And what is everyone wearing? (Poll)

13606828_1058021627620503_2576551059090656025_nIt’s festival season in Edinburgh. Depending on who you ask, the summer is either the best or worst time to be in the city. Festival season, I’ve come to learn, also equals tourist mania. This is only my third summer in Scotland, so the tourist thing doesn’t bother me at all. Besides, the city buzzes with an indescribable energy during the summer months. Not even the rain can dampen my spirits. The season brings the Edinburgh film festival, the jazz festival, the magic (!!) festival, and others, and of course the fringe festival, but it also brings the Edinburgh International Fashion Festival (EIFF).

EIFF is in its 5th year, but this was my first time attending. I was approached to moderate a panel on ‘ethics in fashion’ and was of course happy to help. This was an EIFF initiative to bring together students from London College of Fashion (LCF) and Heriot-Watt University. The students were to design their ideal panel discussion, and Winnie Wen, a graduate student researching responsible fashion and marketing at Heriot-Watt University organised the panel on ethics in fashion.

As we know, responsible fashion — or whatever terminology you’d prefer to use or not use (ethical fashion, eco fashion, fair trade fashion, sustainable fashion, organic fashion, green fashion, etc.) — is a messy topic. It just covers so much ground. So the panel topic I wrote up cast a pretty wide net:

Fashion designers and brands are increasingly challenged to consider the social, cultural and environmental impact of their products; from designing for diversity and supporting labour rights, to protecting waterways and securing animal welfare, ethical considerations in fashion are vast and often interconnected. How can designers and brands engage with their stakeholders to better understand and support complexities at work within systems of fashion production and consumption? Exploring what it means to be ethical in fashion, this panel deals with stakeholder engagement and communication.

The panel was made up of three excellent speakers: Carry Somers, Founder of Fashion Revolution, Anna Telcs of Not Just a Label (NJAL), and Lynn Wilson, designer, educator and circular economy expert.

It was designed to focus on audience Q&A, and the audience was fantastic. The panelists were so very informed, and it felt like the discussion could have gone on for much longer.

Photo by Aleksandra Modrzejewska


My favourite question from the audience had to be the last one: ‘What are you all (the panelists) wearing?’ I love this question because it really drives home the mess of responsible fashion work and activism. Is there some perfect outfit to wear that will absolve us of the issues at work in the global fashion and apparel industry? Well, I say no. For me (today, at least) it’s less about individual consumption and more about education, regulations and the rule of law.[1] But for other advocates and activists, it is all about consumption patterns. And for others still it’s a little of both of these positions, or something completely different. And this got me thinking…time for a poll!

So just for fun: what are you wearing? You can select more than one option from the non-exhaustive list below!

[1] You see I say this now, but every time I go clothes shopping I end up overanalysing absolutely everything until I’ve talked myself out of buying anything at all. Hence the mess that is responsible fashion research and activism…we all still have to get dressed! Nadira and I sure did have fun exploring this tension when we took the Labour Behind the Label Six Items Challenge in 2012. My answer to the question on the day of was boots (Clarks) and trousers (Gap) from the high street, a shirt that was given to me from a friend (I don’t know the brand name), and a second-hand jacket (brand name Aritzia).

WATCH // Modern Slavery: Are we complicit?

photo (5)


Earlier this month I was invited to participate in a panel on modern slavery at the University of Edinburgh, organised by the Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability.

The panel addressed a lot of issues, including the (potential) impact of consumer boycotts and buycotts. I called on consumers to remember they are more than consumers, and to also consider/imagine alternative ways to support workers.

The event was recorded, and I’ve embedded it below for you to check out.

During the discussion, I mentioned a website I had used to calculate ‘how many slaves’ work for me. I mentioned this was an interesting tool to help consumers think through linkages, but also voiced concern that context was lacking. I realise that I never mentioned the actual name of the site, so in case you’re interested and not already familiar, here it is. Bangladeshi labour rights activist Kalpona Akter shared some thoughts on this tool with Design and Violence last year, here.

On the panel with me was Kathy Galloway, Head of Christian Aid Scotland, Karen Bowman, Director of Procurement at University of Edinburgh and Mei-Ling McNamara, a PhD Student in School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures at University of Edinburgh. Chairing was Michelle Brown from the Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability.

We would love to hear your thoughts on modern slavery in general, but also in the unique context of the global fashion and apparel industry. Please share in the comments, or with us on Facebook or Twitter.

ATTEND // Eco Fashion Week, Oct. 6-10: Vancouver

EFWV07 - Website Image

For the first time in 7 seasons, SA won’t be in Vancouver to support our friends at Eco Fashion Week. As a result, we’re really counting on our Vancouver readers to represent and support the event conference sessions! This season will see Mountain Equipment Co-op, Bluesign Technologies, OEKO-TEX® and Ford Motor Company speak on various topics relating to responsible fashion (session times to be confirmed).

If you missed our talk at EFWV 06, you can still watch it – all of the sessions were livestreamed.

I’ve uploaded the PowerPoint to our SlideShare account, and included the transcript below, along with a link to the sessions (click on the image)

Sorry we’ll be missing the event this time around, but we’ll be there in spirit!


Presentation Slide Notes:

Slide 1 // Myriam Laroche, and the Vancouver ECO Fashion Week team, thank you for inviting me to speak today. Guests in attendance, thank you for your attention. And to the online audience joining us via livestream, welcome.

Social Alterations is an online education lab that myself and Nadira Lamrad developed almost four years ago.

Slide 2 // We are a free industry recourse, offering study guides, lesson plans, and learning modules, with independent research, case studies and reports for responsible fashion education.

Side 3 // We work to create comprehensive programming in creative ways. Our SAGE module, for example, uses Google Earth to take learners on a virtual tour of an example lifecycle of a hypothetical conventional cotton t-shirt, by embedding the interactive curricula directly into the program.

Slide 4 // We’re exposed to so many negative events and imagery…

Slide 5 // Social Alterations is not innocent here… we’ve covered many stories showing such imagery, such as factory fires in South East Asia, or forced child labour in cotton production, for example.

Slide 6 // Do not let the issues overwhelm you to the point that you are paralyzed and unable to take action.

Slide 7 // It becomes easy to lose sight of what’s important and the positive steps being taken. This year, we want to highlight positive action that we can take to move beyond that paralyzing negativity.

Slide 8 // There are a lot of exciting campaigning groups that you can join to showcase individual actions. There are countless petitions for you to sign against a whole host of issues: child labour, animal cruelty, clean water, the list goes on. Or you can take personal actions that demonstrate your values to your own network and community.

Slide 9 // Last year, Nadira and I took Labour Behind the Label’s 6 Items Challenge.

Slide 10 // We had to wear the same 6 items of clothing for 4 weeks to raise awareness on the importance of decent work for garment workers. People still approach us to talk about this challenge. It helped us bring the conversation home.

Slide 11 // These individual actions count within the movement, they play an important role, but we need to expand the circle and create that critical mass. Unfortunately, responsible fashion is still a niche industry within the business.

There is a lot of interesting work being done within this niche market. Like the work that Wes Baker and colleagues are doing at debrand, and the Canadian Textile Recovery Effort. The work that ecofashion week is doing, along with other groups, like member based Fashion Takes Action, that are working to make responsible fashion consumption become the norm in Canada. And of course the work that all of you are doing every day. But to achieve systemic change, we need to organize.

Slide 12 // Let’s start now. We’ve got a pop-up photo booth here today, where we are challenging you to share what you stand for and articulate your values clearly. We’ll compile the images and share them online so that you can see the diversity of values that fit under the sustainability umbrella, and learn what matters most to you, Canadian sustainable fashion leaders….But then what?

Slide 13 // More and more we are seeing global industry players come together to formalize sustainability networks. These networks can be global, like the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, for example. Or localized, like the Hong Kong based Sustainable Fashion Business Consortium (SFBC).

As I have mentioned, we already have groups working tirelessly on various pieces of the sustainability puzzle – waste recovery, responsible consumption practices, responsible education – we need to formalize a network where we come together to create and manage our own best practices to achieve the systemic change we looking for..

We need viable alternatives to the system we have in place right now. And we can’t wait for the government to take up these issues. We have to be active as a community to make sure that responsible fashion has a seat at the table, when our government finally addresses sustainable systems in Canada.

In the end, the whole point of coming together for events like this, industry conferences or academic lectures….is to learn and share ideas on how to create that systemic change, but it’s not going to happen if we don’t carry the conversation outside of these meetings to start building a roadmap for that systemic change, to transform the industry from the inside out. Let’s be clear that by industry I mean the entire fashion industry.

These are important values in Canada – Human Rights, labor rights, sustainable communities, environmental stewardship, cultural diversity – all issues that fit under the sustainability umbrella. It’s time that Canada leads the way.

Slide 14 // There is power in numbers, so let’s make it happen.

While you’re at the popup photobooth, talk to us if you’re interested in being involved in the first meeting to discuss what a “Canadian Responsible Fashion Consortium” would look like. We promise to facilitate that first meeting and we can move forward from there.

EVENT// EFF’s SOURCE Expo 2012 Seminars

The ever-excellent Ethical Fashion Forum has decided to run the fourth SOURCE Expo, a trade show for ethical sourcing, online. What’s even more interesting is that their seminars (webinars) are free to attend!! This promises to be a very interesting event for both designers and consumers interested in learning more about responsible fashion. What an amazing opportunity to hear information directly from those working in the field, but space is limited so sign up now!

Here’s more info on this event:

What: “The event will showcase exemplary suppliers of sustainable fabrics and components, fair trade and ethical production units and factories from all over the world, and broker connections between suppliers, brands, and fashion professionals.

Through targeted online meeting spaces, a programme of seminars and 2 days of free access to extremely valuable sustainable sourcing information on SOURCE Intelligence, SOURCE Expo aims to open doors for suppliers all over the world- and make it easy for designers and brands to build sustainable supply chains.

When: October 31st & November 1st 2012. (Sorry for the short notice!)

Where: Online, sign up in advance here.

Webinar details: October 31st will cover “The Issues” and include webinars covering Innovation, Changing lives, Environmental impact and Sustainable textiles showcase. November 1st is dedicated to “Fabrics and Suppliers” with the following webinars taking place: Artisanal excellence; Luxury, structure, stretch, drape and flow; Wools and heavyweights; Casualwear, large quantities and printing; Accessories and components.

Details for each webinar, including the time, can be found here.

Source: Ethical Fashion Forum’s The Ethical Fashion Source Intelligence



UPDATE II // The NICE consumer project

As promised here is an update of the second NICE consumer consultation webinars, The Art of Sustainable Consumption. At this session we heard from four speakers presenting a range of responses to sustainability. In bringing them together we were able to imagine what  ‘sustainable consumption’ might look like and also how some of these approaches could be linked.

Giordano Capuano -Vivienne Westwood- presented the model of ethical production behind Westwood’s Ethical Africa collection. The project began as part of an initiative of the International Trade Centre, which aimed to link luxury brands in the West to producers in communities where poverty is high. The exciting thing about this project (and others like it), is the long term ambition which involves, empowerment through meaningful work and training, and sharing skills that will help to achieve sustained trade opportunities in global markets. Whilst this example demonstrates positive production and sourcing, it is not a solution to ethical production that could be replicated in all sectors of the fashion industry today.

Next up Henrik Lampa (H&M) talked about how H&M is actively seeking to improve its supply chain through a more sustainable fabric sourcing policy, guided by research from Made By. Conventional cotton production has a negative effect on the environment and can also be damaging to people the land they rely on through the heavy use of pesticides and water; working towards ‘better’ cotton is a step in the right direction, and H&Ms efforts here will hopefully prompt other companies to follow suit!

[For insight into the limitations of current LCA models and benchmarks, check out Pulling Wool over our Eyes: The Dirty Business of LCAs, by Tone Skårdal Tobiasson, Editor at, and Kjersti Kviseth, Partner 2025design.]

Of course we also know that fast fashion is problematic in relation to the volume of disposable goods produced, and the production speed that is necessary to be competitive. These factors can translate into difficulties for suppliers and negative conditions for production workers; however it is hard to see how improvements here can be made from within individual companies when this would compromise their competitiveness in their market sector. Perhaps tackling this problem requires a multi-brand approach that will give all companies a level playing field whilst improving conditions for garment workers?

The next presentation by Mo Tomaney of Central Saint Martins, focused on design-led responses to sustainable consumption. Mo inspired us with these case studies from the design world, Junky styling, From Somewhere and Gary Harvey. Finally she introduced the student program Reclaim to Wear, which aims to prompt the next generation of designers’ to think sustainably. As a student designer myself this is of real interest to me, and I believe design could be involved at every level of sustainable consumption in diverse and exciting ways. Design can also act as a valuable conduit between seemingly conflicting needs, such as the desire for rapid change and the need to reduce waste.

Aptly, the last speaker Ellen van den Adel, talked about post-consumer textile waste. Discussing how the consumer benefits emotionally from the knowledge that their waste will be reused, and how consumers understand the message about recycling and many do recycle or want to. However the viability of the textile recycling industry is threatened by a number of factors which are likely to become more influential into the future. In response to this Work in Progress have collaborated with Textile 4 Textile to develop an automatic sorting machine capable of sorting textiles by colour and fibre type; this sort of technological advancement may help protect the used textile trade. Education and dialogue between companies, designers and textile recyclers could also help to improve the end of life opportunities for our clothing.

The seminar inspired a level of optimism about what is already happening to improve the sustainability of the products we consume, at the same time an approach to disposable ‘fast fashion’ remains unclear. This is the most complex of topics as it is inseparable from broader themes such as our economic structure, competition, and many social and cultural factors (for example the speed at which information travels today is related to the rapidity of trend cycles), all of which go far beyond fashion itself.

Listen to the entire webinar and view the presentations here.


UPDATE // The NICE consumer project

Last Tuesday I took part in the first of three webinars on the sustainable consumption of fashion entitled Introducing the NICE CONSUMER Project and the Draft Framework on Sustainable Consumption of Fashion. The webinar experience was new to me and I was unsure of what to expect, but also enthusiastic about the opportunity to participate in such an important conversation. Over the next month I will keep you updated with this project and its development in the run up to the Copenhagen Fashion Summit in May.



The event began with an introduction by Jonas Eder-Hansen of the Danish Fashion Institute followed by an overview of the research (thus far) by Cody Sisco from BIS. Both speakers highlighted  the infancy of this project and clearly set out the aims, objectives and limitations of this work….the road to sustainable consumption will be a long one, beginning with an attempt to define sustainable consumption and the NICE consumer.

The next speaker- Ian Morris, Head of Technical Services, Marks & Spencer plc.- described an on-going collaboration between M&S and Oxfam, which rewards consumers who donate their old clothes to charity. This project is an illustration of how a company has acted to positively influence consumer behaviour; in this case conscientious disposal, one strand of sustainable consumption. Part of the NICE consumer project involves analysing examples like this, which will help to inform the debate and the final framework.

Another feature of this project is its inclusive and open approach, making use of new technology and social media to extend the reach of discussions and inform a wider selection of society. As part of this, the webinar series gave attendees the opportunity to vote in online polling and ask questions directly to the speaker. This information is included in a recording of webinar which is already freely available to download. Opinion and feedback on the content of this webinar and the questions posed are encouraged and are easy to access through Twitter (@niceconsumer) and Facebook.

This event has given me an insightful introduction into the emerging conversation on the sustainable consumption of fashion. I am looking forward to the next event on Tuesday –The state of the Art in sustainable consumption– when the speakers will include H&M, TED (Textiles Environment Design) and Vivian Westwood.


Additional Resources //

Cody Sisco [blog]  The Journey to Sustainable Fashion  Consumption Has Begun





GET INVOLVED // A framework for sustainable consumption

Consumers can play a pivotal role in transitioning the fashion industry toward more sustainable business models.” (BSR)

This year the Copenhagen Fashion Summit follows the theme of consumption, and will see the launch of a framework for sustainable consumption, developed by the NICE Consumer project. The framework will also be presented to the EU presidency council, and at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development later in the year. The NICE consumer is a collaborative project between the Danish Fashion Institute and BSR, which actively engages stakeholders from the industry, civil society and the government.

So how can we be involved?

As consumers we are an important part of the discussion on sustainable consumption. This project is giving people the opportunity to take part, through a series of free interactive webinars taking place in March and April. The sessions will introduce the project and track its development in the run up to the Copenhagen summit. Participants will also be able to interact with the speaker through online polling and Q&A sessions.

Anyone who is interested can sign up through the website, but hurry the first event will be held on the 13th of March!

Further reading

THE NICE CONSUMER research summary and discussion paper: Toward a framework for sustainable fashion consumption in the EU [pdf]




ATTEND // The Slow Summit

The Textile Arts Research Centre at the University of the Arts London along with Craftspace are running the fourth in a series of open lectures this year. This particular lecture entitled Slow Summit, features Professor Alastair Fuad-Luke and Professor Helen Carnac who is also co-curating this event along with Becky Earley.

“The event examines the emergence of the Slow Movement, within a context of design, making and art practice. The two guest speakers will map out the ground that this new creative thinking occupies, both addressing the theory and the practice, as well as the local/global economics and politics that fuel the movement.”

This is a great opportunity to learn more about Slow Fashion!

To know more about Professor Alastair Fuad-Luke check out his website and for more on Professor Helen Carnac check out her blog.

Special thanks to Clara Vuletich from Love & Thrift for letting us know about this event!

Fashioning an Ethical Industry launches Scottish Ethical Fashion Education Network alongside continued UK training

Over 75% of fashion businesses think it is important for new recruits to have knowledge regarding social, environmental and ethical issues.” (FEI) 

Over the coming year Fashioning an Ethical Industry (FEI) will be working with Scottish universities and colleges to establish a network interested in teaching, learning and sharing about ethics in the fashion industry. With the support from FEI the Network will host events, develop resources and share best practice related to corporate social responsibility in the fashion industry. Find out more and join the network.

FEI student workshops will equip your graduates with information and skills in this important emerging area. Staff training sessions will give teaching staff the resources and confidence to effectively deliver the subject area. For further information and booking please see the website.

*The contents of this post was directly sourced through the FEI Bulletin*

Panel & Audience Q & A // ECO Fashion Week Vancouver

ECO Fashion Week Vancouver, September 30th, 2010 // Day three: Panel & Audience Q&A

Panel & Audience Q&A

Panel Members //
  • Myriam Laroche, President, ECO Fashion Week Vancouver
  • Summer Rayne Oakes, Source4Style
  • Jeff Garner, Prophetik
  • Paul Raybin, AirDye®
  • Mark Trotzuk, Boardroom Eco Apparel
  • Nicole Bridger
  • Lindsay Coulter, David Suzuki’s Queen of Green
Q&A //
Lindsey, David Suzuki Foundation

Q: Does the David Suzuki Foundation have any plans to launch a consumer awareness campaign on the impacts of the fashion industry? Similarly to the sustainable seafood initiative?

A: Not at this time, we are focusing on improving the policies of the beauty and cosmetics industry and informing consumers on the toxics and chemicals in their personal care products

Paul Raybin, Air Dye

Q: Can you tell me more about the air dyeing process and the benefits?

A: AirDye reduces water consumption by almost 95%. The conventional textile dyeing industry is a major contributor to water pollution worldwide, so Air Dye is focusing on improving this and providing the industry with a solution. They also have developed an inventory system, where they only make what is sold to reduce waste, water consumption and pollution

Mark Trotzuk, Boardroom Eco Apparel – commenting on the question

His company is a Bluesign brand member, so the manufacturing facilities adhere to the highest environmental standard for textiles in the world and are certified. Water, energy and carbon consumption is reduced.  His company works to reduce the environmental impacts at each stage of the garment life-cycle, but this is not easy. It is also expensive to have the facilities certified.

Myriam Laroche, President, Eco Fashion Week

Her biggest focus is on teaching consumers to reuse clothing and buy vintage/second-hand clothing. She has reduced her own impact by buying less, and she feels that consumers can all do their part by starting with buying one less item, or buying vintage clothing instead of new

Question from Nicole Bridger to Jeff Garner on how to inspire change in the industry

Jeff, there needs to be more awareness, he is working to inspire other designers through his own practices

Paul Raybin, Air Dye

Q: Do you have any samples of the air dye technology in use?

A: Designers can take the technology and imagine it in their own way. It is a way to reduce material use. You can take the fabric and turn it inside out, so designers can be innovative with how they use it

It is a way to reduce water consumption and pollution. With an example from China on the scope of the problem, 50% of China’s water supply is unsuitable for drinking AND 3.5 trillion gallons of water are polluted from dyeing. In conventional dying, water is used as a solvent to carry the dyes. For “Solution dyes”, the dye is injected into the fibre, to create prints, you need to weave fibres. With the air dye technology, you don’t make the fabric/product unless it is being consumed – this reduces pollution.

Q: Nicole asks Jeff about his work with natural dyes

A: Jeff Garner, Prophetik grows his own plants on his Tennessee farm. Japanese indigo is used to dye his fabric. This process is labour intensive

He has a team of two women who work specifically on the natural dyeing process. He also has a community garden where they grow the plants for the dyes

Q: How do you set the natural dyes so that they do not run and last a long time?

A: we use hemp fabric, so this absorbs the dyes well. We also use vinager to hold the dyes in place. But, each piece is unique and different because natural dying is not consistent and it is done by hand. Depending on the air temperature, and if it was dyed during winter or summer, the gradient also changes. This creates a story behind the garment that he can tell to his customers.

Q: Asked to the entire panel, do you encounter regulations and do you need to work with governments?

A: Summer Rayne Oaks, she is interested in finding local material sources and has also created a global network for fabric suppliers and designers (Source4Style). She is dealing with regulators for this initiative, because integrating the duty fees across boarders affects the prices of the materials. For example the price of organic cotton vs. silk from India is different, but they also have different duty fees. She is working with industry associations in the United States, who then liaise with governments on regulations and policies

A: Myriam Laroche, she is working with the regional government, Vancouver Economic Development Commission, they are a major supported, along with the City of Vancouver, for ECO Fashion Week.


Photo Credit: ECO Fashion Week