“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*
Myriam Laroche, President, ECO Fashion Week Vancouver
Summer Rayne Oakes, Source4Style
Jeff Garner, Prophetik
Paul Raybin, AirDye®
Mark Trotzuk, Boardroom Eco Apparel
Lindsay Coulter, David Suzuki’s Queen of Green
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.
This guest post was written by Dr. Robert Hanlon, a post-doctorial Research Associate at the Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia. He is a former editor at the Asian Human Rights Commission and focuses on corporate social responsibility, corruption and human rights in Asia.
Rueters Image via The Daily Mail, Batons out: Nine garment workers were injured with riot police in Phnom Penh on July 27th as officials tried to end a week-long strike over the suspension of a local union official
Earlier this month, tens of thousands of garment workers flooded the streets of Phnom Penh demanding the government review a $US 5/month wage increase that was approved earlier this summer. Workers are demanding a further increase to the national minimum wage from US$ 61/month to US$ 93/month. The government and manufactures have rejected the demands saying it would reflect negatively on Cambodia’s competitiveness. With many employees refusing to return to work, a Cambodian court has branded the industrial action illegal and has given the green light for manufactures to fire anyone who continues to strike.
“[…] while the minimum wage law is only legally applicable to a small proportion of the entire workforce, it has far reaching implication throughout Cambodian society“
While minimum wage is a critical step for any government in guaranteeing the well-being of society, the Cambodian law only extends to the garment industry. This accounts to roughly 350,000 workers in the apparel and footwear sectors combined (less than 8 percent of the country’s working-age individuals). While Cambodia positions itself as a competitive garment manufacturer, nearly 70 percent of the country’s total workforce still reside in the rural areas and are not privy to the minimum wage law. Nonetheless, this group is highly dependent on remittance sent home by family members who have migrated to the city looking for work in the garment sector. In this sense, while the minimum wage law is only legally applicable to a small proportion of the entire workforce, it has far reaching implication throughout Cambodian society.
Interestingly, most garment manufacturers (especially those associated with International Labour Organization’s Better Factories Cambodia program) agree that a minimum wage is critical in sustaining a certain quality of life while rightly arguing that workers already earn well-above the current minimum. In fact, the Cambodian Institute of Development Study (CIDS) has found that the average take-home income is $US 86.88/month. While workers may earn this wage, the amount is dependent on significant overtime.
What makes Cambodia exceptional is that the garment manufacturers are right in highlighting the actual take-home is higher than the minimum; however, conveniently disregard the often mandatory overtime requirements placed on workers. Moreover, the ILO estimates that nearly 30 percent of inspected factories do not adhere to the minimum wage requirements while only 8 percent follow the legal requirements governing overtime. When these challenges are factored in, the CIDS estimates garment workers in Cambodia must earn at least $71.99 to sustain their very basic well-being and that of their dependents.
“Cambodia remains one of the poorest countries in the world and is still recovering from one of the world’s worst atrocities carried out by the Khmer Rouge. “
With some manufacturers disregarding the law and the government consistently backing industry, it should come as no surprise why Cambodian garment workers are frustrated. The government’s hard-line approach has not only protected local industrialists at the expense of workers, it has also given tacit approval for the courts and police to intimidate and assault those who challenge the system.
Cambodia remains one of the poorest countries in the world and is still recovering from one of the world’s worst atrocities carried out by the Khmer Rouge. Nonetheless, it is slowly developing with one of the region’s highest annual growth rates. With the government competing for market-share with countries like China and Bangladesh where costs are low and quality is high, it remains unlikely that plight of Cambodia’s garment workers will be heard anytime soon.
Nonetheless, in a country where 30 percent of the population is still living on less than 50 US cents a day, we may take some solace in witnessing the determination of the Cambodian people to organize and reject the abject poverty inflecting so many of its communities.
Aware of What We Wear: an Ethical Fashion Initiative
by Samantha Reichman,
Secretary of the Student Ethical Fashion Organization,
The College of William and Mary
How can fashion, a multibillion dollar flashy, frivolous, fickle industry, created to appeal to the whims of the consumer possibly be ETHICAL? Students of “Ethical Fashion” have discovered the answer to this question over the course of the 2009-2010 academic year.
The Sharpe Community Scholars Program at The College of William and Mary originated a service-learning, seminar-style course called “Ethical Fashion”, taught by Professor Regina Root. Designed for students interested in combining their concern about issues in the fashion industry with their desire for social justice, we signed up to engage the topic for an entire academic year. During the fall semester, we were challenged to discuss and research topics related to the global apparel industry: issues in production and distribution as well as workers’ rights and sweatshop labor. This semester, our focus has shifted to the creation and execution of a campus-wide project. We successfully hosted an ethical fashion show on April 10 to raise awareness on campus about this aspect of the worldwide fashion industry. On April 28, our classmates produced Josefina López’s “Real Women Have Curves” – a play about near-sweatshop-labor conditions in East Los Angeles to raise awareness of what is exactly going on in an industry that touches our lives every single day.
“Ethical Fashion” students are taking the next step in making this more than just a yearlong freshman seminar project. We are starting a movement. It began with an Ethical Fashion Report for the provost of the college, who understands the growing, changing nature of this issue around the world. Next, a constitution was written, resulting in the formation of an Ethical Fashion club. At our weekly meetings, we agreed the organization would be called SEFO: Student Ethical Fashion Organization. Blaise Springfield was elected the new president, along with an executive board on which I serve as secretary. This new student organization already seeks to partner with organizations as varied as Goodwill Industries, EDUN Live On Campus and Raíz Diseño, a transnational network of sustainable designers in Latin America.
At the first annual Ethical Fashion Show at William and Mary, we created a line of outfits from recyclable materials, utilizing one-of-a-kind pieces featured by our local Student Environmental Action Coalition for a fashion display on America Recycles Day. Students also worked with Goodwill, which donated clothing that was reused or upcycled for the fashion show. All in all, we showcased the possibilities of using recyclable materials to create functional, fun outfits. Yet other students designed and modeled their own creations made of plastic bottle caps, plastic bags, and corrugated cardboard.
In the theater of our Campus Center, the fashion show proved a great success and planted the seed for further community awareness and involvement in the burgeoning field of “Ethical Fashion”. With a little consciousness and some recycling, we can easily find ways to feel really good about what we wear!
“During the fall semester, we were challenged to discuss and research […] issues in production and distribution as well as workers’ rights and sweatshop labor.” (Samantha Reichman, Secretary of the Student Ethical Fashion Organization, The College of William and Mary)
“Real Women Have Curves” by Josefina López – a play about near-sweatshop-labor conditions in East Los Angeles
Samantha Reichman collected the plastic bottle caps that topped the various drinks consumed by her family. She used this dress as a kind of intervention -- to bring awareness of the waste produced through the consumption of bottled water.
Student modeling a dress recycled by Goodwill Industries, an organization with which the Student Ethical Fashion Organization partnered for the first annual ethical fashion show that featured a great deal of recycled apparel.
Group Photo: The first annual Ethical Fashion Show at College of William and Mary
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down with Tamara Albu, Director of the A.A.S. Fashion Design Program at Parsons School of Fashion in New York to discuss Social Alterations, and the work we’ve been doing in developing free, open-source curricula for students and educators.
Tamara asked me to sit down with her more formally and explain the project so that students and faculty at Parsons might get to know who we are and the work that we are doing.
Speaking with Tamara in this virtual space was a complete honour, and I am so happy to share this edited video with you here, along with the interview transcript.
Tamara Albu (TA): Hello. My name is Tamara Albu, I direct the Fashion Design A.A.S. Program, at Parsons School of Fashion here in New York. We are here today, in a virtual space, creating a bridge between New York and Vancouver, so we can talk a bit about the Social Alterations online lab developed by Mary Hanlon, after completing her Graduate thesis.
Mary Hanlon is the Founder, Editor and Lead Contributor of Social Alterations, and the winner of this year’s Fashioning the Future Award for “Systems for a Sustainable Fashion Industry” through the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at London College of Fashion.
Before beginning our conversation, I would like to thank David Goldsmith, one of our senior faculty, for introducing me to Mary.
It was fortunate that Mary Hanlon and David Goldsmith met recently at the Fashioning an Ethical Industry conference, in London. At the end of the event he talked about his strong belief that Mary’s website team and his research are a wonderful example of building the infrastructure for a “Fully-Fair” clothing and fashion industry. As he explained, Fully-Fair means being fair–not only in the limited sense of fair-trade,–but fair environmentally, economically, culturally, and socially.
Soon after this, I visited your website to learn more about your online lab, Mary. I was so taken by this project that I started thinking how can I make your ideas known to our students and faculty, here at Parsons, as quickly and efficiently as possible.
What came to my mind, was we already had a lot of conversations online via Skype, so
I simply wanted to record our Skype discussions as quickly as possible and have them published on the Parsons’ School of Fashion blogazine.
So, Mary, before we begin our main discussion—I would like you to perhaps say a few words about yourself.
Mary Hanlon (MH): Hi Tamara! Thank you for speaking with me. It’s wonderful to talk with you here. Yes, I’d like to thank David Goldsmith for introducing us, first and foremost. I met David in early March, back at the Fashioning an Ethical Industry Conference in London. We got to talking there, and, you know, we were speaking the same language. So, I just want to thank him for putting us in contact, and also thank you, both of you, for taking an interest in Social Alterations.
“It’s not enough to create great fashion, you have to understand why, what’s going to happen to that fashion later on, and what are the implications of what you’ve done” (Simon Collins, Dean of Parsons School of Fashion)
TA: I’m certainly very interested in Social Alterations, and that’s why we are here today.So, let me begin by asking you my first question: What exactly is Social Alterations?
MH: Social Alterations (SA) is an online lab built to educate fashion design instructors and students on the social, cultural, environmental and economic impact of their design choices.
It is an interactive website that, you know, hopes to create a space that will begin the conversation to bridge the gap between responsible design in theory and then responsible design in practice. So it’s a learning space, essentially, that wants to facilitate transformative design education.
I founded Social Alterations because my graduate research investigated the role of fashion design educators in teaching responsible fashion design. And, what I learned from that…you know, my research really showed that there was a knowledge gap within the industry, and I realized that there was an opportunity there to take the research I had done and put it outside of just the walls of my academia.
My passion for open-source learning guided me toward wanting to create an educational system that would be accessible to as many people as possible.
The Social Alterations Team is made up of myself, Nadira Lamrad, who is both a collaborator on this project as well as a contributing writer, and Katrine Karlsen, who is a contributor. It’s an international initiative. You know, while Nadira is based in Hong Kong, Katrine is writing from Norway, and I’m currently based in Vancouver, Canada.
TA: My goodness, this is a wonderful thing, they certainly are from all over the world; very interesting and exciting. Mary, let me ask you one other question,what do you mean by ‘transformative design education’ if you could develop a little bit more about that?
MH: Sure. I mean, we believe that interdisciplinary education is key to tackling these issues, because these are interdisciplinary issues. So our theme ‘Accessibility for Accountability,’ really shows that we want to help learners understand these issues by breaking down educational barriers: we want to provide them with the necessary tools to take on the challenge of responsible design, give them proper resources, create platforms for discussion, and build open-source curricula, within the interdisciplinary context. So when we talk about “responsible design,” we are talking about design that is educated on all of these issues.
TA: So, that leads me to a subject that is very close to me, but I’d like you to talk about it in relation to your project.Could you elaborate on what you mean by ‘open-source’ learning?
Mary: Sure. So, open-source learning for us is really about breaking down educational barriers. There is so much amazing research being done, that if we can harness this knowledge and aggregate the resources to deliver this through open-source systems. I mean, It’s exciting for us to imagine educators from across the globe coming together to discuss these issues. For example the open-source nature of Social Alterations allows educators and thought leaders from various disciplines (not just fashion design) to share their research in best practices for responsible design, but they can do so in real-time, online. You know, so it doesn’t matter if you’re in Hong Kong, or if you’re in Toronto, if you’re in Vancouver, or if you’re in South America, it’s not the point. Location isn’t the matter, it’s a matter of getting access to the information that you need as quickly as possible, because the consequences of not having that information are very large.
TA: You’re absolutely right, Mary. Can you tell us,what do you mean by ‘responsible design’?
MH: When we talk about “responsible design” on Social Alterations, we are talking about design that has considered, again, so environment, culture, society and economy to the absolute best of its abilities, at each stage of the design process.
Research has shown that so much of the consequences of design (you know, positive or negative) is actually known at the design stage. So while consumer education plays a huge role, of course, in shaping socially responsible fashion design, signals of deception, greenwashing for example, and unintelligent design, hidden ingredients….consumers basically are left to um, in many cases (of course not all cases), but in many cases, are left with no real choice—to pick from the best of the worst
But we believe the designer always has a choice at that design stage.
Material selection, for example is an obvious starting point. We have a “Fibre Analysis” that outlines the potential social and environmental consequences of commonly used fibres (that’s available online). And it’s this resource that we developed by aggregating resources that already exist, by pulling them together in one package so people have the answers they need right away.
Of course, the list of fibres in the analysis is no where near exhaustive, and so we’ll be working on further developing the content as we move forward. It’s an ongoing process.
TA: I’m so glad you mentioned all these, and I certainly hope that your project is going to continue and flourish and become, not only a source of inspiration but actually a source of information for so many designers interested in responsible design. Let’s go a little bit farther, and talk a little bit about the fact that you have argued that design educators have a responsibility to teach these issues. Could you explain?
MH: At the end of the day, the responsibility falls on the shoulder of the designer, primarily, because the designer is the creator of that product—of that garment
But if we go back and we think about the fashion design educator as having a responsibility—if we think of fashion design education as the point of intervention then the responsibility is lifted slightly off the shoulders of the designer and placed on the shoulders of the fashion/textile/apparel design educator.
So, to teach design practices that are culturally, socially, environmentally and economically supportive— that’s the responsibility of the design educator, is essentially what we’re arguing.
TA: Very well put. Okay, that leads me to my next question:what’s next?
Mary: Well,we’ll be looking to partner with various international stakeholders within the community (corporations, non-governmental organizations, environmental and Human Rights groups, social enterprises and educational institutions), and we’ll continue the process of developing the curricula, and pulling the resources together, and trying to deliver them in an edited capacity that makes sense—that people can use and absorb the knowledge that we’re presenting. I mean, it’s a really exciting time, because we have had such positive feedback coming from all sectors. There is a real opportunity for change here. I think that that’s pretty clear, so if we do the work, and we aggregate the resources, develop this content, and really pull it together for people so that they understand not just what’s at stake, but the choice that they can make moving forward to have control—take back control—is really powerful.
TA: Mary, I’d like to thank you very much for sharing this with all of us. I will certainly make sure that this information will be available online. Either our faculty and students will watch this video or they might prefer to read through the transcript, but the end result should be that we raise awareness for this project, and hopefully your website will be visited more and more, and that of course will mean that your projectwillbecome even more successful than it is now.
MH: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me about this project. I hope that your readers will find it interesting, and that they’ll come and support us. And I really look forward to continuing this conversation. Thank you again, very much for your time. Thank you. Thank you very much Tamara!
TA:Thank you so much for allowing me to enter your space and interview you, I just want to add that I have been talking today with Mary Hanlon who is the Founder, Editor and Lead Contributor of Social Alterations, and the winner of this year’s Fashioning the Future Award for “Systems for a Sustainable Fashion Industry” through the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at London College of Fashion.
I hope that you’re going to get a lot of followers—and I’m certainly already one of them! So, great talking to you!
On Earth Day, SA stepped back into the classroom to introduce Grade 8 students to the social and environmental impacts of fashion.
We have collated our favorite activities from Teaching Sustainable Fashion: A Handbook for Educators as well as developed our own exercises to create two workshops for pre-16 learners.
These workshops hope to engage, educate, encourage and empower both educator and learner to get involved with the issues. Each workshop provides resources and tools to help lessen the impact of the fashion industry on both people and planet.
We’ve put together this video of the 1 Hour workshop in action, so that you may get a better picture on how this might work in your classroom.
This workshop was designed to introduce pre-16 students/participants the value of a responsible fashion industry, by understanding the impact our clothing has on both people and planet.
To engage students/participants on the impact their clothing has on garment workers working within the fashion industry.
To educate students/participants on the impact their clothing has on the planet, specifically in terms of best practices in laundry habits.
To encourage students/participants to ‘talk back’ to the industry, through a critical examination of fashion themes coming out of the industry, specifically surrounding beauty and wealth.
To empower learners to take back control of the impact their clothing on both people and planet.
For more information on these activities, please visit the ‘Works Cited’ page at the end of each workshop.
* If you are planning to use this lesson, please let us know so that we may keep track of our programming.*
** Please ask your students to complete the online feedback forms**
Janette Crawford, who runs one of our favourite blogs, fashion loves people, has shared a wonderful interview she had originally done forKCFreePress.com. The interview is with Liz Bohannon, founder of Sseko Designs, an organization working to provide women with tuition money they need to attend college in Uganda through social enterprise.
I wanted to share this video clip with you here, as a source of encouragement. Liz Bohannon speaks passionately on the power of social enterprise in creating sustainable change—her dedication and optimism is so inspiring! Click here for more videos from the interview.
“The design by Ruben @ Buro RuSt combines with the more than readable texts by Anne Lally combine to create an innovative, attractive description of the FWF approach to improving labour conditions in garment supply chains. In hardback or paperback.” (FWF)
Image: FWF’s focus (image from the Fair Wear formula, (c) Buro RuSt