Tag Archives: Edinburgh

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 // Beauty by Design: Fashioning the Renaissance


This past weekend, I headed to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh to check out the exhibit Beauty by Design: Fashioning the Renaissance.

I’m so glad I did. The show challenges current assumptions of beauty by exploring how perceptions of body image have changed over time:

“The theme of body image is central: the historic paintings have been approached both as a means of challenging current perceptions of physical beauty, and as inspiration for a more diverse and emotionally considerate practice on the part of today’s fashion designers.” (National Galleries Scotland)

Leading the project is the Programme Director for Fashion at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) at the University of Edinburgh, Mal Burkinshaw, and Dr Jill Burke of the School of History of Art. The work is the result of a collaboration between National Galleries of Scotland and ECA, and has been in the works since 2012, when the project first launched.

The exhibit runs until 3rd May 2015, but if you’re not near Edinburgh, you can read more about the project here, and here. I’ll upload some photos to our Facebook page to check out as well.

Call for Participants// Synthetic Aesthetics

Synthetic Aesthetic asks: How would you design nature?

The project is a collaborative effort between artists/designers and scientists/engineers that strives “to bring creative practitioners and those who are expert at studying, analysing and designing the synthetic/natural interface together with the existing synthetic biology community to help with the work of designing, understanding and building the living world.” (Synthetic Aesthetic)

Through the creation of “balanced exchanges” artists/designers will spend time in bioengineering labs, and scientists/engineers will spend their time in design studios, for 12 unique residencies.

The application deadline is fast approaching (March 31st), but there is still time to apply for this amazing project.

Call for participants:

We seek participants for a project on synthetic biology, design, and aesthetics. The project will provide funding to bring together scientists and engineers working in synthetic biology with artists, designers, and other creative practitioners. 

Resources will be made available for twelve funded ‘embedded residencies’, in which six artists and designers will spend two weeks in laboratories, and six scientists and engineers will spend two weeks in artistic studios and design workspaces (institutions or independent studios). The participants will be in six exchanges (synbio/creative), each pair spending four weeks working together over the project.  It is our intention that such collaborations will lead to presentable results, although the form these take is entirely open to the participants. Travel and accommodation expenses will be covered by the project.

We aim to construct the groundwork for future collaborations that could inform new types of engineering, new schools of art and design, and innovative approaches to the study of synthetic biology in society.

For application details, and for more information, click here.

Source: Core77

Ethical Fashion Symposium, Scotland

Title: Ethical Fashion Symposium, Scotland
Location: Scotland
Link out: Click here

Edinburgh College of Art, in collaboration with Fashioning an Ethical Industry and the Scottish Academy, are hosting a two day symposium for students and tutors on fashion related courses in Scotland on ethics in fashion.

Day 1
The fashion cycle: Interactive introduction to the symposium and to the social and environmental issues in the fashion industry
Liz Parker, Fashioning an Ethical Industry

Communicating sustainability
Helen Spoor from sustainability communications company Futerra.

Sustainable Design
Jessica Hemmings, Associate Director, Centre for Visual & Cultural Studies

Bringing responsiblity into fashion business
Speaker to be confirmed

Fashion Future: What can you do at university, as consumers and once in business?
Liz Parker, Fashioning an Ethical IndustrySpeakers include

Day 2 – putting ideas into practice
Students and tutors will work together in multi-disciplinary, multi-university teams on the brief: ‘Universities and colleges in Scotland are working together to promote ethics and sustainability in fashion. In teams, develop a product, idea or strategy for engaging students with fashion ethics and sustainability’.

Students will present their work in a format of their choice, for example, a poster, visualisation board, campaign idea, presentation or garment design.

The event will take place on Monday 18th January and Tuesday 19th January 2010 from 10.00am – 4.00 in Lecture Theatre E22 at Edinburgh College of Art.

18th and 19th January 2010: 10.00am – 4.00pm

For more information and to register please click here.
Start Date: 2010-01-18
End Date: 2010-01-19