Embracing Ethical Fashion: An Article By 19 year-old Guest Blogger Olivia Purvis

Tis’ the season. With 2012 marking another year in the evolving global financial crisis, and with more discerning consumer spending, there’s no better time to ditch the traditional habits of fast fashion and start taking a little more responsibility for our spending.

Described in the dictionary as “morally right/and or morally acceptable”, the word ethical is one we should all be considering. As Dame Vivienne Westwood stated “this is not charity, this is work”—something that should be completed in a morally correct working world. It’s simple really. Ethical fashion is created to increase the well-being of people and communities through clothing. It aims to defend fair wages, ethical working conditions, employee rights, and it supports healthy livelihoods as well as recycling excess waste and energy.

Perhaps it’s time to branch out from the typical shopping mall heroes (goodbye Forever 21), and take a look at the new faces of environmentally forward fashion and let them into our closets.

As glamorous as the fashion industry may appear, look behind the sequin booming catwalk shows and glossy pages of your favorite magazines and there are endless supply chains riddled with ethical problems and corrupted morals of responsibility all in the name of looking good. Let’s think about this. Fast fashion is a lot like fast food. It doesn’t always taste great to eat but in general: you buy it, feel good for a little while, then after a period of time the damage it causes begin to show.

There’s often a certain unappealing cliché associated with sustainable fashion as many of us think about green tinged tie-dye and khaki hemp trousers—certainly not a trend that suits everyone’s taste. But there is hope because there’s a growing community of creative people helping to redefine the green stereotype.

With globally renowned ‘People Tree’ being one of the pioneers in responsible Fair Trade fashion, and collaborating with current designers and personalities such as Orla Kiely and Emma Watson, it’s clear this style has come a long way from its retro counterparts. Additionally, independent designers are stepping up to the plate, creating well-priced and cool, unique pieces. Until Alexa Chung recently tweeted about ‘The Reformation’ I was ignorant of the up-to-date young and ethical clothing brands, to which Chung describes as “sustainable fashion that doesn’t suck”. Founded by Yaya Yael Aflalo and Chi Bui, the pair created “a chic, limited edition collection that repurposes vintage and surplus materials” all locally found in the Big Apple.

Fashion giants such as H&M are also jumping in with ‘Conscious Collection’ released earlier this year (spotted on stars such as Natalie Portman and Michelle Williams) and high-end luxury brands like Vivienne Westwood are collaborating with ‘Ethical Fashion Africa’ (creating accessories from recycled materials handcrafted by women in extreme poverty to help learn skills and build a better future); both labels are aiming to support disadvantaged communities by using organic fabrics to create guilt-free indulgences.

Embracing ethical responsibility doesn’t stop at clothing. Brighton based “Beyond Skin” focuses on handmade and vegan footwear, created locally using supplies close to home—showing how easy it is to put your best foot forward. Plus with websites like “My Green Lipstick” showcasing new and established ethical designers, it’s not difficult to locate several ethical brands in one place.

If you’re adamant that these ethical styles simply aren’t for you, then who can resist a spot of thrift shopping? Wherever you are out and about, you’re probably not far from a charity or vintage shop—absolute treasure troves for desirable, unique and varied pieces. Not only are you recycling (and possibly giving to a good cause) but you’re getting your mitts on something nobody else has—so what’s to lose?

I’m a young fashion blogger, and there are few things I enjoy more than shopping, be it online or not. The satisfaction of finding a piece I love is second to none and I don’t doubt that satisfaction could be doubled if I was doing something good with my frivolous purchases. So, when picking out tomorrow’s outfit or deliberating that next throw-away cotton t-shirt have a think because you never know, maybe green could really be the new black.

5 Uncommon Sense Tips for shopping with a conscience:

1. Before you hit the check-out lines think carefully. Do you really need this article of clothing? Do you have similar pieces you could customize or reinvent in your wardrobe? If the answer is yes, put it back. Plus, if a dress costs less than $20 than in reality, it’s probably not very well made.

2. If you’re going to shop, try to shop locally. Even by reducing your car usage you’re being ethical in more ways than one.

3. When possible explore local thrift or Goodwill stores, you’ll be surprised at the vintage gems worth discovering. Additionally, if you’re not buying secondhand purchase long lasting products or items that are fixable—this means durable fabric, and nothing throw away.

4. Look for fair trade items, and if possible look into the background of stores before shopping. After all if we’re after more ethical supply chains we don’t want to buy into the wrong ones.

5.  Just buy less. Simple.

Olivia is a London-based fashion and style blogger, and curator of What Olivia Did. You can find her on Twitter: @livpurvis, Facebook, and her blog www.whatoliviadid.com

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