Fashioning an Ethical Industry Conference

The Fashioning an Ethical Industry annual conference was hosted at The Rich Mix, London – a fitting venue being that it used to be an old garment factory.

The conference was opened by director Hannah Higginson, who advised that global sourcing was the theme of the day bringing together speakers from all areas of the supply chain.

The audience consisted of fashion, marketing and business students as well as industry experts and designers. You could feel the tension in the audience as these difficult issues were discussed and feel the genuine passion for fairer and more ethical approaches to be applied within the fashion industry.

The speakers talked about the difficulties surrounding production methods, working conditions and global sourcing. There was a representative from ASDA who talked about their plan to be the number one retailer for women’s fashion in the UK by producing quick affordable fashion in an ethical way.

A representative from People Tree talked about their grass roots approach to re-skill workers whom they refer to as artisans. They talked about their application of traditional handcraft and how it can take ten times longer to produce clothing but this is more sustainable as they eloquently referred to our hands being the oldest source of renewable energy.

One of the most inspiring talks of the day was by Dr Kate Fletcher, reader in sustainable fashion and textiles at London College of Fashion. She talked about systems thinking and the complexity of the fashion industry. Kate advised that we should not look for and can not find one complete solution but instead seek out ways to inspire and initiate lots of small changes, as this can collectively inspire big change.

The day closed with delegates being divided into three workshops focusing on design, marketing and business. In teams we were challenged to address an ethical fashion dilemma. I really enjoyed this part of they day as I got to meet new people who were passionate about fashion but committed to finding ethical ways to make, consumer or engage.

Overall this was a great day I left feeling really inspired, more educated about ethical sourcing and I even made some new friends. The day offered a holistic view of the sustainable issues challenging the fashion industry and I think it motivated delegates to find small ways to contribute towards making a difference.

Visit their website for further resources

Co-Design and On-line Fashion

We recently attended a talk at London College of Fashion exploring the latest developments in co-design within online fashion.

Julia Wolny explained that there are several different models for co-design in this context:

Co-creation of a service: Zafu, is a company who recommend a style/type of jean that suits what a consumer may be looking for.

Co-creation of fashion ‘looks’: My Virtual Model is a service which gives you a 3D model to play around with clothing items. It started as a site to sell clothes from different retailers but has also developed an online community who simply share their favourite existing outfits.

Co-creation of a product: There are several examples of this idea where companies ask consumers to have a say in the colour or ‘cosmetic’ decisions of a product, like the Reebok trainers which you can choose the colour combinations for.

Consumer as designer: Ponoko is a company which makes interior products based on a customer's design. They also sell designer/makers work and helps consumers to manufacture and distribute a product.

Threadless are a successful Tshirt company who allow the consumer to choose/vote on a favourite design for a tshirt. The design with the most votes is put into production.

In the past, fashion brands may have run focus groups with consumers to gauge what they wanted from a product, but the Internet has made it much easier to facilitate a more open-source approach to including consumers in the design, development and manufacture of a product.

However, how realistic are these ideas? Julia Wolny asked the most obvious question: Are consumers creative? Do we really believe that consumers will want/be able to get involved and contribute to the design and manufacturing process of fashion garments?

Will our modern lifestyles, with the lack of time and lack of incentive to 'customise', prevent this format from becoming mainstream?

Time will tell, but if the commercial success of an interactive enterprise like Threadless is anything to go by, fashion consumers are keen to get more involved.