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FASHIONING ETHICAL FASHION
Sunday, 13 December 2009
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If ethical fashion is 'in fashion', then what happens when it's 'out of fashion'? Thorstein Veblen (1899) saw fashion as the way to promote conspicuous consumption and contrasted it to valuable productivity. Looking at the amount of emails I receive lately on X-mas sales of ethical fashion brands and boutiques, I can't do else but adhere to this vision.

And that makes me ponder: didn't we want to question fashion consumption culture? Through stimulating people to purchase consciously? To teach them how to customize their old wardrobe? To make them aware of issues in the textile industry? Are we succeeding and becoming a custom in the guise of departure from custom (Sapir 1931)? Or are we simply a fad adopted by 'individuals who follow the imperatives of fashion to abandon the responsibility to make history and shape culture' (Finkelstein 1989)?

To me there are three main reasons why ethical fashion, just like fashion is such an attractive phenomenon. The first is that the aesthetics are pleasing to the eye and seem to hold a promise for a better life, a better world. Secondly, it is for the pleasure of change, of not doing the usual thing that people are attracted to fashion. When the novelty has become acclimated and appreciated by innovators, laggards will take it up believing they also don't do the same thing as the rest of the world. It is here that the question of identity comes in. Simmel (1904/1971: 296) explains it as follows: 'Fashion is the imitation of a given example and satisfies the demand for social adaptation…., while at the same time it satisfies the need of differentiation and the desire for change and contrast. Where are we in ethical fashion?

Simmel (1904) claimed that fashion is usually invented at the margins (in the demimonde) and only legitimized by its adoption by higher classes from which it then trickles down to middle classes. This might well be true for ethical fashion as especially the Trashion aspect of it originated in communities where people valorize their waste in order to sustain.

As for me: am I part of that 'higher class', embodying an ethical lifestyle in my eco outfits while trying to convey the message in cities around the world? Or am I simply a Pandora like the Parisian puppets (bambole in Italian or fashion babies in English) which dressed in the latest fashion, toured European capitals each month in the 18th century? A hyphen or fashion imitator that makes me part of a certain group? Will ethical fashion ever be 'out of fashion'? And if yes, what will that do to my identity?

This blog is inspired by Barbara Czwarniawska's article 'Fashion in Organizing' (2005).

Comments (1)Add Comment
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written by Voucher Codes, May 01, 2010
Ethical fashion respects the earth.. My own experience, as I’ve been looking for organic and fairtrade clothing, is that it’s hard to find, there are more options for women than for men, and it’s expensive.. I read your article with deep interest.. Nice article and I get some new information from this article..

Voucher Codes

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