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Green is the new black

I received a lot of compliments about a new bag I was carrying on Saturday. But it wasn’t Mulberry’s Mabel or another designer style.

No, it was a carrier bag from a little shop in Chew Magna in Somerset, from where I bought a jewellery box. The bag was made entirely from old newspapers, but it was cleverly designed, with interesting pictures or headlines pulled out as focal points.

It made me think about a conversation I had with Kirstin Samuel, founder of ethical fashion label Mumo, at London Fashion Week last month. She believes it’s not a lack of consumer demand for ethical products that has prevented retailers from buying fully into organic or fair-trade clothing, but a lack of innovative and fashion-led product to entice consumers.

Many high street retailers have a limited ethical offer, which normally includes a capsule T-shirt or denim collection made from organic or fair trade cotton. Any foray into ethical clothing is a welcome move and hopefully retailers will continue to broaden their offer, but at the moment a lot of these collections are rarely eye-catching or heavily trend-led.

It’s the independent retailers and brands that are offering something different and much more diverse. Look at People Tree and its designer collaborations with Bora Aksu and Richard Nichol. The label’s spring 08 collection looks really good, with dresses a particular highlight. And then there are retailers such as Equa and From Somewhere, whose entire collections, from basics and knitwear to accessories, offer consumers a real point of difference from the high street.

With ethical fashion high on the industry’s agenda – and set to get even higher – it seems that it’s the smaller labels and indies that are capitalising on this trend, certainly from a product point of view.

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