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We can make a world of difference

The fashion industry must consider the wider consequences of its decisions, says Curtis Jacoby

The waning of the old year and the waxing of the new is a great time for reflection and, of course, time for resolutions to do better in the next 12 months. I expect to drink, eat and exercise as usual, so I'm planning to focus on something we are encouraged to do but, personally speaking, have been lax in reacting to (apart from sorting the recyclable rubbish): saving the planet and our way of life.

This whole ethical/green/organic conundrum has exercised me ever more in the past months. How do we square the circle of ethical production methods (a more equitable distribution of revenues), lower CO2 production (via reduced shipping miles) and decide if organic is the way to go (does paying a premium get us better produce)?

My thoughts carry over to cycling MPs (with their protection service following behind in large cars) and on, via our TV that doesn't have an off button and is only ever on standby, to the latest in consumer goodies, the organic clothing collections. My bourgeois sensibilities have been further disturbed over the past year by realising that the political world is an unsafe place, with radicals from neo-cons to Al-Qaeda fighting to impose their view of the future. Body-bags bring home the reality of this conflict and the need for economic strength and independence. This necessitates ever-stronger trading and political links with our neighbours in Europe. So what has this got to do with fashion retail?

Even small actions, if multiplied across the industry, can make a huge difference. Talking to a Portuguese clothing factory owner, I discovered that since many European and US brands shifted production out of Portugal to lower cost producers in the Far East and North Africa, the remaining factories had a choice: adapt or die. Many chose to adapt, so a significant industry has grown up allegedly making counterfeit branded products. The skills base and quality of production have not gone away. Surely it is better to use these skills positively?

Luckily we are in an industry that can and does change rapidly. If we choose, we can switch the sourcing of many items back to Europe. Not only will this lower our collective garment miles, but will strategically shift economic power to protect our socio-political system.

While many industries are settling on carbon trading as a way to offset their guilt at producing emissions, we can design and produce desirable garments in an ethical and green manner, and perhaps even halt or reverse garment deflation with a simple decision.

Back in suburbia, our two-year-old is the ultimate fickle consumer. Like many doting parents, we offer our kids the best organic produce. One day grapes are the best thing ever and the next they are spat out in disgust. For one week blueberries were consumed at an alarming rate, so we stocked up on plump, juicy, organic blueberries, flown in from Argentina. Needless to say, the same day, blueberries became the worst thing ever, and it fell to dad to eat the lot. My conscience struggled with the food miles involved, but they were delicious. Obviously my focus has already slipped slightly.

- Curtis Jacoby runs womenswear agency the Jacoby Partnership in central London.

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