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Talking Business: Fashion should embrace sustainability

Over the last few years, the world has watched as the fashion industry’s bad practices have come to light — from garment factory fires and building collapses to child labour and slavery-like conditions, pollution from dyes and insecticides, and surmounting levels of textile waste, writes Sarah Ditty, chief researcher and editor at the Ethical Fashion Forum.

How do you ensure what you create doesn’t come at this cost? Unlike many other careers, you don’t need to have a formal degree in fashion to start your own company or to work in the industry. But you do need to be self-motivated and willing to invest time (and probably a good chunk of money). You need to have a vision, some strong ideas and set of ethical values that will define how you work.

Those most poised to make it in the future of fashion will be the ones who are striving to work in an ethical and sustainable way. Consumers are increasingly coming to expect that what they wear has not been made at the expense of people or the planet. Most big name companies now have teams dedicated to improving social and environmental issues. Sustainability efforts can and will enrich your business and create a story that will add value to your products or services.

The Ethical Fashion Forum and Creative Skillset have launched a free online course, which explores what it takes to build a successful fashion business without compromising on ethics. Those taking part will hear first-hand from a cross-section of fashion designers and industry experts who focus on sustainability. The course will explore what sustainability means in the context of running a fashion business - from business planning, to sourcing materials and manufacturing, to building your brand story and finding your customers.

Growing a fashion business organically takes time, persistence and a good network of people. Before you jump straight into making your idea a reality, make sure you have a solid plan. This course will help you do that. And remember, fashion need not cost the earth.

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