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Eco incentives require government backing

The British Fashion Council’s Estethica press day at London’s Somerset House hosted a debate on how sustainable fashion can be better marketed and promoted. Unlike the food and beauty industries’ organic choices, ethical fashion has yet to break through into the mainstream.

The panel included ecological activist and writer Charty Durrant, arts and heritage consultant Baroness Lola Young, model and author Laura Bailey, Grazia fashion editor at large Melanie Rickey, Estethica curator and co-founder of ethical label From Somewhere Orsola de Castro and fashion retail expert Yasmin Sewell.

Four key topics surfaced. First, for eco fashion to break through, the product must be well-designed and compete with mainstream products. Second, a co-ordinated consumer marketing campaign for these businesses will support growth. Third, ethical businesses face more challenges to become price competitive and therefore some kind of government incentive such as tax breaks would help sustain and develop this area of the industry. Fourth, will government incentives encourage more designer businesses to become more eco friendly, and to adopt organic, fair trade or re/up-cycling in product design?

A recent RE:Fashion summit also stimulated an appeal for government action. British Fashion Council chairman Harold Tillman has agreed to spearhead the industry’s call for tax breaks so eco fashion can be more affordable and accessible. The request is for the government to help these businesses keep ethical fashion on the agenda, to assist these businesses in competitive pricing and to incentivise both consumers and businesses to buy-in, on a long-term basis, to eco fashion.

Caroline Rush is joint chief executive of the British Fashion Council

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