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Ethics are part of the puzzle, not the whole solution

If the past few months have taught us anything about how fashion is produced, it’s that there is a need like never before for transparency, ethics and reform in manufacturing.

The Bangladesh factory disaster brought into sharp focus all the things about some parts of the industry it seemed easier to ignore, in the hope that they would either sort themselves out, or at least not go wrong. But the inconvenient truth came out and the way our clothes, shoes and accessories are made went straight to the top of the agenda, both inside and outside the industry.

When I spoke to Andrea Panconesi, chief executive of Italian luxury retailer Luisa Via Roma, at Pitti Uomo in June he was banging the drum for Made in Italy fashion, as you would expect. “Our clients don’t want Chinese-made products,” he said. “They want Made in Italy because they know the difference in quality.”

As true as that may be, there is something a little self-righteous and ever so slightly smug about a lot of the noise around Made in Insert Country Name Here, organic-certified, sustainable, eco-friendly, ethical fashion.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m an advocate of better produced pieces, made by people who have been paid properly and from materials that are both in plentiful supply and not shipped thousands of miles around the globe. But there comes a time when all that can only do so much.

Putting aside the higher cost argument, using any of the aforementioned attributes as the sole reason for a product to exist counts for absolutely nothing if said product is ugly. Yes, I’m sure your dresses are well-made by a single artisan in the depths of the Scottish Highlands from recycled yak hair, but that doesn’t mean I can, or should, look beyond your garment’s appearance.

Someone’s got to want to actually wear a garment.

Is a balance of ethics and aesthetics too much to ask?

Readers' comments (1)

  • what's your point here, Ian?

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