Fashion at its best not only reflects society, it elevates it. Over the past 10 years, innovative designers have woven social responsibility, sustainabiliy and design. Toms is an example of a successful campaign. Starting in his garage, Blake Mycoskie launched his casual unique shoe design with the concept of one for one. For every pair of Toms sold, Mycoskie donated a pair to third world countries. This highly successful marketing strategy, became the poster child of social consciousness. However, according to a recent poll mainstream fashion forward consumers are more interested in high quality garments than environmentally green garments created in ethical work environments summed up in the word “sustainable” fashion. Only 26% said they made their choices based on the sustainability of the garments.
The word “sustainable” has come to represent casual, or unfashionable to consumers who link it with the idea of grunge fashion, liberal idealism, or simplistic designs. Categorizing sustainable fashion, or pigeonholing people who support the movement seems to prevent it from being embraced by mainstream shoppers. To counter that response, companies are emerging that bring together an eclectic assortment of designers who focus on sustainability, but in contrast to the expected earth muffin, organic expectation (which I actually like) they focus on bringing fresh style with immaculate tailoring and a high quality vibe. The marketing focuses on helping communities in third world countries as well on two fronts. First, making donations when the item is purchased, as in the brand Toms; and second, guaranteeing that the company was participating or following the rules set up by the Fair Trade Commission.
The word sustainability has been replaced by the “conscientious consumer” who is portrayed as “fighting the fast-fashion craze” like fast food versus a foodie. They are trying to meld the concept of sustainability with the ideal of style and quality fabrics. Some of the companies at the forefront of the movement are Positive Luxury, ZADY’s, Warby Parker and Master’s Muse. Moving the focus to the consumer versus a movement is a good move because it shifts the responsibility to each of us versus a group that holds a certain belief systems. Whether you are a rancher or a hipster in New York, it is hard to disagree with the benefit of making conscientious decisions.
With global warming and the increasing awareness of the affect of careless agricultural practices, hopefully more people will make the decision to buy fabrics made of materials that contribute to healing the environment and providing a living situation that benefits the societies that are creating the products. These countries are so politically and economically fragile companies can effect long term improvements that will help the global balance.
Positive Luxury is a London company whose membership awards brands and companies that are working toward social and environmental responsibility. Master and Muse’s website and I agree that fashion helps shape our culture. Their website implies, but does not supply details, that the company focuses on acquiring clothing and collections that have been made in an environment that does not take advantage of unethical labor practices. The clothes are also suppose to be environmentally friendly.
Marrying more cutting edge couture and higher quality ready-to-wear with ethical, environmentally friendly fabrics will benefit the consumers, the community and what has become our global neighborhood. (see I didn’t say sustainable.)