The BBC has launched an on-line ethical fashion magazine, called Thread. It's a very interesting enterprise for our national, state-owned broadcaster, which is paid for through direct taxation. The BBC is prohibited from taking advertising, which will make this possibly the only fashion magazine free from commercial interest. It's produced by BBC Learning and aimed at 16-30 year-olds, I assume on the prniciple of get 'em while their still young and don't have ingrained shopping habits. One of my beefs about ethical clothes is that they still haven't evolved into grown-up work-wear and seem either anti-fashion (the lumpy oatmeal linen dress) or young, multi-coloured, hip and ethnic. Perhaps the generation that demands ethical dress now will go on doing so when they hit 40.
High street names such as Monsoon, Marks and Spencer and Next are members of the Ethical Trading Initiative, www.ethicaltrade.org. Members agree to a code of practice that covers basic workers' rights. It looks at hours worked, wages, health and safety and child labour. Members work with the factories they use to achieve improvements each year.
But one of the challenges that fashion companies cite is monitoring working conditions across a complex supply chain – raw cotton from India may be woven in Bangladesh, while buttons and zips may come from China. It can be difficult to ensure working conditions are fair in factories thousands of miles away.
It used to be relatively easy to spot guilt-free garb whether it was fairly traded or organic. It was dull stuff – the designs and colours didn’t exactly leap out at you. While perfectly decent clothing, it wasn’t high fashion and you wouldn’t find it on the catwalks or in glossy magazines.
All this is changing. Eco fashion is getting bolder and brighter. Gone are the dull, oatmeal-coloured tunics from the 1990s - think luminous red shift dresses from designer Viridis Luxe and clashing bright fabric skirts, stitched together by recycling enthusiasts From Somewhere.
As this summer’s fashion moves to bold, tribal patterns and fluro colours, ethical fashion has much to offer. Use our Style File to kick start your new look – experiment with stripes, branch out into boho or add a hint of tribal.