Tag Archives: ethical fashion

Sweatshops: The changes being made

Sweatshops are a concept well known to the world of fast-fashion; clothes that are affordable, and the wages of those who made them, even more so. The reality of bargain prices trace back to countries such as Bangladesh and Cambodia, where manual workers are employed at minimum wage inside a factory or workshop for long hours and under poor conditions.

After the collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, a building which housed clothing factories among other shops, the transparency of fashion companies’ supply chains are being called into question as change is slowly taking shape around the operation of sweatshops. A pop-up sweatshop by the Clean Clothing Campaign in Amsterdam challenged consumers to sit behind a sewing machine and make as many garments as they possibly could in an hour, encouraging onlookers to question their fashion retailers about their manufacturing conditions.

Photo: Anko Stoffels

Closer to home, the Australian government is making moves toward a Modern Slavery Act, an act that Britain introduced in 2015. Such an act would might force companies to prove that they are not exploiting foreign workers. Companies with an annual turnover of $50 million would be reporting on their suppliers’ use of overseas labour. The result of the act is not to dole out fines, but to keep transparency between companies, consumers and shareholders.

 

Perhaps the example needed in this industry to help curb this problem is Nike. The early 1990s saw the brand exposed and shamed relentlessly for its employment of workers in Indonesia and Vietnam for less than minimum wage. The company was protested and criticized until 1998 when then-CEO Phil Knight announced a raise of the minimum age of its workers and increased monitoring in all factories producing Nike’s goods. In the year following, Nike began creating the Fair Labour Association to enforce codes of conduct including a set 60-hour work week and a minimum age to be employed. The company became the first to publish a complete list of all factories they dealt with in 2005 and continues to take corporate social responsibility in auditing data and upholding their commitments to its workers and consumers.

Photo: Getty

Consumers have a right to know how their goods are being made. Shopping ethically is made easier with Ethical Clothing Accreditation. Ethical Clothing Australia is a program designed to verify that all workers are receiving their legal entitlements. Upon accreditation, retailers appeal to a growing market of consumers and ensure transparency between themselves and consumers.

The change that must occur to better conditions in sweatshops and eradicate slave labour must first come from the consumer. Think about how your money is being spent and whose pocket it’s going into. Brands and retailers must be responsible for their actions. So must we.

 

Written by: Celina Foong

Fur Bye

Looking Towards A Fur-Free FutureImage Credit: Donnatella Versace

The high-end fashion world has always loved fur. Fur coats, fur hats, fur-lined boots – you name it, anything and everything that can be made out of fur, was. Long-acquainted with luxury and glamour, it is no wonder that mega-giant Versace is known for their iconic fur pieces. But no more! In the latest issue of the 1843 magazine, creative director Donatella Versace speaks out against the use of fur in future collections.

“Fur? I am out of that. I don’t want to kill animals to make fashion. It doesn’t feel right.”Image Credit: Versace

Versace has become the most recent high fashion house to drop fur, following quickly behind competitor Gucci who have joined the Fur Free Alliance, an international organisation working towards an end to animal exploitation. However, this is by no means a new development. The controversial use of fur within the fashion industry has been a long-standing debate for years. It has garnered more attention recently as consumers have become aware of the unethical production of fur pieces, as well as its unsustainability for the planet.

More than 100 million animals are slaughtered every year for their pelts, after living short, miserable lives in cages. Unlike other farmed animals, these are natural predators and have gone through very limited domestication, so being cramped inside tiny cages causes extreme stress-related problems. Many end up with missing limbs and other deformities from self-mutilation, and even turn to cannibalism when trying to exhibit their natural behaviors. Not only do they live agonising lives, but they are often killed inhumanely in order to preserve their pelts. Gassing, anal electrocution and sometimes being skinned alive, are not abnormal ways of death.

Image Credit: Google

Although more and more brands are dropping fur, one has to wonder why it took so long for it to happen. Calvin Klein took the plunge more than 20 years ago, with others like Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren following suit a few years after. According to Nielsen’s statistical reports, it may be due to a change in consumer tastes. Millennials are driving brands to become increasingly ethical in their practices, and compared with previous generations, are more ethically conscious in their choices. The voices of Millennials cannot be ignored when they make up a sizeable portion of the fashion industry’s clientele.

Image Credit: Google 

So, the real question is, are designer brands becoming more ethically conscious, or is ethical fashion just becoming more ‘on trend’? Marco Bizzarri, CEO of Gucci, says, “Do you think using furs today is still modern? I don’t think it’s still modern and that’s the reason why we decided not to do that. It’s a little bit out-dated…Fashion has always been about trends and emotions and anticipating the wishes and desires of consumers.” Could this be the reason so many other brands are jumping on the fur-free train?

Image Credit: Gucci 

Regardless the reason, this change is pointing towards a brighter, fur-free future with the potential to create higher standards for the fashion industry. Many never thought they would see the day when glamorous fur became obsolete so who’s to say leather isn’t next? Fur bye!

References:

https://www.furfreealliance.com/fur-farming

https://www.thenational.ae/lifestyle/with-more-fashion-brands-declaring-themselves-fur-free-what-s-next-for-the-fur-industry-1.693095

https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/news-analysis/gucci-bans-fur-saying-its-not-modern

The Year of the Mushroom

Although not an official Chinese Zodiac symbol, it certainly seemed that 2017 was the year of the mushroom. Dominating the health and wellness industry, we saw trends from superfood mushroom coffee to psychoactive mushroom therapy. Now, thanks to companies like Mycoworks, not only can mushrooms be used as one of our fastest growing plant proteins, but can actually be farmed and harvested for sustainable, bio- degradable textiles. Could these little fun-guys be the key to the next boom in sustainable fashion?Image Credit: Pinterest

The bio-materials company, Mycoworks, was founded in 2013 by three founding members: Phillip Ross, Sophia Wang and Eddie Pavlu. The San Fransisco based start-up have come a long way from experimenting with building materials made from mycelium. Finding the building market difficult to crack; through the destruction of mycelium brick dreams, mushroom leather was born.Image Credit: Pinterest

Harnessing the power of one of the most abundant resources on Earth, Mycoworks have developed a technology that allows them to cultivate a leather-like textile from a type of fungi called Ganoderma Lucidum (Reishi mushroom). It acts like an animal hide because it too, is organic. It is tough and durable, water resistant, breathable and out-performs synthetic leather, lamb and sheep skin. It is naturally anti-biotic, so this wondrous material is actually beneficial for our skin.

The mushrooms are cultivated using recycled agricultural waste such as saw dust and corn cobs. Within just two months, a full cow hide-sized mushroom hide is grown. The best part? Not only is mushroom leather organic, fast-growing, processed without toxic chemicals, carbon neutral and utilising waste from the agricultural industry, Mycoworks have pledged to lower the cost of the product to $5 per square metre by 2020. This will allow them to compete with all other leather on the market. Thanks to the commercial production of edible mushrooms, the same process can be used to grow mushroom leather. It is low-tech compared to the production of animal leather and not a single animal is slaughtered in the process.

According to a 2016 Mycoworks presentation, livestock alone consumes 50% of the USA’s water supply and around 10,000 pounds of feed. It is responsible for producing 18% of green house gasses annually and covers around 30% of the Earth’s surface. A single cow hide takes approximately 3 years to reach its full size. 70% of this is then discarded with the remaining 30% being sent to tanneries overseas, commonly in third-world countries.

Bangladesh and India are among those exploited for their cheap labour. Tanneries use toxic chemicals in the process; the run-off waste often being found in the streets, leaching into local water supplies, thus debunking the myth of any ‘ethical’ leather process.

Image Credit: Pinterest

Not only can this vegan material be produced ethically and sustainably; different textures, finishes and thicknesses can be engineered into the hide itself. Not in our wildest dreams could we have imagined doing this with animal hides!

Although originally popular among alternative indie labels, we can expect to see more of this abundant textile on the runway in the coming years. As the eco-fashion movement continues to spread like wildfire, we are seeing an increasingly large number of iconic fashion houses going fur-free, with the likes of Gucci and Prada to name a few. Having some of the loudest and most powerful voices for change, designers are finally starting to accept their social responsibilities.

Image Credit: Pinterest

While activists continue their mission to educate the masses, the demand for a more ethical and cruelty free product soars. Fur is now seen by the majority as an insulting expression (symbol?) of gluttony in the world of fashion. Next up: leather.

A wise man once said, “be the change you want to see in the world.” Right on, Ghandi. Systems cannot exist without belief; they are intangible constructs, influenced by the mainstream. One can find great liberation in the fact that we, the people, have more control over what the fashion industries produce – more than we realise.

Image Credit: Pinterest

So how can we find more designers utilising mushroom leather? Ask, and you shall receive; when the demand for mushroom leather snowballs, as will the supply. Just as we are encouraged to write to our local politicians regarding our concerns, we should be doing the same with our designers. Write to brands and designers expressing your disenchantment with animal products, stop buying fur, leather or any other unsustainable textile. Start the trend and spread the word! Support brands that are already harnessing this cutting edge technology.

Look out leather!

THE FUTURE IS PINEAPPLE… 

It all began in the 90’s (like most great things) when Dr. Carmen Hijosa took a business trip from her home country of Spain to the Philippines. Hijosa used to work for 15 years as an industry consultant for the design and manufacturing of (dun dun dun) leather products. After seeing the significant issues that accompany the leather industry- vegan and animal alike- Hijosa left the dark side and began exploring leather alternatives.

Hijosa, aware that PVC alternatives contain petroleum, knew that vegan leather was not the solution. Also aware of the environmental damages caused by the tanning process used on animal leathers she realized there was a niche to be filled and thus began her journey to create Piñatex.

Inspired by the Filipino national garb the barong tagalog, a woven formal dress made with pineapple threads, she began to consider how clothing can be made from other materials. She formed the company Anansas Anam Ltd. that patented a process that extracts pineapple fibres from leaves and turns them into a leather-like material now known as Piñatex.

Photo-by-David-Stewart-for-Wired-2-1600x2347
 Image credit: Piñatex:  Dr. Carmen Hijosa (above)

In it’s early days Ananas Anam Ldt. supplied brands such as Puma and Camper and made its way to car upholstery through Porsche, BMW, Mercedez Benz, and the always innovative, Tesla. Now Piñatex has hit runways and made a name for itself in the slow fashion movement. Pineapple leather was featured in the 2017 Milan fashion week by collection by Laura Strambi, among others throughout the fashion industry.

#MadeFromPiñatex Jacket by Laura Strambi    Fall/Winter 2017/18 Jacket - https://www.laurastrambiyoj.com/presentation-fall-wintwer-2017-2018Image credit: Olga Mai  (Milan Fashion Week 2017 Laura Strambi’s “Frozen Garden”)

Laura Strambi Fall 2017 - Milan Fashion Week. Clique e confira a coleção completa. Photo by @manuluizeImage credit: Olga Mai  (Milan Fashion Week 2017 Laura Strambi’s “Frozen Garden”)

Pineapple leather is cheaper than leather products for manufacturers to purchase because it’s derived entirely from a waste product adding no extra cost to farmers. Piñatex is created from the skins of leaves and discards only 30% waste. It’s difficult to call this waste however, as the biomass produced after creating the Piñatex fibres is later used as fertilizer or sold for profit and gives an extra source of income to the farmers.

pinatex1.jpgImage credit: Pinterest

There is no extra land, water, or chemicals being used in the production of Piñatex and the leaves being discarded by farmers would otherwise add to the estimated 40,000 tons of pineapple waste generated globally each year. As Hijosa states “… we are actually taking a waste material and ‘upscaling’ it, meaning that we’re giving it added value.” 

Related imageImage credit: Pinterest

As humans we should all care about the planet. Piñatex has a huge advantage over animal derived leathers as there are no harmful chemicals used in the process to make pineapple leather. Hijosa promises a ‘Cradle to Cradle’ philosophy which means that the entire process is natural and eco-friendly from beginning to finish.

Pineapple leather is biodegradable but has a non-biodegradable protective top layer for durability- Piñatex is currently working towards a natural alternative.The fabric is breathable and flexible, and can be printed on and stitched. It’s also available to purchase as a roll so as to avoid the waste caused by irregularly shaped leather hides.

Vegan1Image credit: Google Images  

It is true that Piñatex will never have the same feel as animal leather but it is not trying to copy this- it’s a unique product all on it’s own. Much like formica when it first came into being, it looked ugly but eventually became a product by itself with it’s own authentic look and feel- Hijosa anticipates the same outcome for Piñatex. She explains it’s not supposed to look like leather- it’s supposed to look like Piñatex. (4)

Dans la famille invention de génie, je demande la nouvelle alternative canon au cuir, 100 % végane à base de fibres d’ananas. De l’espagnol « piña » qui veut dire ananas, Piñatex® est le fruit (ha, ha) de longues années de recherche et séduit de plus en plus de créateurs mode, chaussures, horlogerie, et même design.
 Image credit: Pinterest
The durability of leather is hard to match though, and many people who use vegan leathers complain that the material lacks the same longevity of animal leather. However according to the ISO international standards for: seam rupture, tear & tensile, strength, light, color fastness, water spotting, flexing endurance, and abrasion resistance Piñatex passes every test.
El cuero a base de fibras de piña que revolucionará el mundo textil | VICE | Colombia
 Image credit: Pinterest 

Piñatex has style, versatility, durability, and will likely become a natural part of our lives. It’s not unlikely that pineapple leather will seep from the runways and luxury cars into our daily lives. In a few more years you may find yourself sitting in an airplane only to realize all the seats are made from pineapples.

Look out leather- the future is pineapple!

Written by: Abby Caroline Teeter

 

Sources:

  • https://erebusstyle.com/blogs/news/alexandra-groover-ancestral-aw16
  • https://www.thefashionatlas.com/atlas/photography/settimana-della-moda-laura-strambi-frozen-garden.php?h=1

Featured Image Credit: @scanart 

https://www.instagram.com/scanart/

https://www.instagram.com/scanart/

Shopping With a Conscious: Baby Peppers!

Baby Peppers
Featured Bag by Baby Peppers
Baby Peppers

In a world saturated in technology to the point of undeniable dependence, an Eco friendly, ‘Baby Peppers’, are bringing back the old school authenticity of playtime and products made with one of a kind love.

Based in Bendigo, Victoria and made (inspired) in India, Baby Peppers sole ethos is to provide ethical shopping of ‘slow’ inimitable fashion. That is fundamentally socially conscious.

Products include handwoven baskets, totes, wooden toys, cotton quilts and bedding sets. All organic items are sourced from fair trade and artisan communities, aiding in sustainable income.

Staying true to ethical fashion, Baby Peppers are notably the first Australian store to partner with Kateson, an American brand that redefines the meaning of ‘pure organics’. Kateson organic garments are hand dyed in plant botanicals and Ayurveda herbs, with coconut husks for buttons, every final detail is completely artificial/chemical free. Perfect for the curious little ones, the all-organic products quite literally make them safe enough to to eat.

One of Baby Peppers most popular items is the Multicolour Sivankan tote, salutes to the vibrant colours of India, featuring deep sea blues and the hues of a summer sun. The baskets and totes are handwoven from recycled polyethylene and ethically sourced from a world renowned fair trade organisation called Baladarshan. Helping single mums living in the slums of Chennai, India. Celebrating not only the arresting colours of Indian culture, but the empowerment of women through supporting their financial independence.

Unlike flashy toys will all the bells and whistles, Baby Peppers traditional wooden stackers, rattles and race cars encourage creativity due to their simplicity. According to Temple University developmental psychologist, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, electronic toys make your child a consumer not a creator.

Your child gets to build his or her imagination around simpler toys, they don’t command what your child does, but your child commands what they do.

Electronic toys that boast brain development not only inhibit your child’s natural problem solving abilities but the chemical compounds and production process cause great harm to human health and the environment

Baby Peppers wooden toys are friendly on the earth and on your health. Every piece is handcrafted from sustainable hale wood, lacquered in vegetable dye and coated in natural shellac. All spare parts measuring bigger than 35mm ensuring they won’t lodge into your child’s throat.

Class favourites include the retro race car, cheeky monkey bowling set and the turtle train family. Drenched in lavishly tactile qualities the turtles are coloured in complementary swirls of lemon, circling the smooth spherical domes of their shells. The cheeky monkeys also come with 6 black capped, polka dot bottomed rascals and two candy coloured bowling bowls.

The charm lying not only in their artisanship but their gloriously, glossy aesthetic – deeming them bookshelf worthy. Where a child’s mess is now a designer décor dream!

All products embody one of a kind appeal. With laborious processes of block printing, hand carving, quilting and creating natural dyes, no two pieces will ever be alike. Their appeal lies not only in their aesthetic, but their ethical production, creating a positive impact on broader communities. Every item tells an honest and ethical story.

Baby Peppers offer free shipping Australia wide plus delivery world wide.

To find out more about their products, visit www.babypeppers.com.au

Words by Bridget McDonnell