Fashion can't possibly be 'ethical', many say. What with its obsession for all things new and penchant for 'throwaway' merchandise there is much to dislike about the industry. But like it or not, it isn't going away. So what to do?
If you are curators Orsola de Castro and Filippo Ricci, you push your way into the crowded world of fashion and create a space where committed designers can display their work, make their mark and bring together disparate passions to create a united language of sustainability.
This is estethica: the ethical fashion exhibition held in the midst of London Fashion Week, which for the past four years has been a showcase for all that progressive, 21st century clothing design has to offer.
From 'slow clothes' to 'upcycling', from Fairtrade to organic and from recycled parachutes and curtains to wild silk - estethica has brought to the fore the many, many ideas, forms and fabrics that now define this 'alternative' fashion world.
But this is 'alternative' in the best sense of the word - a rejection of the many damaging practices of the mainstream fashion industry.
Estethica, in basing its criteria for entry on whether designers adhere to a range of ethical and environmentally-friendly practices, is subverting the very idea that in fashion, what you see is what you get. Its very existence scratches the glossy veneer hiding sweatshop labour, and the air, soil and water pollution that can come from fast, disposable clothing.
Estethica has, since its inception in September 2006, brought the ideas behind 'ethical fashion' to the attention of major clothing retailers, top models, the head honchos of the British Fashion Council, women's glossy magazines and not least, the public.
It may be true that fashion and ethics will never sit in perfect comfort next to each other, but by forging a new way forward for the industry, there is much to celebrate.
Estethica February 2010 ready-to-wear designers:
Credits for all the photos from the fashion shoot:
Photography: Andrew Lamb
Styling: Marcella Martinelli
Art direction: Uscha Pohl / VERY
Makeup & Hair: Tania Courtney using MAC and Bumble Bumble
Matilda Lee is the Ecologist's Consumer Affairs Editor
For ethical and sustainable suppliers of clothing goods and services check out the Ecologist Green Directory here
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