If you’re jetting off somewhere exotic this summer, bear in mind that what may seem a traveller’s paradise can be very different for the locals who have to earn a living there. The standard of living is often incredibly low and education and jobs relatively scarce, so workers’ rights are regularly abused.
In a popular backlash against this exploitation, there has been an increased demand for clothing with a conscience. The ethical fashion movement began several years ago, but it’s only recently that the big fashion names have really taken notice. Fashion with a conscience has never been more en vogue: even regular high street shops such as Monsoon and Topshop have started to produce some ethical basics. Unfortunately, their more seasonal fashion lines are rarely made in fair trade cloth. This makes it difficult for the ethically conscious fashion follower to stay on trend and not compromise their principles.
Luckily, some brands are trying to change this; ASOS have introduced an African range using bright colours and fair trade cloth which manages to be ethical and on trend. Their sleeveless blouse with a cute cut-out detail at the back is beautiful and perfect for the summer. This range is only marginally more expensive than the brand’s standard offerings, and worth paying the slight premium for. Advances in fair trade fashion could also not be discussed without mentioning People Tree. The popular brand who collaborate with Emma Watson use both organic and fair trade fabrics and are revolutionising fair trade fashion with their dreamy summer prints and light cottons, moving away from standard fair trade basics into beautiful style statements.
Réfèt Afrique have their finger firmly on the fashion pulse: preparations for next year’s show are already underway with a new committee anxious to make changes towards a more sustainable outlook on fashion. The director Monika Richter told The Tribe about her concepts: “Amongst other ideas, we are planning to focus more on fair trade and ethical fashion as well as on incorporating other forms of African art to broaden the scope of our work. Our progress in the past month has been highly promising and I am looking forward to working with an incredibly enthusiastic committee to bring St Andrews a fashion show unlike any that has been done before”. This statement says it all really; fair trade ideals are filtering from the specialist into the mainstream and this student mentality shows how such values are important to young people today. Clothing can still be chic and have a conscience.
Image: Tam McTavish