Sunday, August 8, 2010

Ecofashion: Fashioning an Eco-lexicon

Sue Thomas presents an article on the terms and languages implied in the rise of Eco Fashion:

Ecofashion is part of that mapping: encompassing terms, adopting, and adapting many theories...Over the last fifteen years the fashion industry, educational
institutions, media, and consequently consumers have become more
aware of the environmental and ecological movement. Environmental,
ecological, green, sustainable, ethical, recycled, organic, and inclusive
...(universal) fashion and fashion design, as terms, coexist, cross-fertilize,
and are readily confused. The lack of discussion of the phenomenon
and debate has fueled misunderstandings, and terminology (especially
in the general and fashion media) is often misused.
Fashion as a design discipline has been late to investigate the theoretical
greening of the design production loop
, lagging behind industrial
design and architecture, unlike consumer activist campaigns where
fashion has been targeted more than other disciplines. The situation
demonstrates the tension in fashion between theoretical and practical
and the immediate social, economic, and environmental impact of
Fashion Theory, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp. 525-540)

The term 'Eco Fashion' is one which reflects the increased awareness and activity of employing sustainable procedures and practices within the fashion industry. Over the last fifteen or so years, consumers have quickly realized the industry's destructive history on the environment, resulting in more conscious means of consumption and consideration of a product's future. Naturally, producers respond to this consumer behaviour and have replied with the implementation of ethical practices and procedures under the umbrella term 'Eco Fashion'.

However, to be a bit more critical of this sudden rise of 'Eco Fashion', I beg to question the authenticy of this term particularly in the fashion industry where there is still no known answer to the ethical equation. Fundementally, as an industry driven by consumer trends and product consumption, it seems natural to be inclined to a cynical oversight of some of these 'eco fashion' brands, who employ terms like those Thomas coins: "environmental, ecological, green, sustainable, ethical, recycled, organic". In the same article, Thomas ties the term 'eco fashion' to related areas of marketing, merchandising, and journalism, which supports an idea that without proper education of sustainability and a lack of scholarly resources available to the general spectrum of consumers, 'eco-fashion' and related jargon may be implied as a marketing tool for brands to respond to this new-wave consumer behaviour.

So is 'eco fashion' a trend? I conclude that for a brand to be educated from the outset about sustainable practice, we can aspire towards an industry genuinely concerned about it's environmental impact. In my own opinion, displaying the term 'eco-fashion' all over your label is tasteless and can come across as a marketing tool aimed at attracting consumers. Surely a brand can effectively gain momentumn as being of an ethical standard through subtle implementation of sustainable procedures that seem only second-nature to their practice. Establishing a brand as sustainable may come through two formats:

Incremental Change: making small changes at every level to improve practices.

  • This is a popular way for luxury brands to re-consider their sustainable practices because by doing so they retain their sophistication. Brands such as LVMH implemented incremental changes, aspiring towards sustainable development thruogh environmental performance, collective purpose (training staff about environmental responsibilities), controlling environmental hazards, managing product disposal and making commitments outside the company in areas of companies, local communities and associations. (LVMH 2010)

Fundamental Change: challenging the very nature and practices of the industry to develop new business models and ways of operating.

  • The effect of the economic downturn was a good opportunity for certain brands to re-pitch themselves in the market as ethically aware. It is a bold move which reflects a brand's determination to succeed sustainable pursuits.
    (Fletcher 2008)

“It takes an informed designer to implement change”.
(Brower et al.,2005)

Which is why I attain my priviledge in this project and having the academic resources to make my conscious decisions about sustainability now rather than down the track. One of those decisions is a reaction against coining environmental jargon all over my brand to appeal to consumers, in alignment with the philosophy of tactiful and sophisticated attraction.

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