Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Workers rights, protecting the environment, ethical choices - these are just some of the issues being discussed during Paris Fashion Week, alongside the 90 runway shows.

Tansy Hoskins, the author of the polemical book Stitched Up, will be in town at the venerable Shakespeare and Company bookshop to give her views about the failings of the global, trillion-dollar fashion industry.

On March 9, she’ll discuss its impact on the environment and on employee conditions in some developing countries - where factories churn out garments for Western companies without safety concerns for workers.

Nearly two years ago in Bangladesh, more than 1,100 workers died and 2,500 were injured when a factory building collapsed, after safety warnings were ignored. The workers made clothing for brands including Benetton, which only recently announced that it would contribute to a compensation fund for the victims.

That agreement followed a campaign in which one million people signed an on-line petition calling for the company to do the right thing.

For Hoskins, “ethical fashion” are two words that don’t mean much when huge luxury concerns own most well-known brands and care mainly about profit.

Still, representatives from the Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI) will also be in Paris this week, working to drum up support from more designers. The EFI is part of the International Trade Centre, itself a joint agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation.

According to founder Simone Cipriani, the Ethical Fashion Initiative wants fashion to help to lessen poverty by connecting top designers with artisans in regions such as East Africa and parts of the Caribbean.

Another goal is the “eradication of exploitation, hardship and environmental damage from the supply chains to the fashion industry and the practices of fashion businesses”.

Designers including Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood and Italy-based Stella Jean are active in the project, and a growing number of international stylists show interest.

“The many hands behind fashion goods are often ignored and forgotten. This is wrong. The lives and work behind fashion products should be cherished and celebrated,” says the EFI.

When one keeps this in mind, one can’t help seeing fashion shows in a different light, which now brings us to Paris’ Ready to Wear Fall-Winter 2015 defilés. The week started on Mar. 3 with shows by Christine Phung, Each x Other and Sofie Madsden, among others.

Phung staged her show at the gleaming Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab World Institute) and offered elegant costumes of purple, blue, grey and black, worn by a multi-cultural cast of models. Phung called the collection "Glitchology", saying she was inspired by the digital malfunctions that can cause both frustration and a certain kind of beauty. She gets added credit for including models of different ethnic backgrounds in her shows.

Each x Other
The Parisian brand Each x Other used “digitalization” as inspiration as well, but in the sense of perhaps rejecting it for art - with designs of muted colours and clean lines, used for dresses, trouser ensembles and flowing coats.

Danish designer and illustrator Anne Sofie Madsen was distinctly more outre, with her unpredictable pairing of materials and shapes: fur draped over silk, ruffles and fringes, a body-hugging dress highlighted with her own drawings. She and other Danish stylists are rapidly setting trends in Paris and other capitals. (See previous article on Nikoline Liv Andersen.)

One looks forward to what the rest of the week will bring, and wonders which designers will join the debate about ethical fashion. - Tasshon