Writer Janina Matthewson investigates what truly ethical fashion is all about…SPOILER ALERT: There is no hemp.
In a world where the list of big business tax dodgers grows ever longer and we keep realising we’ve forgotten who to boycott, it’s easy to forget that there are people not just willing, but determined, to do business in an ethical way. And I’m not talking about sourcing copy paper from sustainable forests for 20p more, I mean properly, seriously, bettering the world by their existence.
Such a business is Fashion ComPassion, a fashion retailer (Obviously, and with compassion, also obviously, and passion) who source their brands hell bent on bettering the lives of the people that work for them. Fashion ComPassion recently held an Eco-Fair at the Debut Contemporary art gallery, and I got to go along and see some of their awesome products, and meat some of their excellent people.
Being that the event was in an art gallery, and embracing the fact that fashion is a form of art, each of the four brands showcased was paired with the work of one of the Debut Contemporary’s contributors. So it was that Anja Kleemann-Jacks, an artist who specialises in incorporating found objects, finds a necklace by SUPU draped across a painting. The necklace, and the SUPU collection as a whole, is stunning; handcrafted jewellery made in Kenya by Masai artisans, who are given marketing training while they work.
Also on display are the SO COMPLETELY PRACTICAL clutches of Rags2Riches, who, in spite of the fact that they have a number instead of a word, appear to be geniuses. Artisans from all over the Philippines craft bags from recycled fabrics, and they have solved one of the greatest problems of being elegant: the fact that a flat clutch is never going to close if you put anything at all in it. Their cheerily coloured clutches are sturdy and structured, with plenty of built in room, with some of them being up to two inches wide. Pairing them with the sculpture of David Booth was obviously an appropriate move for these structural masterminds.
The sorely tempting silk scarves of ABO London are essentially paintings in clothing form. All based on the work of managing director Aliya Boranbayeva, they flow like water and flame with colour.
The literally outstanding art of Laura Iosifescu, who paints with oil so think it takes years to dry, a technique she calls “living art,” hangs above the jewellery collection of BACA. The brainchild of Kevin Ackermann, BACA partners with Eden Ministry and Maiti Nepal to rehabilitate victims of human trafficking. Under the supervision of designers from around the world, women saved from sexual exploitation are taught to make jewellery, and to live independent lives.
It’s Ackermann that sums up the work of Fashion ComPassion when he points out that, for most people, charity and commerce are separate things. People give to charities with the money that they’ve earned from commerce. When the two are united, however, they can lead to a truly sustainable world.
Follow Janina on Twitter @J9andIf