[Hong Kong, 01 November, 2007]
Environmentally Friendly Fashion - Eco-Fashion
Press Release APLF
One of the highlights of the October edition of Fashion Access held in Hong Kong from 3 - 5 October was the presence of what can be broadly described as "eco-fashion". Three exhibitors involved in this emerging trend were at Fashion Access; they were Cora Jacobs from the Philippines, Conserve from India and Diseños Máxima Duda from Venezuela.
Ms Anita Ahuja,
Ms Cora Jacobs,
Lacora Creatives Inc, the Philippines
Ms Maria Antonia Godigna,
Diseños Máxima Duda, Venezuela
On the second day of the show the three ladies heading up these companies gave a seminar on the subject entitled "Eco-Fashion - just another trend or a contribution to help save the planet".
The main questions posed about eco-fashion are whether it is sustainable and a sound business proposition.
Eco-friendly products are still a minority industry but at least two years ago there were signs in Germany that consumers were prepared to pay more for more environmentally friendly products -shoes made from vegetable tanned leather for example. It is a longer term trend which will grow in the preferences of consumers in developed countries. It will not displace leather or synthetics (made from raw material from the petrochemical industry which are in no way biodegradable) since eco-farming is still very small scale.
A good parallel example is back in the 1980's when Volkswagen produced many recyclable models and the idea of having environmentally friendly computers (IBM at that time) with more biodegrable components. This trend in these two industries would appear to have been largely forgotten but at the same time the problems caused to the environment when disposing of such used products still existed.
The difference between the car and computer examples initiated by major corporations when compared to eco-fashion, is the local harvesting of eco-friendly materials as in the case of Cora Jacobs with local Filipino farmers; Diseños Máxima Duda working with indigenous Waroa and Wayuu collaborators and Conserve working with local labour to collect discarded plastic bags, means that the poor of the earth who live where palm trees and sea grasses grow naturally or live in oppressive urban surroundings can benefit from preparing and collecting these materials.
This implies social responsibility, strategies for local development and at least a marginal decline in poverty medium term as more disposable income becomes available. One should not forget the importance of preserving indigenous millennium cultures which have been threatened by technological developments and encroachment on their natural habitat as the world population explodes towards 9 billion by 2050.
Thus, on more than one level eco-friendly products are sound business propositions... but small scale. The raw material producers can earn from this, as well as the designers and manufacturers. Nevertheless, the more eco-fashion progresses the more it will help protect the earth's fragile and endangered environmental balance. It also serves as an example to the public at large to be conscious of polluting raw materials as well as recycling technology and opportunities.
Commercial success is one aspect of this fledgling industry but other parameters must also be considered which were apparent in the seminar given at Fashion Access. All three speakers emphasized the aspect of social responsibility to help the poor of the earth, as well as the caring for the environment. The social aspect means that eco-fashion has several roles - social responsibility, environmental care and offering the consumer "ethically sound products".
Twenty years ago eco friendly products would have been purchased by the likes of Greenpeace activists or (the late) Anita Roddick of the Body Shop, but the attraction of these articles has moved into other societal groups indicating that this trend is gradually penetrating the mainstream.
Is eco-fashion sustainable?
Eco-clothes are made from organic raw materials that are grown without pesticides. This reduces damage to the environment, animals and peoples' health.
Other eco-clothes are made using recycled textiles or plastics, saving on waste, landfill space and the amount of raw materials used.
No harmful chemicals and bleaches- which can cause long-term damage to peoples' health and the environment - are used in the production of eco-clothes.
Eco-clothes are high quality and last a long time. Because of this people need fewer clothes, less raw materials and energy are used, and there is less waste.
To guarantee standards in the future, a system of eco-labelling is being established to show that clothes have been made from organic materials and manufactured in an environmentally-friendly way.
On paper it looks good: the question is - can it be profitable in a commercial world?
The good news is - yes. Many famous fashion designers have started to use organic materials - and make money!
At Fashion Access October 2007, eco-fashion was not just limited to clothes but fashionable bags were on show made from recycled and natural materials such as sea grass, organic cotton, natural thread made from the moriche palm tree, as well as husks of tropical fruits used for decoration.
With a growing ecological awareness manifesting itself in many developed countries, eco-fashion is all set to be a long term trend. Growing numbers of consumers are being attracted by what can be termed "ethically environmental products" which are being gradually incorporated into mainstream fashion designs.
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