The fifth annual edition of the Ethical Fashion Show opened its doors yesterday at the Carrousel du Louvre, an incredibly grown-up location which is symbolic of the industry’s position at the threshold of the mainstream. From an eclectic gathering of 20 designers in 2004, the event has grown to be a showcase for some 130 odd designers from all over the world who are committed to integrating ethical values into design and manufacturing.
Last year the show took place at the Tapis Rouge near the Canal Saint Martin, and it still had the hip, cutting edge vibe of creative individuals working at the fringe. This year’s feel was completely different – many of the same people – but housed in a slightly clinical showroom with too much empty space punctuated by booths touting organic cosmetics and natural dyes. Many new lines of clothing made from organic cotton – especially for children – were apparent, as were the staple accessories and bags made from recycled plastic, rubber tyres (Cyclus) and leather cuttings from car factories. Newcomer “Como No” – launched by French designer Candice Augereau this summer – has a delightful line of whimsical accessories and boots in fresh colours crafted from a roughspun cotton (technically it is not organic as these are fields ‘in conversion’) grown in Argentina.
Great accessories – including a nifty fingerless wraparound glove – from Deux Filles en Fil, all made from recycled materials.
Clementine Nguyen from Sobosibio, who launched her first collection this summer, makes very wearable soft and fluid organic cotton clothes with the innovation of a unique number code which clients can use to trace each step of the production process on the website. One of my favourites is still Les Fees de Bengale, which makes beautifully cut pieces in muted contemporary tones with a luxurious feel.
Of the many socially responsible projects, one outstanding example was Les Filles du Facteur, a project which helps women in Burkina Faso and immigrant women in a Parisian suburb earn a living by crocheting recycled plastic into an appealing line of accessories such as tablecloths, bags and placemats. Good holiday gift items in a world where self-destructing financial markets have given fresh impetus to value-based consumption.
One of the founder members of the ethical fashion community in France, Sébastien Kopp of Veja, made the point that big corporations need to get on board with changing their production systems in order to accelerate change. He also forecast that we are heading for a big change in the way people consume, stressing the “back to quality” paradigm over the old model which relies heavily on advertising and marketing. “The world of selling products with Gisele Bundchen is so over for me,” he said.
The show continues through Sunday October 12.