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Fashion Forward Brings Ethical Fashion In Middle East Map


Despite the most unexpected pouring in the dessert and the inconvenient location (yes reaching Design District was really a task) the enthusiasm of the Fashion Week took the winning among the Dubai fashionistas as they showed up at the Dubai Design District braving the rains strutting in their stilettos, showing off their meticulously contoured face and layers of waterproof mascara. Nothing could stop the middle eastern divas from their most anticipated event - Fashion Forward Dubai!

It wasn't just the catwalks, but this season had some really interesting talks too - one particularly close to my heart {and also what my blog is about} ethical fashion. It was the first time I actually heard the term "Ethical fashion" echoed in the fashion circles of Dubai, as there aren't many brands here and those which are, are also not really marketed as "Ethical" (did you know Stella Jean is ethical?).

On day 2 of the fashion forward the rain Gods decided to bless the dessert with rains. The moment I entered the hall, and found a spot for myself I suddenly realised droplets falling on my carefully styled hair - the water was dripping from the tent. But that couldn't take my attention from the talk that was about to commence on "Why ethical fashion matters" {of course I adjusted my chair to avoid being drenched}.

Ethical fashion - sustainable fashion - vegan fashion - Fashion Forward Dubai

"Fashion can make a difference" said Sarah Beydoun, founder and designer of her eponymous label that makes vibrant handbags and accessories, which are all ethically produced by female prisoners and troubled women in Lebanon.  I couldn't agree more.

I've always loved Sarah's bag, which I often see in S*uce stores and also online. They're fun, quirky and have a personality. Unfortunately, Sarah has very few vegan friendly designs, as most of them have leather, but you wouldn't be absolutely disappointed as few of her bags are indeed leather-free.
"Fast fashion isn't free. Someone, somewhere is paying" (Lucy Siegle). 
The same voice was echoed by the second panelist in the discussion - Catherine Occhio, founder of Middle East's first (and currently the only) registered Fair Trade fashion brand SeeMe. Catherine quit her 15 years career after working with organisations like European Commission and SEED Foundation to start her jewelry label SeeMe with heart as its iconic symbol.

Ethical fashion - sustainable - vegan fashion - Fashion Forward Dubai

When asked about does being an "ethical brand" becomes a USP, both Sarah and Catherine unanimously agreed that just being an ethical brand is not enough. Quality and design of the product has to stand up to the same level as the mainstream non-ethical brands, otherwise people will not buy. "The ethical brands have to upgrade their product to a level that fashionable women would want to wear them", said Catherine. For Sarah having bags that stand-out, which are handcrafted using great attention to fine details and having a story behind it were the key reasons for success.

Behind all the glitz and glamour of the fashion industry there is really a dark side. From an environment perspective the waste and pollution generated by the fashion industry is creating irreparable damage to the environment and the cycle of consumption is churning faster than ever before, making things worse (imagine the waste permeating the planet with change of every season). On a humanitarian level, manufacturers are exploiting the workers; clothes are often produced in developing countries like Bangladesh, India and China under unsafe working conditions where the wages are far from fair, sometimes as low as $25 a month. Then there is also the problem of child labour.

Although there have been many incidences of factory fires and expose of exploitation of labour, it was only after the collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh that the world had a wake up call about the dark side of fashion industry. People actually saw the dark side of fashion industry and the cost to human life.

It is no brainer that with consumers getting more aware about the how and where their clothes and accessories and this trend is only going to grow. It is only a matter of time that the brands and companies will have to adopt ethical practices in some way or the other to ensure they don't lose out on their customers.

As Catherine said, "producing ethically is a win-win situation - people are paid well, the companies can still get a good profit margin and the products are good - which means a happy customer". Despite producing ethically using fair wages, Catherine's line of ethical jewelry is competitively priced, which means ethical fashion need not always be expensive.

Another good thing about ethical way of doing business is the high you get from the difference you make in people's lives. Sarah's Bags gives female prisoners an opportunity to reintegrate with the society once they are freed fro the prison. There are many stories of such women who worked with her brand inside the prison and could build a life when they were out. Seeing the difference Sarah could make in their lives gives her a real thrill and content. Even SeeMe, Catherine's brand, works with women who are victim of violence, and getting an opportunity to earn a livelihood, and a decent one at that, makes a real difference in these women's lives.

About making ethical choices...

We vote once every couple of years, but when it comes to making the right choice about spending our money we fail terribly as we pay heed to only one aspect of the product - beauty but fail to see where it comes from. Like it or not consumption is a powerful act, and by making the right consumption choices we all can make a real difference - to the lives of people, to the environment and to the animals and other inhabitants living on it. This is what sustainable fashion and ethical fashion is all about - BEING HUMAN (no I am not endorsing Salman Khan here).

The best thing you can wear is a clean conscience. By buying from ethical brands like Sarah's Bag and SeeMe, you could look good and feel good about what you buy.

Kudos to Fashion Forward for waking up the Middle East on the ethical side of fashion. We need more platforms like these and more awareness not only among the local customers but also the local designers to adopt "ethical practices" in their fashion business.

Next time we'll also want to see topics on "buying less", "gluttonous consumer attitude" and how to make the existing pieces new again. Choosing the right product to spend on is important, but equally important is how well you use that product!

Here's a peak at my ethical fashion piece - my Stella McCartney bag



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1 comment:

  1. Ah, I've never ventured that far up the country before! You need to try one...they are the stuff of dreams.

    ReplyDelete

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