Socially Conscious Fashion – Making The Case For Fashion Philanthropy

1. The clothes are made with blood

7{e7d6fa4e8694ee13263b5b1b267d343b9ec32481fb17b24e2dd9c88ec2e630a8} of all worldwide exports are in textiles. In 2000, consumers spent $1,000,000,000,000 on clothing. That’s one trillion dollars. This industry is a very big part of the world economy with a lot of money at stake. It has built all this wealth on a historical dependence on cheap labor. Even though a lot of the developing countries in the supply chain have minimum wage laws, in most cases it is lower than a realistic minimum wage, such that even though the industry provides many relatively low skilled jobs it still makes it nearly impossible for the workers to escape the poverty cycle.

2. The clothes are made to die

The advent of “massclusivity” and “fast fashion” – has driven cheap clothes onto the market, and this has had to be done at the expense of quality. “Designer” clothes aren’t as expensive as they used to be, but then they are not as durable. The “Well dressed?” study by the University of Cambridge found that if fashion houses increased emphasis on durability as a component of fashion it would greatly reduce the per capita waste volume of textile goods. So the environment has paid a heavy price, especially as the high volumes have been supported by an increased use of synthetics. This could be alleviated if the concerned and educated consumer makes the decision to pay a slightly higher price, for a garment that lasts twice as long.

3. Everybody and their grand-ma has a label

The massive proliferation of copycat fashion labels has devalued the industry. Every other artist and celebrity with a little bit of fame is trying to cash in on their 15 minutes in an attempt to monetize their media equity into a fashion label. This isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. When the model has been applied in other areas, such as the fragrance industry with the celebrity perfume, the results haven’t – to put it delicately – stunk as bad as they have in fashion. Contributing to this disparity is the comparable lack of controls and barriers to entry in the fashion industry. But ultimately it comes down to the customer, the customer who continues to buy substandard product without any retaliation.

4. The labels give nothing back

Very few labels have established social responsibility programs. Given that in the typical production life cycle, the fashion industry causes more damage to the environment than any other there is a big built-in responsibility to make up for. With only a handful of exceptions, that opportunity to be a socially conscious fashion brand has not been taken.

5. The brand has been sold

Ask yourself now, these following questions of your favorite fashion brand. What does brand x stand for? What are the principles of brand x? Answer the question in your mind of “why do I like brand x?” without using the words, “nice”, “cheap” or “I don’t know”. Got it? A sense of any real brand differentiation other than your portable social-proof elements i.e. “because Lindsay Lohan was wearing it in a picture”, has been lost. In a mass distribution model, fashion houses care less for creating a relationship with their customers. It seems that they would forget that, the real value is not the customer herself but the relationship with that customer.

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