Friday, 18 December 2009

A new dictionary for green fashion?

Last week, Fashionista reported on fashion events in Copenhagen, including a Fashion Summit organised by NICE (the Nordic Initiative, Clean and Ethical). This summit has now been branded by Ecotextile News as "one of the largest ever sustainability summits for the apparel industry".

Fashionista has been on the lookout for NICE's 10-year plan and Code of Conduct, both of which are now published on the internet: The 10-year action plan with the short and snappy title 'THIS IS NICE' lists both short-term and long-term goals in 5 areas of key importance, water, CO2 emissions, waste, chemicals and labour & ethics. The Code of Conduct , which sets out guidelines, is fittingly entitled "HOW TO BE NICE".

One of the many distinguished speakers at the Summit was FT's Fashion editor Vanessa Friedman. She raised a question which Fashionista has been pondering for a while: what exactly is sustainable fashion? Is Fashionista acting sustainably if she buys organic or fair trade clothes and what exactly are "ethical" clothes? Everybody seems to have a different understanding of these terms, and Vanessa Friedman rightly said it is time for a lexicon of sustainable fashion with simple, short, clear and immediately understandable definitions.

Fashionista would love to see those terms on labels so that she no longer has to spend her time researching a brand that claims to be ethical, green, organic, . . . at home online before facing the tricky question as to whether it is more 'green' to order the item of desire online or to check for its availability in a shop close by. Fashionista likes Vanessa Friedman's idea of having terms which are immediately understandable across the world, equivalent to the word 'hybrid' for cars.

Vanessa Friedman's advice is: “Reduce your verbiage, reuse the words again and again in the same way, and recycle terms from other industries, so that ’sustainable,’ when it comes to fashion, refers to production; ‘ethical,” to employment; ‘green’ to buildings; ‘organic’ to soil; [...] but be clear in what you’re saying and what it means.”

Fashionista agrees but wonders - will 'organic' still refer to soil if it describes a characteristic e.g. of sheep's wool? Fashionista is looking forward to a clarification of terms used to describe 'sustainable', 'green', 'ethical', 'organic', etc. fashion. In the meantime, she has added Kate Fletscher's Sustainable Fashion and Textiles to her reading list. Fashionista is intrigued as to what the publishers mean when they say that the book also "draws on ideas of [...] slow fashion".