Elegantly fashionable with a clean conscience – it can be done!

At the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum, Digital Development Debates organised a workshop on the topic of education for sustainable consumption. In essence it was about fair, ecological and ethical fashion.

Education for sustainable consumption – providing information and ideas about human rights, the results of climate change and how the world market works. But who is responsible for providing such education? First of all the media should, of course, offer information about why some lifestyles are neither sustainable nor responsible. Civil society organisations and political representatives also often assume this role. But there is one actor we tend to forget in most instances: the economy.

Yet there is one commercial sector that can only sell its products if it creates awareness for sustainable production. These are the companies who sell fair trade or ecological products. They inform potential customers about environmental and human rights violations in the production chain and have to convince them that it is better to buy fair trade or organic.

One segment here faces particular challenges: the fashion industry

Four representative of the fashion branch were invited by Digital Development Debates and the GIZ's Development Policy Forum to the Deutsche Welle's Global Media Forum in June.

There they talked to each other and the public about the new meaning of fair (and ecologically produced) fashion.

On stage were:
Reykia Fick from Fairtrade International, who provided information about cotton production and certification.
Kim Pouldner, founder of the ecofashionworld.com online portal, which she uses to provide an overview of this rapidly growing sector.
Andrea Kolb, founder of Abury, a company that is reviving traditional Moroccan stitchery with the help of Moroccan women and, in so doing, is supporting the women in learning a trade and standing on their own two feet.
Raphaelle Gasse, who works for the Tudo Bom fashion company. The Brazilian label produces in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and is in favour of education through detailed information instead of generating an all-encompassing guilty conscience.

One topic related to a guilty conscience and how to avoid it when buying (and selling) fashion is – how do you sell fair fashion without constantly beating people over the head with a moral cudgel?

Here both Abury and Tudo Bom focus the enjoyment in a sense of justice when shopping. Additionally a story has to be told. The consumer should see what is behind the product. She should not however have her nose rubbed in it; instead attention should be drawn to the smaller details.

This is how companies can be created, like Abury, that revive a cultural good, bring work to entire villages and at the same time produce luxury articles like iPad cases. One place to look for an overview of this constantly growing branch is ecofashionworld.com. The portal is set up to provide customers with the latest information in a pleasant environment rather than focusing on shock tactics. Customers can visit the attractively designed page to find out about ecological criteria, fair fashion and certification, get an overview of labels that design fair fashion and online shops that sell it.

This links education to the shopping experience and everyone profits in the end: the customer, who now owns a beautiful, fashionable and fair product, the label, which earns money, the producers, who enjoy good working conditions and of course the environment, since the use of ecological materials does not place undue stress on it.