Ethical Fashion/ Sustainable Fashion / Eco Fashion

Jocelyn, set up the Uk's first ethical showroom, is a founding member of the Green Carpet Challenge and a global advisor for the Fashion Revolution movement. I can't think of a better person to discuss the future of conscious fashion and clear up some of the confusing terminology.

I hear these words used all the time and often together. What is the simplest way to understand their meaning and differences?

These are all essentially overarching terms that describe clothing, textiles or accesories that have been designed and manufactured with some or all of the elements of the social and environmental impact of their production being addressed and reduced. These elements and the solutions to them can vary greatly and there is no real definition for any of the terms below, they are all basically open to interpretation!
Never the less here are a few notes about the slight variables for each term as I understand them.

- Ethical Fashion
An overarching term that implies the designer or manufacturer has taken consideration towards the social and environmental impact of their production. When we hear or see the word 'ethical' it normally means there is a leaning towards the social justice or labour standards issues perhaps more than the environmental or 'eco' aspects. Also this term is used more in the UK and Europe than it is in the USA for example, so perhaps also a matter of linguistics!

- Sustainable fashion
In my opinion Sustainable fashion is the younger sibling of 'eco' and 'ethical' fashion. It started being used more widely around 2006 as a more 'palatable' way to say eco or ethical! But essentially it means the same thing. Brands that adopt this description for themselves should in some way be showing that they do what they say on the tin but again there is no regulation or industry body or certification that gives an authority to the term, it relies very much on the individuals definition of 'sustainability'.

- Eco fashion
Probably the longest standing catch all term (been around since the late 90's at least) it leans towards the environmental aspects of design and production and normally attaches to fibres like organic cotton and perhaps recycled polyester. No its not a style or a trend, its the 'parent' to terms like 'low impact', 'slow', 'sustainable' and 'positive' fashion. It often carries a love hate relationship for those who feel they want to convey these things but don't want to use this weighty term infact I'm pretty sure there'll be a prize for whoever manages to coin a much needed new term!

Fashion Revolution Day was a huge success, trending on twitter and raising awareness all over the world. Please could you explain your involvement and your vision for the the future of the movement?

Yes it was an utterly tremendous day! I was involved from early on as part of the advisory team and board who were invited to create the campaign by Carry Somers and Orsola de Castro.
Most of the people on the board I have known and worked along side for many years . In many ways we, the pioneers of this 'movement' are like a loose knit global family whose paths and projects crossover often. We share knowledge and contacts and support each other, often despite differing opinions but with a common goal for a better future. For me Fashion Revolution Day was a direct result of this way of working with each other over the past 20 odd years it could not have happened without the trust, respect and familiarity already in place. It was also an unmistakeable indicator for brands and confirmation to us all that there is an undeniable movement, thousands of people around the world who care about what their clothes are made from and by whom. People found Fashion Revolution Day to be the perfect platform to make their voices heard and to collectively engage with the future of fashion in a way that doesn't just look like consumption.
It can be difficult to know how to make a difference in our every day lives. What are the most important changes we can make regarding the way we consume fashion and our habits surrounding clothing?
If you live in the western hemisphere or are otherwise lucky enough to be able to 'afford' to buy clothes whenever you want (pretty much) and you have access to clothing at every price level every day and you often exercise this capability then the best and most urgent thing you can do is to slow down on your consumption of brand new clothing and accessories.
Maybe take a look at other ways of 'interacting' or consuming fashion and style such as swishing, or buying better less often.
Another simple, although maybe not easy, thing to do is just take some time to consider exactly what your own personal (not prescribed by any specific brand) version of value and quality and style are and start to apply this and to define your wardrobe in a way that becomes relevant to your identity long term and that leaves room for others to do the same.
The thing is that these small decisions always have an impact elsewhere and basically in my opinion there is an extortionate global overload of garments already 'in the mix'. Whats happening is that the overall quality is going down (along with the prices) and the entire world from Oxford Street in London to the street markets in Zimbabwe are being inundated with a dreary trail of low quality, irrelevant clothing which is all ultimately perpetuated by our individual purchases.

You have been contributing to the ‘sustainability’ movement through your knowledge of fashion and textiles, for 18 years. Do you feel it gathering momentum recently?

Yes in some ways for sure. It has certainly become a very real item on the agenda of the global fashion industry from The House Of Lords to the high street. There are some exciting initiatives being taken up but over all I think we still have a long way to go before we see a global industry that doesn't continue to rely heavily on poverty wages for manual labour, low regulations on environmental pollution and consumer behavior being strummed along by multi billionaires who bear no responsibility for the life cycle of the products they endorse, brand and offer to the market. I don't mean to rant or be without solution but these are the very real causes for the existence of terms like 'eco and ethical' 'fashion' that we all need to find swifter and more effective remedy to in my opinion.

What are you working on at the moment?

I'm working on various projects mainly in the UK at the moment, including a hand in curating a 'meaning of green textiles' exhibit for the re-opening of the Whitworth Gallery at Manchester University in October.
I'm really excited to be working with The Right Project, founded by Roxy Houshmand this year, which is a new portal for businesses, creatives and industry agencies to access product development advice, creative talent and brand direction with a firm slant on social justice and environmental solutions.
I'm also doing quite a few workshops and events with students, businesses and the general public which I always really enjoy!

Thank you to Jocelyn Whipple
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