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Organic and fairly traded: Fashion meets Ethics
As sure as the responsible consumer will want to know what he is eating, he will want to know about textiles too. "Do good and look good while you're at it" would appear to be the rule in the world of eco-fashion.
Claudia Werner
March 5, 2007

Sienna Miller is keen on fairly traded jute sandals. Leonardo DiCaprio prefers eco shirts and Ali Hewson, wife of U2 singer Bono, set up her own label Edun (anagram for nude) with fashion from controlled manufacturing plants.

Of the top fashion designers of international renown, Stella McCartney is the only one who totally avoids using leather and real hide - no mean feat in an area known for its blasé attitude towards the origin and use of materials. Her autumn/ winter collection presented last Thursday in Paris, is characterised by rough woollens, somewhat complemented with large, rubberised linen pockets. Fashion meets ethics. Fairer trade and sustainable production are trendy, and the main players in the textile industry are exploring this niche market. And not just since Levis' recent presentation of its first eco-jeans made of organic cotton, potato starch and a button made of coconut shell. What is unique about the trend: the secret of its success does not lie in its popularity amongst environmentalist but amongst a fashionable, young clientele.

Ethical fashion show

The Edun label was present at the third Ethical Fashion Show which takes place each year one week after the official prÍt-a-porter in Paris. A partner of the alternative fashion show is PPR, the French luxury corporation Pinault-Printemps-Redoute, to which La Redoute amongst others belongs. France's largest mail order firm has been keeping a watchful eye on the eco-fashion market for many years: "Last year alone the company sold 200,000 eco-cotton t-shirts at prices between nine and 25 euro. "Three years ago nobody was interested in politically correct clothing", says Elisabeth Cazorla of La Redoute. "Today 50 percent of our clientele say they want to buy fair trade goods".

An organic cotton collection at high street prices is to be presented in Spring by the Swedish clothing giant H&M. "The garments allow clients to look as good as they feel", says head designer Margareta van der Bosch.

As one of Europe's pioneers Hess Natur with company headquarters near Frankfurt has been selling the concept for 30 years: eco-friendly clothes that, in recent collections, look really good. For its natural eco-textiles, Hess Natur uses breathable natural fibres like virgin wool, linen, cotton, silk, cashmere or the cannabis fibre, hemp.

Dov Charney, head of American Apparel, took just ten years to do what we all dream of. He managed to double sales five times in a row: the most recent figure being 250 million dollars. His t-shirts are "sweat-shop free" not manufactured in countries where labour is cheap but under the best working conditions in California and the brand is cool, authentic and respected.

Read the German Version