Can fashion ever be truly ethical? It’s so transient and wasteful that it feels unlikely. But there are people shouting for positive change, from campaign groups like War On Want to individuals such as vegan fashion blogger jesse.anne.o.
And so to Style Over Substance, an investigation by Manchester-based Ethical Consumer magazine into the ethics of luxury fashion labels. My friend Bryony almost researched her brain for this report, and you can see the resulting Buying Guide on Ethical Consumer’s website. The low, low prices of high street fashion chains such as Primark or anyone owned by Sir Philip Green imply that someone/something, somewhere is being exploited. Take this Topshop shearling handbag (just a random example from their website): how was the leather produced? And where was it produced? Who made the bag? Is the design plagiarised? And are the people working on the shop floor getting a good deal? The list of questions that we, as consumers, should be asking is long and complex.
But luxury labels charge a lot more for their products: a Louis Vuitton Sofia Coppola hanbag, for example, starts at £2,320. Therefore, it would be easy to assume they have solid ethical policies covering everything from fair wages to the use of toxins. Bryony’s report makes clear that this isn’t true, and that luxury brands should be held accountable for their dubious practises.