A Captive Audience

Is Haute Couture the new Diversity in Fashion?
August 2, 2011, 1:19 am
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Article by Abigail Doan in EcoSalon, July 20 2011

This is not the first time I have seen someone proposing haute couture as a version of sustainable fashion.  This article interesting likens the very strict codes that govern the certification of haute couture to the codes that govern certification of organic or labour rights standards.

The writer acknowledges the elitism inherent in haute couture but wonders in regards to  its 500 odd customers:

“Perhaps there is a philanthropic nature to the women who collect and invest in couture creations in the same spirit that blue-chip art is handpicked from galleries or costly film projects are backed by individuals who believe in a story that must be told and shared. “

The very presence of haute couture gaurantees and encourages diversity within the fashion industry;

“In many instances, we really cannot overlook the fact that cultural preservation, and in turn, timeless fashion methodologies are sustained by the very presence and persistence of the haute couture shows.”

“The idea that fashion of this sort might be a source of national pride rather than a copyright embarrassment or garment factory nightmare, is something to view as a thing of promise.”


Unclaimed Baggage Centre
April 18, 2011, 10:56 pm
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Unclaimed Baggage Centre | Where lost luggage goes to die (and be sold).

Article about unclaimed baggage centre in US.  Sets out 7000 new items per day!   And this is only one third of the total. It caught my attention because it is an example of how waste and excess permeate all levels of our day to day life and the systems that govern them.  Is it really necessary for the airlines to send so much baggage to waste, or just cost effective?  How many travellers with insurance never bother to search for their bags at all?  And items left in seat pockets – If we really “care” about having stuff so much, why do we always leave it behind?

Industry heroes
March 28, 2011, 7:16 am
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A couple of recent talks, one at RMIT and another as part of LMFF have got me thinking about the adoption of more sustainable practices by fashion businesses.  The commonly accepted viewpoint in Australia (as I am hearing it) is that we lag behind Europe in terms of motivation, legislation and actual action.  Likely, our size and sprawl contributes to this – tackling landfill issues for example seems of little importance when we have so much space and so many disused mine sites to fill with our garbage.  In other countries, this space simply doesn’t exist.

At the LMFF panel discussion last Tuesday, Is Fashion Sustainable? I heard panelists and audience alike grapple with the question of how to turn this attitude around.  Whilst there are many creative and thoughtful approaches being employed by smaller scale practitioners, the questions I am hearing asked are who are the heroes among the established industry who will stand up and lead others in this area, and how can those companies best be encouraged and supported?  The presentation at RMIT last Thursday by Anne Chandler, Environmental Manager at IKEA made me realise that companies committed to environmental initiatives do so as part of a more general approach to business based on conscience, leadership and innovation.

Companies committed to environmental initiatives do so because:

1. It’s the right thing to do.

2. They consider themselves leaders in their field and are therefore aware generally of the impact their company has.

3. They have a holistic approach to business that allows them tho see where benefits are/will be – eg, profits, increased quality, reduced costs.

On the other hand, in my experience, businesses not doing anything:

1. Have a lack of any ethical standards in regards to anything.  This means there is no fundamental motivation to change.  Perhaps the only way to target these companies is through protest/direct action strategies such as those directed at Primark in the UK and hope for consumer boycots and general disruption to their business.

2. Follow fashion trends but without a perception of themselves as leaders in their market.  This lack of vision and creativity will probably be also apparent in the design process, where very unimaginative copying of samples bought from other companies is probably rife.

3. Have a scattergun and fragmented business approach, characterised by poor communication both internally and with stakeholders.

Thinking about the more general approach to business of different types of companies made me conclude that it is probably most prudent to focus efforts in the area of assisting and bringing together fashion businesses (no easy task in itself, as I understand) that are leaders in a general sense, in the hope that they will reap the benefits, while companies with no interest whatsoever in change will dye out in a Darwinian survival of the fittest strategy.  A friend working for a prominent NGO told me how they only work in countries that are politically stable, otherwise their good work in development risks being for nothing if war tears everything apart.  Fashion companies are similar in this sense.  They change ownership and go broke at alarming rates, and it makes sense to build up and support those who are already stable.