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Ethical Fashion – Global Fashion Industry Trends

The global fashion industry has had its fair share of controversies. Ethical fashion demands socially-responsible values in the billion dollar industry

In 2009, the second book of The Cultures and Globalization series saw the publication of Cultural Economy. Cultural Economy brought to the fore the movement dubbed “Ethical Fashion”, which is of great interest to many people. “Ethical Fashion”, the book said, demands socially-responsible values in the billion dollar fashion industry. If you are a fashion enthusiast or are simply intrigued by the fashion industry, you know that this is something that has been long overdue.

The global fashion industry has had more than its fair share of controversies. As many of us might be aware, the industry encompasses the creation and marketing of new styles and forms of dressings and accessories targeted at a mass market. Quoting from a report in the BBC news, Ethical Fashion is the movement that aims at “… looking at the supply sources and people behind the clothes [and accessories] as well as taking into account the environmental footprint that the industry leaves behind.” Judging by the trends in the fashion industry, the movement could not have come at a better time.

Controversies in the Fashion Industry

Over the years concerns have been raised over the health of fashion models. Fashion modes have for many years been subjected to tremendous amounts of pressure to maintain a skinny figure to survive in the industry. Real but subtle implications that beauty in the world means stick-thin body figures has had far reaching implications for models. Fashion models have been forced to go on “starvation diets” in an effort to maintain the coveted super- thin body commonly referred as size zero.

The Duchess of Windsor once famously said that a woman can’t be too rich or too thin. When the ultra-thin super models strive to prove this controversial statement true, they do so at great peril. The obvious health risk that comes with the ultra-thin image is nothing to smile about. However, even more distressing is that fashion models are role models for many girls around the world who aspire to be like them. The fact that the girls strive to look like their favorite super models only adds to the controversy surrounding the fashion industry’s promotion of beauty as being skinny.

Commercial Fashion Discrimination

Discrimination in the global fashion industry is another big area of controversy. Needless to say, the number of times black models have featured on the cover of the top fashion magazines around the world has been sporadic, leading to a fair share of public discontent. The American Vogue magazine, for example, saw only a handful of black faces appear on its cover page in the period from 2002 to 2009. Projected as a multi-cultural fashion magazine, the American Vogue magazine fell short by only including Halle Berry (December 2002), Liya Kebede (May 2005), Jennifer Hudson (March 2007) and Michelle Obama (March 2009) in its cover page.

In the same time frame, the British edition of the Vogue Magazine did not have a black model on its cover until the November 2008 issue when Jourdan Dunn appeared; albeit along two other white models. Perhaps there is no reason to get overly uncomfortable with this trend because there are the likes of Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks Veronica Webb and AleK Wek who have risen the echelons to be icons in the global fashion industry. However, the complacency quickly fizzles out when the dismal number of such models and the longevity of their careers is considered.

Ethical Fashion Needs Ethnic Models

In 2008, the world acclaimed fashion photographer Nick Knight ruffled many feathers when he hit out at the unspoken hypocrisy in the fashion industry with his film, Untitled. The film that aired on shows.com expressed Knight’s disgust at what he termed as “commercially driven racial favoritism” in the fashion industry. He is quoted saying to an African global style and culture magazine, “I am never allowed to photograph black models for the magazines, fashion houses, cosmetic brands, perfume brands, and advertising clients I work for.”

Raising questions on why this trend is tolerated only triggers a series of blame games. The fashion designer blames the modeling agent for not scouting enough black talents, the modeling agency blames the fashion editor for not booking enough modeling gigs for black models, the fashion editor blames the white reader for not purchasing magazines that feature black faces on the cover and the blame game goes on and on. All this while, the ethnic model loses out on a modeling career as a result of insincere, self-fulfilling white lies.

Embracing Diversity

Although commercial racial discrimination in the fashion industry is not clear cut, in a time when ethical fashion is not only a good thing but a necessity, real or perceived discrimination should be put to a stop. The call to embrace diversity in the fashion industry should be encouraged at all costs. Talented black models must be given a fair chance to compete as do models of other races.

The evidence is there for everyone to see; black models can be as successful and appealing, if not more, as their white counterparts. It is therefore only right that they are given the opportunity to not only advertise fashion, but to advertise beauty too. Doing so and upholding true socially responsible values in the industry can only make the fashion industry a truly global, vibrant and all inclusive industry.

 Suite contributing writer , David. KDavid Kiarie – David Kiarie has been an independent writer and communications practitioner since 2007. He writes both for print and online Follow 699721 on Twitter rss

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