On what seemed liked the hottest day England has ever seen, Kate Black came to London to present her debut book which shares the title of her digital magazine, MagnifEco. Held at Somerset House, the ethical fashion scene was out in force to support Kate’s ‘head-to-toe guide to ethical fashion and non-toxic beauty’.
After founding her blog in Tokyo in 2008, Kate set out with the goal that she could find ethically conscious clothes and celebrate the designers who made them through her blog. In the years since, it has developed into a digital magazine that encompasses fashion, beauty, menswear and lifestyle.
Ethical living writer for the Guardian and The True Cost executive producer, Lucy Siegle hosted a Q&A with the author to get us better acquainted with some of the highlights of the book. We came away with some great advice on how to think more ethically with our fashion choices.
Choose a cause and stick with it
The world most certainly isn’t perfect and unfortunately we’re not even close to getting there. There are a thousand battles to fight even under one umbrella cause and you can’t win them all. So choose something that is important to you and run with it. Even in the world of ethical fashion, your concern should be focused. Whether it’s vegan, chemical free, locally produced, artisanal, organic cotton etc. no one person or brand can consume or produce in a squeaky clean way. Don’t get hung up on it. Just know that whatever you choose to support is starting an important conversation and should not be taken for granted.
“Pick what ethical means to you and move in that direction. If it’s people, we have fair trade, certification for fashion, we have a whole bunch of people who only look at supply chain and we have a whole bunch who only focus on people. So if that’s your thing, then buy that fashion and buy those products.”
The use of animals in fashion can be ethical
Using the example of Vogue CFDA winner, Brother Vellies, Kate talks about how the use of leather and even fur in fashion can be born out of ethical decision making. Brother Vellies work with local farmers in Kenya and South Africa to produce Kudu leather, a by product from an over populated animal that the government has mandated to kill. They support local artisans to make their shoes, source local material and use off cuts and recycled fabrics in order to reduce their carbon footprint.
When we talk about ethical, we forget local
MagnicEco talks about the very important, but much forgotten world of local trade. Supporting local businesses who may use local material, cuts out many of the socially irresponsible steps of the supply chain. As with choosing your cause and sticking to it, it’s important not to scrutinise every detail as there will always be compromises. Focus on investing in your community, in local trade and local craftsmanship.
Everyone can afford ethical fashion (yes, really!)
When you talk about ethical fashion vs fast fashion, the issue of cost is often one of the first things to be raised. However, not everyone who shops in H&M shops to excess. For some, it is simply a more affordable choice. The ethical fashion movement shouldn’t be punishing or judgemental. It is also not solely up to the consumer to take on the ethical responsibility. To shop ethically is a personal journey that might begin with reducing the amount you shop, or it could mean only shopping with a certain supply chain. Kate uses the acronym V.A.L.U.E to demonstrate how people might make the transition from becoming a ‘regular’ consumer to an ‘ethical’ one. V.A.L.U.E stands for ‘vintage’, ‘artisan’, ‘local’, ‘upcycle’ and ‘ethical’. She believes, with every purchase you make, you should consider each of these things. Does it have to be brand new or can I buy second hand? Can the money I save buying vintage help contribute to an artisanal/local/ethical purchase down the line?
Whatever stage you’re at in your search for more ethical choices, this guide is all you need to know about fashion and beauty as a consumer. Get your copy of MagnifEco here.