Fair trade or ethical jewellery is one of those buzz terms you hear cropping up all over the place these days. London Fashion Week now has a special feature dedicated to ethical fashion design, while Milan has also introduced an ethical show that will feature the latest in fair trade jewellery.
Ethical Fashion describes design and production practices that are governed by a code of conduct covering a range of issues, including working conditions, exploitation, fair trade, sustainable production, the environment, and animal welfare.
Traditionally, these issues were the preserve of the flower power generation. So how did fair trade jewellery enter the mainstream and become fashionable?
– Firstly, greater consumer knowledge has been driving demand for ethically-sourced products. Globalisation has made the world a smaller place, and it’s now much easier to read on the web about how workers are treated in far-off countries and where environmental damage is caused by polluting industries. As awareness has grown, so has demand for ethical jewellery products.
– Fair trade jewellery designers have become more responsive to fashion trends, and in parallel, more professional designers are getting involved in ethical fashion. That has helped raise the quality bar across the ethical jewellery movement, meaning that you can now find jewellery that’s stylish, beautiful, fashionable, design-led…and ethical too. This creates a win-win situation for customers, who get great jewellery that’s also a good deal for the planet and producers.
– Thirdly, rising levels of worry about the environment and our impact on the planet has made being eco-friendly a more mainstream concern, and sparked questions about what we as individuals can do to limit our environmental impact and act more responsibly to help safeguard our environment. This has influenced shopping habits, as consumers think before spending.
– The low costs and disposable nature of much high street fashion means that many thousands of items of clothing and accessories are destined for incinerators or landfill sites. According to Waste Online, the UK alone throws away 1 million tonnes of clothing every year – that’s a lot of waste. The ethical jewellery movement has tapped into the zeitgeist by aiming to produce quality accessories that won’t fall apart after a few months.
– Finally, as fair trade or ethical jewellery brands play a larger role in the market, so the public appetite for this type of conscious consumerism grows, and so the mainstream fashion industry is forced to mend its ways. This virtuous circle of ethical fashion is helping thousands of workers and creating equitable trading relations that span the world.
While fair trade jewellery is now firmly on the fashion radar, it should be stressed that the ethical fashion movement isn’t just a passing fad, and will continue to grow and evolve in the future.