2016 October - Opinion - What is Ethical Fashion?
What is ethical fashion?
Whenever I try to discuss an idea like 'ethical fashion' I end up realising that the person I am talking to has a totally different definition of the topic. Defining what you mean is essential for proper discussion on any topic. In fact, it seems apparent to me that most academic conversations spend a fair amount of time in definitions.
The word 'ethical' means 'beliefs about what is right and wrong' and 'beliefs about morality'. After reading these definitions the question becomes, "who decides what is right and wrong? Who decides what is moral?" Now we have entered a colourful debate that has been raging since free thought began. The debate that anthropology, ethnology, philosophy, theology, sociology and other 'ologies have disagreed about for eons.
You might say that you have an answer. So do I! However, I doubt our answers are exactly the same. Even a Hindu to a Hindu; Muslim to a Muslim; Christian to a Christian; spouse to a spouse; a lover to a lover - our answers differ. Paradigm thesis! No two people can ever completely understand each other.
In ethical fashion, I applaud the people who strive to save the planet, save the animals and save expenses (minimising waste). At Holi Boli we are very very keen on all these things and we want sustainability like that. That is good, it is right, and it is moral! At the forefront, above all these things, we want people to be treated with honour, respect and dignity. Holi Boli believes that ethical fashion begins with the right treatment of human beings. From there, the other ethical considerations flow out naturally. For example, we would consider it unnatural and unethical for a bound-servant (yes, they still exist) to be planting trees for an organisations environmental awareness programme (yes, it can happen).
How do you make an ethical business? It must flow out of your ideal dream (your business plan and mission statements) into your culture. It should always be a set of ideals. Our Utopian goals - "To make the world a better place". We may never reach the destination but we build a culture that strives for the best. Ethical fashion is about building a picture of what fashion could be to the world - a major positive influence. A world where we encourage each other about expressing ourselves in our clothes and build positive self images that promote healthy living. Having a work environment that cares for the workers. Loves them. Promotes their health and well-being in culturally contextual ways.
Ethical fashion to us at Holi Boli is about creating environments where our staff feel uplifted. Where they are empowered to learn, improve, be creative, enjoy life and belong. If the old saying is, "Love your neighbour", then the old question is, "who is my neighbour?". For us, our first neighbours are our work team. We interact with them everyday. Sometimes more than our own family. Our suppliers and contractors. Our customers. If we are truly loving our neighbours then every dress we make should be made with care and love. It should be made with the same kind of devotion that we would make for our god (as we say in India).
Therefore, for us, ethical fashion is clothed in the age old manufacturing chant - 'quality, quality quality'. Quality in the working environment. Quality in our relationships as we do our business. Quality in our products that we sell to our customers. We passionately believe it is unethical to remove quality from our definition of ethical (or sustainable) fashion.
Now the question is... who defines quality?
That question can be saved for another time. Holi Boli wants you to be encouraged! Whatever your focus on ethical fashion is, whatever your definition is, and whatever part you play - do it fully, do it well. Make it quality. Make it as good or right as you can. Keep dreaming of the ideals and go for it. Keep redefining it. If we all make a difference then overall we make a big difference. Fashion can be a positive influence in the lives of people.
Love your sisters!
Holi Boli :)