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Why must “green” clothes be different?

Eco fashion has come a long way. I quite want to make a timeline, and some day I will, but for now I’ll just say that I remember when all it meant was oatmeal coloured sack-dresses made out of hemp. Now there’s all sorts of high-end shenanigans involving vegetarian silk, elegant poses and lots of $$$. Celebrities like to rock up to red-carpet events and wax lyrical about their ethical dresses.  Topshop and New Look even sell organic cotton ranges. Most environmentally and socially friendly clothes are still a fair amount more expensive than their conventional counterparts, which means I don’t really bother with them and buy most of my clothes second hand. But there’s no use denying there’s gallons of progress afoot.

So what, then, am I complaining about? It’s this. They look different.

Ethically produced clothes don’t just differ in material and production method, they differ in style too. And maybe, for you, this is all part of the charm. “It’s not just a run-of-the-mill jacket, it’s an eco jacket! Look, you can tell!” I’m not convinced. I think making all these great garments in hippie, ethnic, shabby chic, indie or just “different” styles is unfair on the environment. What about the millions of people who want to dress fashionably? May they not reduce their carbon footprint without looking like a different person? Don’t they deserve the chance to endorse fair working wages AND YET not become a hippie?

Basically I think there’s no reason while the same mainstream trends can’t be produced ethically. I do’t even like the phrase “eco fashion”. “Eco” isn’t a trend or a look, it should just be normal practise. But as long as it distinguishes itself in this way, it will only reach a niche market. Fashion is a powerful force. People follow it. It’s much easier to work with it than against it.

All this is on my mind because in my town a new “eco fashion” shop has just opened and I went inside to take a look. Their clothes are actually very nice. It was a little expensive but not unreasonable. You can get a lovely soft stripy jumper for £30. Pretty good. And they’re style was cool, I liked it. The fact that it wasn’t trendy New Look-ey stuff didn’t bother me because I personally don’t like that stuff. But it does both me in the more general sense that I’ve just been discussing. All fashion needs to get progressively greener, regardless of what it looks like. Skaters, housewives, gothic teenagers, fashionable girly girls and business men should all have the equal opportunity to choose more environmentally friendly ways of dressing. Diversify!

This would have been the best you could do a few year's ago.

And now this. You wouldn't know by looking that it's 100% organic cotton, made by people with a fair wage in a factory run by wind power.

The above tee-shirt, by Ascension, is an example of what I’m saying we should have more of. Perfectly “normal” looking clothes that just happen to have great green credentials.

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