After making the decision to become more sustainable and ethical with the choices I make, I started my research into ethical and sustainable brands within fashion. It turns out that all large retailers have a section on their website called a “corporate responsibility” as well as their Ethical Standards. And as cleanly polished as these statements are it’s easy to become “green-washed” by these words. There comes a point when we as consumers have to start asking how fast fashion can get their products so cheap? And what exactly is a fair living wage for the workers within developing countries?
So until my questions can be answered with a high level of transparency, I have decided to boycott. But as my research got deeper I noticed that there is an extremely discreet section on the ASOS website called the “Eco-Edit.” At first I thought it could be another unreliable green-washed statement but that was until I read up about it. The brand says:
Eco Edit is a curated destination within the asos.com website where customers can buy pioneering sustainable fashion and beauty goods. It’s one of the ways ASOS promotes products that are made by manufacturers and brands who use sustainable business practices. The Eco Edit has grown rapidly since its launch in 2010 as the Green Room and we have a target to reach £10 million by 2020.
So ASOS has made it a bit easier for us more conscious consumers. Within this edit is a selection of vintage brands and products, recycled materials, made in the UK products, and also made in Africa products. My personal favourite is the “Made in Kenya” edit. This line is now within it’s twelfth seasons and the brand says: “the collection is designed in-house, then cut and manufactured by SOKO, the Kenyan clothing workshop which provides fair and safe employment and training for some of the country’s poorest communities.”
This statement only seems to scratch the surface of what the clothing workshop provides. You can find out more about the work created within SOKO here, but in summary the SOKO company provides employment in a place that has the highest unemployment rates within Africa. It also has a high rate of prostitution, HIV/AIDS and wildlife poaching.
SOKO offer people an alternative means of making a living. Through training and employment we have enabled women to take control of their own lives. Through having their own income these women cover the costs of sending their children to school, provide nutritious meals for the family and make decisions on how they spend their money – it allows them to lift themselves out of poverty.
The “Made In Kenya” collection is small and made up of just a few key pieces that give a taste of African culture with the bold prints and patterns. The line doesn’t follow any guideline to temporary trends but instead paves it’s own path in terms of design and style. Each piece makes a statement and although it is priced marginally higher than the average fast fashion retailing prices, ASOS allows us to know exactly where these products have come from. And the information is very easily accessible. This is the type of transparency that myself, as a consumer, really appreciates.
This is what The Ethical Fashion Forum said about the “Made In Kenya” range:
ASOS has demonstrated leadership when it comes to sustainability. Partnering with SOKO Kenya to produce the ASOSAfrica collection (now called ASOS Made in Kenya), and maintaining the partnership since 2010, is ground-breaking for a major retailer. SOKO Kenya is a small ethical production unit creating sustainable livelihoods through fair and fulfilling work.
Also within the “Eco-Edit” are vintage brands including Milk-It Vintage and Reclaimed Vintage, and Vegan bag brand Matt & Nat. Matt & Nat are a Canadian based brand that sells 100% vegan leather products which I love so much. They make their leather out of PU (polyurethane) and PVC (polyvinylchloride). “PU is less harmful for the environment than PVC and it’s use is definitely preferred, whenever possible.” The also use recycled nylon, cork and rubber for other elements of their products such as the lining. The brand says about their production process:
We visit diligently each factory and build strong personal relationships with their owners; they too are a part of the Matt & Nat family. This involvement in the making of our bags ensures integrity every step of the way.
You can find out more fro Matt & Nat’s ethics and sustainability here.