The fashion industry needs to make a change for good, but what does 'good' actually mean?
Most of us are becoming aware, the fashion industry needs to transform into one that is Good — for people and planet. The retail industry is taking action, at least, so it seems; In the past month I have come across many press releases and advertising campaigns promoting good in the fashion & retail industry.
- The London Fashion Week, claims to be first to be 100% fur free;
- Selfridges London informed their brands and suppliers that, to stay in their portfolio they need to make a change for good before 2022;
- Galeries Lafayette launched a big Campaign called Go-for-Good, highlighting over 3000 products from 100 different brands that are labelled good.
These are encouraging indicators that the industry is taking a responsible approach.
But…what does 'good' actually mean? Is it organic? locally produced? vegan? sweatshop free? recycled? fair trade?
It is extremely difficult to understand what values matter to us most when it comes to buying fashion. It is even more difficult to identify our values in the brands and products we find in our day-to-day shopping routine.
Will the Go-for-Good campaign initiated by Galeries LaFayette help me identify what products have a positive impact on the environment and the employees working in the manufacturing industry?
I take my chances and dive in to the world of Good at Galeries Lafayette. Below, I analyze a few products labelled as GOOD from the different ‘good-categories’ in their online store.
Category 1: Made in FRANCE — eg. Locally Produced
The category ‘Made in France’ highlights over 1000 products, one third of the total offering under the Go-for-Good label. However, this number also includes products without the label. The selection includes a wide range of products; fashion for men, women and kids, toys, home & interior products.
My attention was caught by a leather bag from the French brand Lancaster, signed with Go-for-Good Label. The item is made of thick-cow leather (cuir de vachette). There is no information on how this material has been treated or colored. I expected the product to be locally produced, as it was under the label ‘made in France’. But then I read this: “This product has taken its essential characteristics in France. More than 50% of manufacturing costs have been spent in French companies.”
What does that mean? When choosing for a ‘locally produced’ item, I expect it to be 100% locally produced. Not that 50% of the manufacturing costs were paid to companies based in France — where did those companies spent their budget? Where did the other 50% go to? The go-for-good locally produced failed me here big time.
Let’s try an other category.
Category 2; Certified OEKO-TEX
I select a underwear that is labeled OEKO-TEX. I am not fully aware of the meaning of this label and I look it up online:
OEKO-TEX® tests for harmful substances are fundamentally based on the respective purpose of the textiles and materials. The more intensive the skin contact of a product and the more sensitive the skin, the stricter the human-ecological requirements that need to be complied with.
As I understand: This certification indicates the fabric is safe to wear. It doesn’t indicate anything about the origin of the material, nor does it say anything about the way the product has been manufactured or where. OEKO-TEX indicates it is good for you — not neccessarily for people in the industry or our planet.
Category 3; Recycled
I am not sure what to expect when clicking on recycled, so let’s see what pops-up. The page shows 112 products, 54 of which have the label Go-for-Good. Most of the products are fashion items, but the selection also includes some baking tins holding more then 50% recycled aluminium. The selection includes also a few ‘good’ fashion labels that I know; VEJA shoes(Environmentally friendly footwear), Adidas x Stella McCartney (athletic wear made with eco-fabrics) and Safe the Duck (ecological and animal cruelty free dawn jackets). These are labels known to me for taking a stand on responsible sourcing. I am intrigued by a product that is within the ‘recycled’ selection but that isn’t signed with the go-for-good label. It is a jacket from ECOALF. I’ve never come across this brand, and would like to know more. The product description at Galeries Lafayette indicates the jacket is made with 100% recycled nylon and lined with 100% polyester. I decide to go to the website of the brand to find out more.
“Ecoalf arose in 2009 from my frustration with the excessive use of the world’s natural resources and the amount of waste produced by industrialized countries. Ecoalf symbolizes what the fabrics and products of the new generations should be, a new fashion/lifestyle brand that integrates breakthrough technology to create clothing and accessories made entirely from recycled materials with the same quality, design and technical properties as the best non-recycled products.“
So that means also the polyester lining of the jacket is 100% recycled. On their website I also read that Ecoalf is the first fashion brand in Spain to become a certified B Corp.
Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.
Does this make a product and the brand GOOD? I think so!
How do we know how good a product really is?
My short research of today shows how difficult it is to identify good products and brands. For these 3 products alone, I’ve spent over 3 hours researching the source and origin — and verifying what the certifications of the products stand for.
What is good for each of us — remains an individual choice. To make this choice, brands and retailers should provide clear information on the source and certification of a product. Retailers who label a product as ‘good’ should take the highest standard available in the market when using such indication. In the samples above, the product from the brand that is founded on doing good for the people and the environment did not have the label Go-for-Good, yet it was the best of the three if you’d ask me!