Ethnic Cultures and Ethical Fashion
While more and more popular in the US, ethical fashion is still pretty unknown in a lot of countries. Many people believe that this business model is unrealistic as the only possible bottom line is profit. It’s sad because the rest of the world represents a huge potential for supporters of ethical fashion.
It will take time for many countries to get used to the idea of ethical business. And certainly customers will not buy something expensive just because it will help somebody. That’s why the responsibility of ethical products is to become popular and available to the general public.
For years women in less developed countries have been influenced by western style, and have tried to look "western". The traditional folk costumes were neglected and looked down upon as something outdated. What designers can do is create a new interpretation, an eclectic mix of traditional costume that is modern and comfortable. Clothing that brings freshness and starts an interest in the culture. This is also a way for ethical fashion to rediscover ethnic cultures and recognize diversity.
The good thing is that as a fashion designer you don’t have to travel to a remote country to find ethnic artisans. There are a plenty of them among immigrant and refugee women in your country. By engaging these women and providing opportunities to your own local community you have a chance to improve the lives of thousands of marginalized women.
Employment at ethical businesses provides obvious benefits to marginalized women: a chance to start a new life, safe working conditions, escape from poverty, healing through creative work, access to community support and mentors. More importantly though, these women will see that it’s possible to run a profitable business that values creating social good. Some women might even want to learn to start and operate an ethical business themselves using social entrepreneurship to solve problems in their community.
Creating communities of successful immigrant women in your country might really help women from remote countries. Check out these Vietnamese and Somalian communities who raise awareness about problems in their home countries and solve them. The work of such communities is really important because they also improve the image of people from their home country. Successful minority and immigrant women are also a source of inspiration for millions of young women who are struggling to figure out their identity.
As I live abroad I constantly hear negative comments about Russian women. Some time ago I stumbled upon this article where Russia was ranked second after China among countries who don't deal with the problem of human trafficking. The reason why it was happening is a horrible economic situation that women were in. And that also hurt the national identity of millions of women.
All these women need is hope and a role model to look up to - a woman who is accomplished thanks to social entrepreneurship which is what ethical fashion is about.
Galina Belyaeva, creator of "Inspiration and Resources for Immigrant women"