Indeed, these are the three new ways of ethical consumption that I became aware of last week, when I attended the social of the Ethical Fashion Forum, held at a cosy jewellery boutique Leblas just off Sloane Square. The social was hosted by Arabel Lebrusan, who designs ethically sourced jewellery sold at Leblas and included some very fascinating talks, that eventually led to a ‘one-to-one’ debate on corporate social responsibility.
Arabel gave an explanation into the ups and downs of being a female entrepreneur. She had a very clear idea of the sourcing of gold and jewels and what effect it has on environment and the society. Having studied similar issues in a political science concept, I was enchanted by seeing how direct action is taken in the industry. Arabel emphasized that the main challenges in trying to make ethical jewellery is the traceability and suppliers. It is very difficult to be 100% certain that the diamonds have been ethically sourced. For that reason, she only uses the Canadian diamonds, as they meet the requirements of Kimbereley Process and are being mined in accordance of sustainable development.
Leblas uses only 100% recycled 18ct gold and silver. Recycling metals supports 23% global annual gold demand in the jewellery marketing, which involves melting together new and old materials that already exist above ground. The Green Gold – Oro Verde is another initiative that supports artisanal miners and their lively-hood in Colombia. The fair trade label is about to be issued in mines in South Africa, which promises to ease matters. It also seemed that the issue is more down to the producers to have an ethical mindset, as it sounded that consumers are either extremely ethical and refuse to buy ethically sourced jewellery because it’s carbon footprint is too high, or they simply do not care about that side of their jewels. Slowly however, consumers appear to be moving towards being willing to pay a higher price for a higher quality product and the knowledge of supporting the preservation of heritage.
Moving on to handbags, Claire Watt-Smith, has established a brand Bobelle that makes fairly traded and hand-made eel skin accessories, which is a by-product of Korean food industry. Claire explained, that one of the proofs of eel skin quality is the her mom’s purse, which has lasted well for 10 years already. Since the launch of her brand only 2 years ago, Claire has won a notable collection of awards for her brand. She has been recognized as one of the ‘Red Hot Women Under 30’ by Red Magazine and nominated as one of Britain’s Young Entrepreneurs by the Daily Mail. The brand can now be found in over 60 boutiques across the UK and Ireland. That goes to show that with a bit of determination and courage, ethical approach can achieve commercial success and be embraced by consumers.
And not only that, fish has also made it’s entry into shoe industry, as Gwendolyn Carrie uses fish skin leather for producing sophisticated, comfortable shoes. Their supplier is a North-African family, who have a focus on sustainability. Despite excellent quality and fab designs, it occasionally is an issue for the consumer to realize, that wearing ‘fish’ is a fashionable, yet a sustainable way of being. The representative of Gwendolyn drew a lot of reference to E.U. policies and argued that the E.U. mechanisms have helped them to be confident that what they use, is sustainably produced. I was so pleased to see a linkage between E.U. bureaucracy and actual positive effect in shoe industry (smiley).
I left with a thought, that although one can always do better and make things in an even more considerate way, then one has to begin from somewhere and these ladies have definitely done it well. Even more so, there are plenty more inspiring designers that make part of the Ethical Fashion Forum to be discovered. The EFF Social is the regular networking event for the ethical and sustainable fashion industry and it takes place on the last Thursday of every month. Follow the link if you’re keen to learn more about any upcoming socials.
PS! Click on the ‘red links’ if you have time or desire for in-depth information on all of that.