By: Daniella Porano

While the term “ethical fashion” can be ambiguous and individually defined, it really pertains to the process of clothing production and the subsequent advertising and retail used to sell products. I think it’s more useful to individually understand and define what dressing ethically means to you. Sweatshop free? Organic cotton? Fair trade? Animal-friendly textiles? How about corporate responsibility in all aspects of a business model, from advertisements to the retail stores? Each person has a different moral code when it comes to socially-conscious fashion

Take a moment to consider the ever-changing nature of the fashion industry and the implications of this constant evolution. Each season, retail chains rotate their entire stock and import new shipments of clothing in mass quantities. As the majority of the large retailers do not build clothes to last longer than a year – sometimes no longer than a handful of washes – the majority of “fast fashion” ends up in landfills as the trends fade.

The problem is the way we’re targeted as consumers. We’ve been groomed to accept that paying twenty dollars for a pair of jeans is normal, a steal even. If you think about the cost of materials, production, and payment to labourers both at the production and retail points, how can this be so? The answer is simple: it can’t – at least, not without exploitation on all levels of production, at the expense of labourers.

This leads to the next issue of sustainable and ethical fashion: the price. I’ve consistently found the constraints of availability and price to be the most problematic aspects when trying to find ethically-sourced fashion. While one of my favourite designers, Stella McCartney, has managed to champion animal-friendly clothing, her designs are completely unattainable to the average student. Aside from high end fashion houses with luxury production shops in France and Italy, where does labour-friendly fashion come from, and more importantly, how can we access it?

While being an ethically-minded consumer with a limited budget is certainly a challenge, it is not impossible. There are many ways to find quality and socially-conscious clothing.

Vintage and thrift stores are incredible; buying pre-loved is always the best option. Not only does it prevent clothes from being thrown out as waste, but it can also be a goldmine for fashion finds that would otherwise be inaccessible. I’ve found amazing clothes at thrift stores, including denim jackets made in Italy, cozy knits made in Britain, and my personal favourite, a vintage Nina Ricci bag. High quality brands of jackets and coats can also filter through thrift stores, an important concern for all of us as winter approaches.

Another important tip is to check labels. Within massive corporations, stores can have a wide range of outsourced labour from all over the world in the same retail location. While some sweaters are handmade in British shops, others may be made in horrendous sweatshop conditions in Bangladesh. Checking labels for where the item was made is important as it can assist in distinguishing fair-paid and quality pieces from exploitation. This does not mean that well-made fashion only comes from the Western world, but in a corporate-dominated capitalist society, the exploitation of developing nations is embedded in many major retailers’ clothing.

Other large stores that sell a variety of brands can be fantastic for ethical finds. For example, I’ve found plenty of American-made designer denim at Winners – always at a quarter of the original retail price. Additionally, there are many adorable small shops and specialty online stores that cater to selling locally produced, vegan, or fair trade products (sometimes all three). Online tools like The Guardian’s ethical fashion directory, the Ethical Consumer website, and the Ethical Fashion Forum help provide resources and in-depth information about ethics in corporations and socially-conscious alternatives. These sites reinforce the idea that you are making a choice every time you purchase an item of clothing, or in other terms, voting with your dollar.

The easiest way to create a formula for ethical shopping is by following the words of legendary designer Vivienne Westwood, “buy less, choose well, make it last.”

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By: Daniella Porano

September in New York City marks the beginning of the semi-annual fashion pilgrimage that takes fashion’s elite through New York, London, Milan, and Paris on a month long fashion extravaganza. This past week, New York Fashion Week hosted a wide variety of designers displaying their Spring/Summer 2015 collections. The result was nothing short of New York fashion magic, with an impressive array of enviable trends and an innumerable amount of beautiful pieces suitable for any closet.

1. The military look

This look was effortlessly championed by veteran Marc Jacobs this season. His show swept the runway with a glossy collection of coats with large round buttons and pockets, complimented with structured dresses in earthy tones of cream, gray, army green, and navy. Shoes were an uncomplicated selection of either utilitarian sandals or black leather boots, a nice compliment style to the busy collection.

2. Floral prints

Floral prints were in full bloom for nearly all NYFW spring/summer collections. While floral prints are the most predictable staple for spring/summer collections, Michael Kors, Kate Spade, and Erin Featherson all created collections that were refreshing and beautiful. It served to remind us precisely why florals are so important for spring collections rather than feeling recycled and redundant.

3. Oversized jackets

Oversized jackets were critical to the runway this season, although they were surprisingly heavy and layered for spring/summer collections. Regardless, coats, jackets, and blazers were layered atop pretty feminine dresses and sharp black pantsuits in a manner that displayed a marriage of beauty and wearability. The designers used varying jacket styles to highlight their labels and set a tone for their shows. For example, Rodarthe used a multi-coloured army jacket to ground their airy asymmetrical skirts, which were paired with stunning mid-calf heeled gladiator sandals. Philip Lim designed sleeveless blazers and trench coats as an unexpected transition piece into spring fashion. Halston Heritage introduced a cape-like blazer as the new office essential, especially paired with easy black heels, well-tailored traditional trousers, and a simple clutch.

4. Full skirts

With slightly raised hemlines from previous seasons, NYFW redefined the chicness of the mid-length skirt with casual grace. Paired with simple white t-shirts and crop tops from Michael Kors, vibrant sweaters from Alice + Olivia, and structured utilitarian jackets from Proenza Schouler, the skirt has once again become the main event.

5. Gingham print

Gingham prints took an elegant twist for Oscar de la Renta, Michael Kors, Diane von Furstenburg, and Altuzzara. Their collections all embodied the classy elegance their respective labels are known for, with a wonderful turn on a classic summer print. Using light shades of pink and blue, as well as black, the print particularly stood out on de la Renta’s beautiful coats and crop top/skirt pairings, Altuzzara’s clinched waist dresses and blazers, and von Furstenburg’s breezy dresses of varying hemlines. The revival of the beloved print has certainly set spring/summer 2015 on a sensational path.

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