In something of a coup for the concept of ethics in fashion, the two lead shows of next week are officially ethical. Lisa Ho kicks off the event on Monday morning at the Art Gallery of NSW, followed by Ginger & Smart on-site at the Overseas Passenger Terminal in Circular Quay.
Ethical Clothing Australia announced the accreditations today, after the labels successfully completed an audit confirming that their Australian workers received decent wages and conditions. They join Collette Dinnigan, Jets, Cue and Veronika Maine in being able to display the ECA tag on Australian-made garments.
The announcement is especially rewarding for Ginger & Smart (pictured) who were caught in a firestorm of controversy in August last year when Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph named them in a story they published about designers underpaying local workers. The article even prompted a public rebuke for designers from Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
At the time, the sister act of Genevieve and Alexandra Smart hit back and vehemently denied any wrong-doing—in fact they were in the process of officially complying with the Home Workers Code of Practice when the story hit. The designers were forced to go into survival mode, issuing missives to customers and media defending their record. They even fired off an angry letter to Ms Gillard—a copy of which HowBigIsYourEco obtained at the time—condemning her endorsement of the newspaper story.
In a highlight of the letter, they inform Gillard that “we have 13 staff, all young women…despite the innuendo in the article, we are not a couple of fat-cat capitalists” before pointing out that of those employees, “three are engaged almost full time” processing a mountain of government red tape and dealing with “an aggressive and demanding ATO”. The women expressed a genuine concern that the potential consumer backlash could even put the label out of business.
Fortunately, no such thing happened and Ginger & Smart can hold their heads high when they take a bow on the runway on Monday—perhaps even flick a cheeky finger to Gillard and the papers as they do so. Congratulations to the girls and to Lisa Ho for leading fashion week in more ways than one.
And regardless of whether any inconsistencies were discovered in the auditing process, the designers were right in suggesting that the Sunday Telegraph’s name-and-shame approach has the potential to damage the industry and the young designers who, by and large, have a strong desire to do the right thing. To its credit, Ethical Clothing Australia (who incidentally also has a presence at RAFW) prefers to work constructively with designers to get a positive outcome for all parties.
But that doesn’t sell papers.
- Matt Muses…on fashion and ethics
- RAFW next week
- Preview: Ginger & Smart SS11-12
- PILGRIM RESPONDS…
- Matt muses… front row at RAFW