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Opinion: It's a question of style

In today's society, we question a lot of things (government decisions, for example...). I am not qualified to say if that is a good thing or a bad thing; it depends on a lot of variables. What I can say is that it baffles me how little we - as a society - question where our clothes and shoes come from.


Fashion's glamorous reputation has always made it evident that when marketed, showing the industry behind it wouldn't do the sales numbers favors. Mostly because there is a lot of ugliness to hide. Comparable to food, where a photo of chickens stuffed in battery cages wouldn't make you want to buy the eggs, a photo of the poor living and working conditions of the person who made your €25 skirt, wouldn't make you want to buy it.


In mainstream fashion, beautiful photos, big displays, and alluring stores are reflections of what a clothing/shoe brand stands for, instead of the people who actually realize the products. And that is sad because the people who work all along the fashion supply chain are the ones who are creating what you are actually buying and wearing. The supply chain is purposely made obscure. However, it doesn't take that much digging to get a glimpse behind the masks. I continue to hear sad attestations firsthand from footwear designers from manufacturing countries that produce for Western mid-segment brands (in the range of €50 - €150). Even though they are in 'management' or 'oversight' positions thanks to their degree (so better off than workers), they are treated like machines, with long hours, no rest, no contract, etc. The situation for garment workers is even more harrowing. So yes, those documentaries from ten years ago you can find on Youtube are sadly still pretty much current.


We're halfway Fashion Revolution Week 2023. That is a good occasion for retailers to dig a little deeper and ask questions about the collections/brands they buy. For consumers to take a step back and question where the fashion they have in their closets comes from and who made it. For media to question how the products they feature/promote were really produced (and not just rely on a brand's vague online ESG statement). And for governments to tighten regulations.


Katrien

Founder Elegnano


Note:

Speaking of questions: Elegnano is of course also a brand that works with suppliers and manufacturers. Like many niche brands, we manage and monitor our own supply chain - no middleman. Our production is 100% located in the EU (mostly Italy, with some components/materials from France and Portugal). As the founder, I visit our (component) production facilities and have built personal relationships with the individual artisans/workers who work on our products. The proverbial bar for me is that their working and living conditions should make them thrive. Nothing less. The small fashion brands I know (and some bigger brands too) operate with a similar ethos: Every person behind the scenes is an important and valued shackle in making the product and the business come to life.

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