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BellaOnline's Women's Fashion Editor

Fair Trade Fortnight - Guilt-free fashion for true “Chico”-Warriors

We have all felt the occasional pang of guilt on missing recycling day (the well-intentioned stack of newspapers and clean glass bottles destined to join the contemptible black-bag rubbish), we’ve all guiltily chose cheap bread over organic batch and the less said of our self-calculated carbon footprint the better. Saving the planet can, quite simply be a drag and does nothing for our already guilty conscience, but here’s an incentive for you: responsible eco-fashion is here and it’s seriously cool.

With Fair Trade Fortnight (February 26th – March 11th) in full swing celebrating ethical products that originate from ethical sources, by ethical means, we are now being urged to make a socially responsible statement through our clothes, choosing only fair trade garments made from natural fibres such as fair trade cotton, organic bamboo and hemp.

But before you start scratching at the thought of wearing a stiff, itchy smock, the eco-fashion world have come a long way, experimenting with natural materials that are so soft to the touch - you can expect to be pulling out a pair of organic soy silk panties from your underwear drawer before long.

The main driving force behind this surge in interest for eco-friendly fashion has been it’s backing by A-List celebrities giving Hollywood stars from Scarlet Johansson to Natalie Portman the green stamp of approval. However, some famous campaigners have taken this trend further, by not only donning organic clothing, but by designing their own collections. Husband and wife team Bono and Ali Hewson joined forces with New York fashion designer, Rogan Gregory to create Edun in 2005, a label that works to sustain employment in developing countries such as Africa, moving away from the concept of providing aid to providing trade.

Edun and the vast selection of emerging eco-fashion labels have all proved that going green can be incredibly stylish, providing wearable, affordable clothes with an ethical story. But what about the fast fashion industry-at-large, the factories dedicated to fast, high turnovers, mass-dyeing/bleaching methods, sweat shop workers, bad working conditions and the current high demand for brightly coloured, cheap garments we all love to wear? The fashion industry is traditionally profit-led and it is the cheaper, stylish, high street clothing that sells fast. There is therefore a pressure on green-fashion labels to provide both aesthetics and ethics, in order to influence consumers into choosing ethical fashion brands.

One way this imbalance is being tackled is by Product (RED), the business model launched last year aiming to raise money for the Global Fund through partnerships with big fashion brands such as Gap, Converse and Armani. These brands and others have all had the (RED) treatment with special Product (RED) collections released with a percentage of profits going to the purchase and distribution of anti-retroviral medicines in Africa, helping to treat those suffering from Aids.

This is one example of how we can move forward in the quest to making saving the planet stylish, getting big businesses involved and encouraging other big brands to jump on the eco-friendly bandwagon at the promise of bigger profits for them as the demand for socially responsible clothing rockets.

So whether you’re going to start wearing organic, natural fibres, experiment with recycled materials or buy into socially responsible brands, stay one step ahead of the fickle fashion crowd and indulge in a little fair trade shopping this fortnight giving yourself an ethical makeover that will more than make up for missing the recycling man (again).

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