By Lalita Green

"Elegance is refusal" - Coco Chanel.

Recently I discovered the etymology of the word Elegance. It comes from the Latin word "Eligere" meaning "to choose". With our progressive society comes a medley of endless options in the consumer landscape - we have never before been so spoiled for choice. Between our fast paced lifestyles and the enticement of marketing, it can be easy to lay wayside the importance of the journey these products took to make their way into our shopping carts.

Money talks, and every purchase speaks as a vote. We are voting, essentially, for which businesses should continue to thrive and keep supplying us with their goods. Among these businesses is an entire spectrum of ethical contribution, ranging from solely economic goals to social enterprise influence. 

It's fascinating how far the impacts of our choices can potentially voyage. The domino effect of our actions can be witnessed in our daily activities such as the sharing of a humorous video which later goes viral to more serious issues like global warming. Our actions have consequences we may sometimes never see. And sometimes, the effects aren't apparent until much later.

Common sense can recognize the fashion corporation is not always the most frugal or caring in terms of resources and the environment, being an entity that thrives on trends and hot competition, and I have been compelled to find out more about its effect. Ensuing my curiosity and concern were some interesting illuminations about the reality of fashion, including:

 •    The fashion industry is the second largest polluting industry in the world after oil.

 •    The second largest polluter of clean water, after agriculture. Professor Sass Brown argues that because the growing of crops for material can be filed under the agricultural umbrella, fashion can be considered the number one culprit for polluting water.

 •    The textile industry is the third largest consumer of water in the world – behind the paper and oil industries

•    25% of chemicals produced worldwide are used in the fashion industry

Some companies will undergo harmful practices to achieve a certain aesthetic, such as sandblasting jeans to give them a "worn-in" look. Sandblasting causes silicosis which the World Health Organization states leads to lung fibrosis and emphysema. In later stages the critical condition can become disabling and is often fatal. Levis, H&M, Gucci and Versace are among those that have ceased this method, while Dolce & Gabbana have expressed a lack of interest to change their jean production. 

This is not to say the fashion industry is fated as a relentless, polluting miscreation. Some fashion practices are merely habit, almost tradition, and have been so long-standing that to deviate from their familiar way of production takes bold innovation and many potentially risky changes. 

Thankfully, amongst the seemingly turbid scenery, there is a relatively small but strong force changing the game. And things have come a long way since hemp bags and organic cotton shirts with political slogans plastered across the front. 

In 2011 Greenpeace spearheaded the "Detox" campaign challenging some of the world's most popular clothing brands to eliminate all releases of hazardous chemicals. Only months into the campaign major retailers including H&M, Puma, Adidas, and Nike committed to eliminating discharges of hazardous chemicals across their supply chains by 2020. Ever since, the ripple effect has continued to expand. 

Futurists and trend-watchers highlight some interesting permutations. Dr. Ray Kurzweil, inventor, pioneering computer scientist, and director of engineering at Google predicts: "By 2025, 3D printers will print clothing at very low-cost. There will be many free open source designs, but people will still spend money to download clothing files from the latest hot designer just as people spend money today for eBooks, music and movies despite all of the free material available." Benefits of this innovation include a smaller carbon footprint, less offcuts/wastage and recycling materials.

Enkindled by action being taken globally and the overwhelming sea of information available, I set on a quest to discover what I can do as an individual and find those on the leading edge of responsible fashion who are acting locally. I was pleased to find many good-will advocates, from Eco-designers to social enterprises in fashion, within close reach who were more than happy to share their stories which I will begin to highlight next time.

Trends fade, but style remains and it's been said that elegance never goes out of style.

-- This article can also be seen in the Fashion Observer Magazine --
-- http://myfom.com.au --

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