Playing Fair in Fashion Design


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by Clare Kaufman
Fashion School Review Columnist

April 22, 2008


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Fair trade. You've seen it on coffee and chocolate--now look for it on cotton and clothing. The label that brought corporate responsibility to the food industry is doing the same for fashion design.

If some of the prices you see on clothing seem too good to be true, they probably are. Fashion design manufacturers have cut production costs by moving their operations offshore--to China, India, and other developing countries. The strategy has paid off in some ways, but abuses abound.

Fashion Design and Fair Trade
Enter the Fairtrade Foundation. The Fairtrade Foundation maintains a global set of standards ensuring fair trade terms for farmers and workers throughout the developing world. These standards include:

  • Fair and stable market prices for goods
  • Decent working conditions
  • Local sustainability
  • Gender equity
  • No child labor
  • Environmental responsibility

As public concern about sweatshops grows, fair trade has emerged as an important rallying cry in fashion merchandising. Negative publicity has motivated fashion design companies like The Gap to refocus their merchandising efforts on monitoring their production and reassuring the public.

Fashion Police: A Fair Trade Fashion Career
Whether you pursue a fashion career in fashion merchandising or design, "fair trade" will become part of your vocabulary. Some merchandising professionals even focus their fashion career on fair trade compliance. Many fashion design companies rely on production managers to visit far-flung factories and ensure that fair trade standards are met.

With a degree in fashion merchandising, you can build a fashion career with a conscience. If you're already working, fashion merchandising can be found in many online degree programs, so you can study at your own pace. The real fashion police aren't the wisecracking fashionistas on the sidelines of the red carpet; they're the quality management, production management, and fashion merchandising professionals who make sure fashions really are as good as they look.



Sources:

About the Author
Clare Kaufman is a freelance writer specializing in education and career advice. She has a graduate degree in English.

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