Design and Ethics: How Deep?

4 minutes

All pics taken in Leuven, Belgium

My re-entry into fashion and design as an aspiring producer has destabilized my world in more ways than one; let me explain. You live your life largely without questioning much, or questioning a lot but not really coming to solid conclusions one way or another. Then you start on a venture that demands you reach deep down to debate and clarify everything you’ve been sitting on the fence about.

It’s impossible to embark on an ethical business model without questioning how far and how deep one’s values will go. Can one compartmentalize being ethical? For instance, can one claim to be ethical because they pay fair wages even while they are using fabric dyed with harmful toxics? Can one observe these practices in their business but not their personal life? Should one observe and uphold ethical practices in their field of expertise while carrying on as usual in all other aspects of their lives? I doubt I can be different one way from another. Yet I have so many questions about how to balance it all.

My main focus since my second chance in life has been to avoid all extremes. In this quest for a cohesively ethical lifestyle, how far is too far? Can I eat meat? Produce items made from leather? Drink milk and eat cheese? Can I ever buy clothing from fast fashion purveyors? Should my hair be natural? Can I ever wear fur? Can I dye my hair with anything but henna? Can I engage in consumerism or must I now be a minimalist to the end? Can I ship products all the way from China with the involved air pollution? Must I produce locally at whatever cost? If abroad, how does one ensure compliance with established ethical guidelines? The questions are many, the answers remain somewhat fluid.

 Suddenly I’m questioning every other life choice, things I haven’t considered before. Working in the aviation and airline industry, all this flying across continents weekly, all the carbon monoxide gases this must emit into the air -Am I supposed to contemplate quitting? How far is too far? According to the comment sections of many ethical brands website, one can never be ethical enough; the policing going on on such pages is something akin to bullying. Yet the search of finding anything pure, completely devoid of any tarnishing has proved to be an allusive one so far.

When the fashion industry started recycling waste plastic bottles by making polyester fabric out of them, it was lauded as innovative and revolutionary. That’s until the waste from laundry water used to wash these clothes started releasing millions of micro-plastic fibres into the ocean thus creating a problem as big as the original one if not even bigger, certainly much harder to clean up.

It’s easy to sit on the side-lines and judge fashion brands as not being ethical enough, but I’d rather get in there and try to offer solutions, for it is through trial and error that we find a better way. As with many thing, I doubt that a perfect solution exists, so a better solution will have to do.

As for my personal how-deep ethical dilemma, I’m still fumbling my way through it as I define myself and my brand. Dealing with absolutes carries no appeal to me. I will continue to avoid extremes as I prefer to live life in the middle -in the grey areas, so to speak. I’ll find my place in all these ethical melee at the right time as issues unfold and clarity dawns. It would be lovely to gauge your temperature when it comes to ethics and fashion, so feel free to drop any comments, questions or concerns in the comment section below for a hearty debate. Cheers, Grey ღ  All pictures taken in Leuven Belgium by Mr. Grey

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