The International Trade Center’s (ITC) Ethical Fashion Program supports the development of marginalized communities of women in Kenya and Uganda, mostly groups of artisans based in poor rural and urban settings. The program enables disadvantaged African communities and their groups of informal manufacturers to become part of the global supply chain, thus developing their export capacities and strengthening their position in both the domestic and regional markets. The project is based on a joint effort of the ITC and Ethical Fashion Africa Ltd. (EFAL), which is based in Nairobi. Watch the video below to learn more about EFAL and designer Vivienne Westwood’s collection.
EFAL affiliated with the FLA in February 2010 to work towards better management of the risks in their supply chain. EFAL’s affiliation has been handled as a special project for the first year due to its unusual and diverse supply chain, which extends to informal workshops, communities and home-based work. Within the first few months of collaboration, FLA provided ITC with new tools and methods – including photo elicitation. This method helped illustrate the day-to-day lives of the workers, painting a more complete picture of the program’s impact on workers’ lives. Photo elicitation is an explorative approach among a small sample of workers to discover what a typical workday looks like; how workers view their lives, their work, and their community; what is most important to them; and how the Ethical Fashion Program is embedded into their daily routines. Read more about the Ethical Fashion Program and see the recently-published 2010 FLA Annual Report to learn more about the photo elicitation method used during program development.
On May 27, School House CEO Rachel Weeks visited FLA headquarters in Washington, D.C., to update staff on the development of her business and share lessons she learned while working in Sri Lanka to help ensure women were paid a living wage while producing School House apparel. School House was the first company to visit FLA’s new headquarters location, and staff gathered to hear Weeks’ story.
In 2007, Weeks traveled to Sri Lanka as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar with the goal of launching her own ethical fashion line and bringing more stylish and customized collegiate apparel to Duke – her alma mater. In a short time, Weeks hired a designer, found a factory, and started producing her clothing line. The most important part of her business? Paying premium prices to the factory to provide a living wage for the workers producing School House apparel.
“Students don’t often stop to consider that they can have their cake and eat it too – they think that they have to choose between being ethical and being fashionable,” Weeks said during her visit. “It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. My goal with School House is to create clothes people want to wear while ensuring a living wage is being paid during production.”
Although Weeks started her company with ethical sourcing in mind, she recognizes that many of the big brands are working to overcome huge barriers to ethical production. “Consumers should be willing to recognize companies’ efforts to improve. Sometimes we don’t realize the enormous challenges companies are up against in managing global supply chains,” Weeks said. Read the rest of this entry »