The potentially lucrative business of eco-fashion

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Green is rapidly becoming the new black as industry attitudes change

While the astronomical figures bandied around the UN Climate Change Summit in New York may or may not suggest that world leaders are finally facing up to an era of global uncertainty, one industry lagging far behind the pledges made makes Franciois Hollande's billion dollar commitment seem like a drop in the ever-rising ocean. We are of course, speaking of the filthy-rich fashion industry and its multifarious malpractice when it comes to sustainability and ecological responsibility.

With an estimated 75 million workers and a worldwide market value of 1.7 trillion dollars, the fashion industry commands a huge part of the global economy and, as populations explode, creates a seemingly exponential quantity of waste. However, despite the litany of charges levelled against it - all the way from resource monopolization through worker exploitation to the unbridled consumerism inherent within the western world - this most facile of industries is beginning to face up to its stiletto-heeled carbon footprint.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for an industry concerned with image and social hierarchy, rather than embrace the concept of eco-fashion, the industry has positively shied away from a perceived sacrifice to quality and design alongside the assumption that the term is in itself loaded with "worthy" attitudes. It seems that, unlike other industries, where owners of a Tesla S or an energy efficient Passivhaus may consider their purchases as contemporary status symbols, the fashion industry has been moving in the opposite direction - stigmatising eco-fashion to the point where designers are reticent to employ the term.

However, in the wake of London Fashion Week, and with the help of a few celebrity endorsements, it seems that this attitude is beginning to change. What's more, for the savvy entrepreneur who can combine the ever-growing popularity of sustainable living with the colossal profits of the fashion world, it seems that this sea-change could potentially be extremely lucrative.

Whilst haute couture may be somewhat off the eco-pulse, smaller companies and style movements have been making in-roads for years - often in surprising and innovative ways. Whether it is a simple commitment to using less water during production like BRAX at Peter Hahn, a re-evaluation of profit distribution and ethics found within the prisoner based workforce of Heavy Eco, or the more traditional act of recycling old tyres like Ethiopia's Sole Rebels, eco-fashion is alive and well with a number of independent manufacturers burning the torch.

Of course, the final decision about the future of eco-fashion lies with the consumer and their spending habits. However, if the fashion industry is successful in shedding this self-created stigma, the benefits both to the consumer, the industry and the planet will be truly remarkable.

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