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Ethical fashion under the spotlight in New Zealand

Space Between is a social enterprise and green business model developed by Massey University’s School Of Design.

It explores alternatives to mass-produced, high-waste clothing and brainstorms ethical business opportunities for new fashion designers.

It is also researching strategies for zero waste in fashion, both in retail and post-purchase.

Project leader and Massey University senior lecturer Jennifer Whitty says Space Between aims to raise the value of fashion while supporting and encouraging the industry.

NZ Post, Booker Spalding and Earthlink have also partnered with the organisation.

Sustainable Projects just launched the Sustainable Fashion project – an initiative that hopes to raise awareness with consumers, retailers and fashion labels through a pop-up exhibition and shop.

The shop will tour the country in 2016.

Space Between and Sustainable Fashion are working together to support Kiwi brands, particularly those at NZFW, into becoming sustainable.

Bec McMaster says the two organizations want to raise awareness about the global Fashion Revolution Movement.

The organisations are asking companies to share on social media three pieces of information: a photo of their studio, information about their supply chain and a sustainable element of their work (e.g. in designing, manufacturing, and use) with the hashtag #SNZFW – sustainable New Zealand Fashion Week.

Meanwhile, global accreditation system for supply chains, Child Labor Free(CLF) has partnered with NZFW.

Designers featured in the event, including Hailwood, Kate Sylvester, Nom*D, Ruby and Stolen Girlfriends Club, are a part of its pilot programme and are working closely with CLF to audit their supply chains.

They are documenting their journeys through videos and blog posts on CLF’s social media channels.

These initiatives come at a time where consumers are demanding that companies ensure they’re ethical.

2015 fashion report by Baptist World Aid assessed the ethical practices of 128 clothing brands.

It found some of the worst-rating brands in the survey were Glassons; Just Group, which owns Just Jeans; Portmans; Jay Jay’s; Peter Alexander and Dotti, and fast retail brands like Valley Girl, Industrie and Tempt.

They all received D or F grades.

Consumers were outraged about the findings, with one group starting up a campaign called ‘Glassons are you guilty’ on social media.

“We are investigating the clothing brand, Glassons,” it says on its website.

“Glassons have shown that they do not know what country their clothing comes from, or how it is made. This means that they might not have fair wages or good working conditions. Because of this, we advise you that you take caution when purchasing clothing from Glassons. Please consider other options other than Glassons when purchasing clothing.”

As well as this, a 2014 Colmar Brunton survey found 90 percent of New Zealanders want to buy ethically and socially responsible products.

Clearly, there is a widespread demand from the public for sustainable, ethical fashion.

Whether retailers get on board or not is up to them – Glassons CEO Graeme Popplewell told The Register Glassons would be reviewing all of its policies and procedures as a priority issue.

This article originally appeared on The Register.

Elly is Idealog's editor and resident dog enthusiast. She enjoys travelling, tea, good books, and writing about exciting ideas and cool entrepreneurs.

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