Interdisciplinary blog

MDR Week- Blog no 2: Ethical Fashion Futures – An Oxymoron?

March 12, 2013
by Eleanor Tighe

Join Emma Waight and Eleanor Tighe for the lively debate on Tomorrow’s shopping: sustainable consumption in retail & ethical fashion’ on Thursday 21st March. An insight into this exciting and multidisciplinary research field can be found below.


Ethical Fashion Futures – An Oxymoron?

By Emma Waight and Eleanor Tighe



On Thursday 21 March, post-graduate researchers Emma Waight and Eleanor Tighe will be presenting the outcomes of their recent event ‘Ethical Fashion Futures: Changing Habits in Retail’. This small event bought together students, academics and industry professionals to discuss prevailing social and environmental issues involved in clothing manufacture.

The day kicked off with a talk from Charlie Ross, of the Offset Warehouse who got us to think about clothing supply chains at their origins. She raised the controversial issue of cotton production, drawing attention to the huge stress mass cotton production places on public goods, drawing on the example of the Aral Sea. We then flicked over to the end of the supply chain, and consumer practices with Emma Waight, making a case for ‘repair, re-use and re-sell’. Tania Phipps-Rufus a lecturer from Hertfordshire University then drew the morning to close, drawing attention to the legal debates surrounding what constitutes an ‘ethical fashion’.

The afternoon’s discussions were centred on high street fashion at site of production. Dr. Kanchana Ruwanpura, senior lecturer in Geography and Environment here at the University of Southampton highlighted the problems inherent in ‘Codes of Conduct’ corporate practices, drawing on the example of Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Dionne Harrison, Business and Capability Director of the ethical retail consultancy Impactt, UK, introduced the ‘Benefits for Business and Workers’ approach, which works in partnership with six UK retailers and the UK Department for International Development, to improve working conditions at sites of production through cuts to waste and enhanced dialogue and human resources management. Eleanor Tighe then presented some of her research findings on the clothing industry in Bangladesh, looking at the role of apparels production in national development strategy and the challenges faced by organisations attempting to improve relations in this field.

The day was then rounded off by a summary and discussion by Dr. Jeffrey Bray, senior lecturer in Marketing and Retail Management at Bournemouth University. Dr. Bray opened up the table to a great discussion on the foundation of an ethical fashion, and indeed how something which by definition relates to trends, can at the same time be sustainable?

The event was truly multidisciplinary in its approach with speakers from backgrounds in fashion, human geography, law and retail management. This in turn attracted a wide range of participants interested in international development, corporate social responsibility (CSR), business management, sustainable design and retailing. Fashion and clothing is a global industry which we are all engaged in as consumers, at the very least. Who is the average clothes shopper and what do they care about?

Multidisciplinary Week has given us a platform to disseminate outcomes from a day of lively discussion. Come along on Thursday to pick up these debates.




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Categories: Consumption, Ethical Fashion, and multidisciplinary research. Tags: #MDRWeek, Consumption, Eleanor Tighe, Emma Waight, Ethical, Fashion, multidisciplinary research, Multidisciplinary Research Week, Sustainability Science at Southampton, and University of Southampton.