Ethical Fashion Initiative: Not Charity, Just Work
I had the great pleasure of hearing Simone Cipriani, Founder of the Ethical Fashion Initiative, speak at a recent conference of the International Textile and Apparel Association. Mr. Cipriani shared the goals, business model, and implementation strategies of this amazing program of the International Trade Center (a joint agency of the United Nations and World Trade Organization). Created in 2009, the Ethical Fashion Initiative focuses on connecting micro-artisans/producers from developing countries (e.g., Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Haiti, and Cambodia) with international fashion brands in creating sustainable and ethically produced merchandise sold throughout the world. Current fashion brand partners include Chan Luu (jewelry from Kenya), Osklen (jewelry from Haiti), Karen Walker (eyewear pouches from Kenya), Isetan (bags designed in collaboration with Italian fashion brand, Marni, and produced in Kenya), and MIMCO (variety of accessories from Kenya), among others. To support the work of both the micro-artisans/producers and the fashion brands, business support infrastructures have been created around centralized production hubs for assembly, quality assurance, and shipping; thus allowing artisans from multiple communities to be involved with production.
The RISE model used by the Ethical Fashion Initiative appears simple in design (a characteristic of all great design) but ambitious in its implementation. RISE stands for Respect – Invest – Sustain – Empower. As noted on their website:
• Respect – Respect is about valuing the people we work with and their culture. We consistently carry out a baseline study for each community and create a map to track the entire supply chain.
• Invest – Business plays a key role in supporting sustainable development. The Invest stage monitors trade-related activities and all investments brought to the community, such as capacity building.
• Sustain – Fair labour conditions and environmental awareness are key to sustaining dignified lives. The Sustain stage monitors the fair labour and environmental practices and standards applied throughout the supply chain.
• Empower – The social and economic impact assessments are conducted at pre-determined intervals. The assessments follow the rigorous impact assessment methodology of the Ethical Fashion Initiative.
Mr. Cipriani shared not only his enthusiasm for ethically produced fashion merchandise but also the stories of the impact this initiative has had on the lives of the many artisans who have been involved. As a wonderful example of supply chain transparency (if you’ve read my other blogs, you’ll see a pattern of my talking about great examples of supply chain transparency), the Ethical Fashion Initiative website includes videos of artisans and their fashion brand partners. All are uplifting and inspiring! I urge you to check out their website and learn more about the important role of micro-artisans/producers in the global fashion value/supply chain!
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