Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Does Fashion Respect or Disrespect Ethnic Tradition?

When the fashion industry branches out and looks to ethnic traditions for their latest trends, are they paying respect or disrespect to other cultures?

Potatoes, pineapples to dress environmentally-minded fashionistas

by Brett Kline Mon Oct 16, 1:44 PM ET

Some of the tastiest fruit and veg is no longer just for eating -- the ethical fashion industry has decided it has a place in your wardrobe too.

Sweet potatoes and pineapples were among the foods to make their way on to the catwalk of the Ethical Fashion Show, which was held here in the world's fashion capital, over the weekend.

Using the sweet spuds, Les Racines du Ciel, a small clothing manufacturer based in the northwestern Brittany region of France, has adapted a traditional Chinese practice to Western clothing styles.

"In southern China and only in southern China, silk is lacquered with a sweet potato paste and then buried in the ground," said Natalie Goyette, the company's development director.

"Then the silk is rinsed up to 30 times, and comes out with a soft off-black color that I find beautiful," she said.

"And the sweet potato dye makes the silk water repellent and able to absorb perspiration very well."

She was among scores of fashion professionals to attend the opening night of the show, now in its third year, and was one of more than 60 designers with stands at the show.

The silk is shipped to the company in the town of Quimper in Brittany, where it is used to make gowns that are extremely soft to the touch but resemble leather.

Les Racines du Ciel also makes silk scarves dyed with a Japanese fruit called kakishibu, giving them colors ranging from pink to brown, Goyette said.

"Our part of ethical fashion and fair trade is the use of organic materials, such as silk, and cotton for use in denims and knits."

But she said that her work was not simply about clothing.

"Maybe I am too idealistic, but I want to change the world," she added, "to make it a better place, environmentally speaking."

1 comment:

Brother Smartness said...

I find it funny (and oxymoronic) that the big designers are trying stop counterfeiters from copying their products, when they are counterfeiting cultural fashion themselves.

Hired by companies such as Coach, Dooney & Bourke, Nike, General Motors and Louis Vuitton, Howe, a former FBI agent, is one of about 20 private investigators in the nation dedicated to stopping counterfeit.

For retailers, it's not so much that counterfeit goods cut into their sales (some say that those who buy $30 fake Louis Vuitton bags would never shell out $900 for the real thing, anyway), but that they devalue their image.

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