12 Degrees of Ethical Fashion at Eco

We speak to Livia Firth about what we should be wearing and why it makes a difference

March sees Livia's choice of the best of Estethica at London Fashion Week!

Noir is so elegant and stylish - it competes effortlessly with the mainstream high end designers...

Lunar's range makes you think of far away places and exotic holidays, lying on a beach drinking ice teas and.. oh sorry, we have to talk about clothes!

Elena Garcia - well, if she does not lend me a dress for the next event I have to attend I am going to strangle her! Elena is such a special designer. Her clothes make you feel as if you are floating on air.

Element23... Because sometimes I still wish I was 20...

Beyond Skin: because they are vegan, vegetarian, and gorgeous...

Livia Firth www.eco-age.com

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12 Degrees presents a stylish antidote to hairy hippie aesthetic and socks worn with sandals view of ethical fashion. Launched at London Fashion Week in partnership with estethica, 12 Degrees is the 'Conscious Fashion' baby of Eco founder Livia Firth, fashion designer Orsola de Castro, journalist Lucy Siegle and ethical fashion expert Jocelyn Whipple.

"Quite simply, we all feel passionately about clever design that keeps both environmental and social justice in mind while proving that fashion can have a destiny other than landfill. But, in common with many fashion lovers we are all disenchanted with fast, cheap fashion and consider its impact to be not just off-putting but downright unacceptable. So we are stamping our consciously clad feet and sorting something out for ourselves and hopefully you." says Livia.

Showing off this month's collection in the Chiswick store, Livia told ChiswickW4.com, "The thing I find most interesting about this project is how four woman as diverse as us have come together to create 12 degrees."

She goes onto explains how the four friends came up with the idea to create a one stop shop where woman could but clothing that was both ethical and beautiful over a cup of coffee.

"We want to inform women about ethical fashion without indoctrinating or preaching to them. We want them to start to think about the clothes they wear and give them information about why they perhaps should be choosing clothing by these designers."

She added, "We want people to look at all the issues and then make up their minds. So we came up with the concept of a 'pop up store' which changes every month."

Each month’s concept - 12 in all one for each month of the year - will be launched with an event.

"Independently we have all spent the last few years learning about and promoting ethical production and design; Orsola founded and runs Esthetica, the ethical wing of London Fashion Week which is now what we’d term a very big deal indeed!

"Jos Whipple is a walking encyclopedia on progressive fashion and has brought many of the top ethical labels to the UK and journalist, Lucy spends far too much time obsessing about sustainable style when she’s supposed to be writing it all down in a very big book and is now Visiting Professor to London College of Fashion.

"However when it came to our own wardrobes we all found it hard to get hold of the best product. Despite the valiant work of a handful of online retailers and some designated shops, we yearned after a different shopping experience where we could feel, touch and try on the product and to learn more about the story behind the best, ethical or conscious fashion labels.

"So in response we came up with 12 Degrees, a year long programme of fashion and events that will ‘pop up’ instore at Eco Age in Chiswick, showcasing the best in local, national and international ethical fashion with a series of accompanying events to help shoppers learn more about what they are buying and why it makes a difference. Each month our experts have curated a ‘pop up shop’ of the best labels, in store for that month.

"We’re starting this month with my essential picks from Esthetica. As the year progresses we’ll be bringing you the sexiest fit in organic and fairtrade denim, we’ll bring you show stopping dresses by dipping into eco couture, the softest, most beautiful and humanely sourced knitwear, wardrobe basics that will survive the end of the world and amazing accessories that will cause people to stop you on the street and offer you cash money for your handbag. All of this and more will run through to a specially curated menswear finale (a coherent look at ethical menswear is very much needed)."

Why do we need to wake up about fashion?

We are buying too fast and treating cheap fashion as if it was disposable. According to a new survey released by climate change charity, Global Cool over half of all the clothes, shoes and accessories bought by British women during 2008 have not been worn. A survey of 3,500 UK women revealed that on average £470 was spent on items in 2008 that were never worn – an estimated UK total of £11.1 billion. To add insult to injury, one in ten women confessed that they chucked their unworn items straight in the bin.

Fashion employs 14 per cent of the global workforce. It is an extremely important industry. However as poverty becomes even more entrenched with rising commodity prices and the spector of climate change which disproportionately affects poor communities, it is crucial that these people are safeguarded. Millions of people work in fashion worldwide who are paid less than a living wage, and whose rights are unprotected as they work in conditions that are legally unacceptable in the west.

Sadly the trend for cheap, fast fashion means that fashion’s footprint is becoming larger and threatening more habitats and communities. Unfortunately the race for ever cheaper, faster production has meant a regressive return to old and polluting practices (such as a recent trend for older, more polluting synthetic dyes).

12 Degrees wants to show an alternative to these destructive trends.

Don’t be afraid of ethical fashion.

Above all, we want to show how progressive and well designed ethical fashion can be. If you were afraid that green meant hairy hippie aesthetic and socks worn with sandals, 12 Degrees presents a complete antidote. This is a design meritocracy, where we’ve chosen on merit not by how much tofu the designer has eaten. Prepare to see beautiful cuts, superior fabrics, flattering design and all the bonuses that thought through, intelligent design can bring. These are not pieces with a short lifespan, but wardrobe stars that you will love and cherish.

March 12, 2009