Ethical Shopping - Stock Investing that's Green and Viable

Walk into any upscale boutique or clothing establishment that caters to new trends and there will be inviting feel-good floor displays and handsome shelves of apparel fashioned of organic, environmentally friendly and worker-friendly cloth. I went into such a store recently looking for a new shirt and was pleasantly surprised to sidle up next to organic hemp shirts that had a conscience. Workers were fairly paid for making them. The environment wasn't degraded and there weren't 17 teaspoons of chemicals used in processing this shirt (a true fact). Nice. And it's called eco-fashion.

Eco-fashion is a trend that is slowly catching fire as consumers realize they don't have to dress in nonorganics made for sweatshop wages and hurt the environment. Two successful shows in New York and San Francisco for eco-fashion were held in 2005. The doyens of major fashion houses and department store buyers are paying attention to this niche as are writers for the fashion magazine world—Lucky magazine for example.

Is this a real fashion change, or conjured out of whole cloth?

Designer Richie Rich says of eco-fashion: "It's definitely something we're going to continue toying with. People often perceive the fashion world as superficial, so it's great to work with materials that are actually good for the environment. I had my doubts, but when we actually saw the fabric swatches we were blown away. They were gorgeous, and it wasn't hard to design with them."

So the designers are weighing in with enthusiasm. No wonder. Among the sustainable materials used for cloth are bamboo, sea cell, soya and sasawashi (linen-like made from a Japanese leaf with anti-allergen and anti-bacterial properties).

Yet, with the attention, and there is nothing like the fashion world's attention, there is not a huge demand for eco-fashion—though there are no statistics on it yet. And there is the price. Eco-fashion is expensive. Critics are opining that eco-fashion is so expensive that it won't translate into a strong fashion appeal, and remain a niche that has little impact on the politics of environment and worker conditions.

Also, the pirates of knockoff are knocking off designer eco-clothes, attaching eco labels to clothes that may not have a stitch of eco in them. Further, there is no regulatory body governing this fledgling niche.

Some observe that designers are not creating new styles with eco clothes, but are refashioning existing lines—perhaps diminishing the appeal to more fashion conscious buyers.

On the more positive side, there is evidence that eco-fashion will have lasting power, as small retailers continue to serve the small market and larger companies educate their buyers in the virtues of eco clothes.

What to buy in clothing?

There is no doubt that shopping and buying eco clothing is the ethical thing to do. It's also kind of cool to think of the new materials being developed for the eco fashion wardrobe. Again, we're in this ethical well of being amongst a relative handful of buyers who buy with conscience yet are too few to influence the market. Is it a case of the power of one, or a hundred monkeys? Could be. And it could eventually make a long-lived change in the fashion world, unlike dead fads that were based on celebrity rather than conscience.

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