Friday 16th September 2011

Why Stella's & Vivienne's Ethics Don't Measure Up

The ethics of fashion's favourite ethical champions Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood have been stripped bare in a new report from Ethical Consumer Magazine.

In a buyers' guide comparing the ethics of luxury fashion brands, launched to coincide with London Fashion Week, McCartney comes next to the bottom of our ethical rating table.

Full marks for Stella championing animal rights but the bad news is that Gucci, the company that owns the McCartney brand sanctions the use of fur in many of its other fashion brands. Plus Gucci has neither an environmental nor supply chain policy in place meaning that it's not addressing its environmental impact or protecting the workers that makes its clothes.

It's the same story for fashion's other ethical pin-up Vivienne Westwood. Whilst Dame Vivienne may be personally committed to fighting climate change her company has no environmental policy in place to reduce the global warming impact of its operations.

Most of the world's biggest and most elite fashion houses now gathered in London for London Fashion Week are in a similar position. It seems that despite their multi-billion pound empires few will be sparing a thought for the workers who make their clothes or the environment.

According to Ethical Consumer's new buyers' guide to luxury clothing brands they all pay virtually no regard to corporate ethics and have yet to take even the first steps on reporting on the social and environmental impact of their operations.

Whilst high street brands such as Gap and Primark have long been the target of anti-sweat shop campaigners, luxury brands from Armani to Valentino have largely managed to evade the ethical spotlight and have yet to be inconvenienced by reputation-damaging sweatshop scandals.

We believe that it's unacceptable to charge such high premiums for clothing which hasn't been produced in a fair and responsible way and we call on luxury brand companies to wake up to their ethical and environmental responsibilities.

The reality is that in terms of ethics, luxury clothing brands are now being outperformed by a number of high street clothing companies who sell clothing at vastly lower mark-ups.

Buyers' Guide author Bryony Moore said:
“Stella McCartney and Vivenne Westwood are held up as ethical heroes in the designer world. While they might be talking the talk, they're failing to walk the walk. I'm sure fans of these brands will be severely disappointed to learn that their ethics are only skin deep.

However, they are far from the only designer brands performing badly. As our report shows, most of these companies make no mention at all of their environmental and social impacts. It is shocking that the companies commanding the highest profits are the ones doing the least to reduce their social and environmental impacts. Even some of the lower scoring companies in our buyers' guide to high street brands are doing more than these designer brands.
It seems as though they are stuck in a bygone era where talking about such things is seen as unsexy. However, in 2011 this couldn't be further from the truth. The luxury fashion sector needs to wake up to the fact that more and more shoppers today want to know the products they buy have been produced fairly.”

Ethical Consumer magazine is asking luxury fashion companies to stop hiding behind their beautiful but vacuous image and step up to the plate. They must start regularly reporting on, and taking steps to reduce, their impacts on the environment and committing to provide decent conditions for workers.

Notes to Editors

In Ethical Consumer buyers' guide to high street clothing released earlier this month
only Marks and Spencer gained a top rating for their environmental policy meaning that the company has made at least a basic commitment to addressing its environmental impacts.

Overall though if you're wanting to buy clothes which have been ethically produced then you're not going to find them anywhere on the high street. Instead go online to visit one of the 13 companies which we rated as being a best buy, a list which includes Bishopston Trading, Gossypium and Greenfibres.

You can find the guide to Luxury fashion here

There is a free copy of the clothes shops report here (for press only)

You can find the alternative clothing guide here

For quotes or more information please call

Bryony Moore on 0161 226 2929