THURSDAY, 15 JUNE 2017, KUALA LUMPUR: Local ethical fashion industry can be part of the global supply chain provided more industry players are taking part in the initiative to be able to meet the world demand. This was what transpired at the briefing titled “Why does Ethical Fashion Matter?” jointly organised by Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) and Earth Heir Partners Sdn Bhd, a social enterprise that is involved in premium handicraft goods produced through ethical process.
The session held today was organised to enhance the awareness on sustainable model of the fashion industry among Malaysian fashion designers and manufacturers. The briefing, attended by 50 participants, involved a panel of speakers who are experts in the ethical fashion industry who shared the outlook of the ethical fashion industry in Malaysia as well as opportunities available for the players globally.
MATRADE as the trade promotion organisation encourages local companies to incorporate social values in the ecosystem, while at the same time exploring and tapping into the growing global demand for ethical fashion products. Ethical fashion encompasses an approach to the design, sourcing and manufacturing of clothing and accessories such as shoes, handbags as well as handicrafts that maximises benefits to the community, while minimising impact on the environment.
According to MATRADE’s Lifestyle Director En. Abu Bakar Yusof, ethical fashion is fast gaining traction around the world and there is a shift of demand in the European, Australian and North American markets. “Consumer behaviours are leaning towards ethical fashion designers and manufacturers as there is a big risk to reputational damage from the practice of unethical fashion. This has resulted in a lot of designers re-evaluating their sourcing options. Countries with higher ethical standards are beginning to capture a stronger buying power in this trillion-dollar industry. These benchmarks of ethical practice have become a prerequisite for the growing market, and fashion that is unable to comply with ethical fashion will soon no longer be able to compete,” said En Abu Bakar.
“Ethical fashion will not only positively impact the local society but also brings greater value to the products particularly in the international market where customers are willing to pay higher price for such premium products, which are made using ethical practices,”En Abu Bakar mentioned and added that MATRADE supports the initiatives by local social enterprises that attempt to adopt ethical process in their operation.
According to Ms Sasibai Kimis, Founder of Earth Heir Partners, ethical fashion has entered the mainstream industry and is securing its place internationally. “Paris, London, Berlin and New York have introduced fashion shows dedicated solely to ethical and sustainable fashion. Malaysia should not be left behind as international fashion retailers are unwilling to compromise on ethical values and have begun to seriously question all aspects of the supply chain,” said Ms Sasibai.
The global market for ethical fashion has quadrupled in the last four years and is growing steadily. In the United Kingdom, for instance, the ethical fashion industry rose 29% in 2016, valued at GB£1.80 billion. In China, more brands are actively looking at production facilities that meet ethical standards of materials, labour practices and working environment. Due to the industry’s infancy stage in Malaysia, there have yet to be any data collated.
MATRADE urges Malaysian fashion producers to be more aware on the latest market trends around the world to improve their competitiveness. Malaysian companies that are keen to know more or have updates on ethical fashion may contact MATRADE for discussions.