Emulate ethical fashion to meet global demand, says Matrade

By PREMALATHA JAYARAMAN

Local fashion industry players should be involved in ethical fashion practice in designing and manufacturing their products as it is fast gaining traction around the world, said Malaysia External Trade Development Corp (Matrade).

Matrade lifestyle director Abu Bakar Yusof said 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.

He said ethical fashion encompasses an approach to the design, sourcing and manufacturing of clothing and accessories such as shoes, handbags and handicraft that maximise benefits to the community, while minimising impact on the environment.

Abu Bakar said there is a shift of demand in the European, Australian and North American markets.

“The global market for ethical fashion has quadrupled in the last four years and is growing steadily.

We urge Malaysian fashion producers to be more aware of the latest market trends around the world to improve their competitiveness,” he told reporters at a briefing on “Why does ethical fashion matter?” yesterday.

The briefing, attended by 50 participants, involved a panel of speakers who are experts in the ethical fashion industry and shared the outlook of the ethical fashion industry in Malaysia and the opportunities available for the players globally.

In the UK, Abu Bakar said the ethical fashion industry rose 29% in 2016.

“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 is yet to be any data collected,” he said.

Abu Bakar said consumer behaviours are leaning towards ethical fashion designers and manufacturers as there is a big risk of reputational damage from the practice of unethical fashion.

This has resulted in a lot of designers re-evaluating their sourcing options.

“Countries with high 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 no longer be able to compete,” he said.

Founder of Earth Heir Partners Sdn Bhd Sasibai Kimis said 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,” she said.

Earth Heir Partners is a social enterprise that is involved in premium handicraft goods produced through ethical process.