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Fashion 101: The Fashion Supply Chain

Fashion 101: The Fashion Supply Chain

By Alexandra SUHNER ISENBERG Editor-at-Large

Photo courtesy of

This Fashion 101 is going to explain a bit about how the fashion supply chain works, and why it is so difficult and complicated to produce truly "eco" or "ethical" fashion.

If you'd like some background reading on the subject of eco or ethical fashion, I'd suggest you read this interesting article from Business of Fashion, which looks at the "What it means to be green" and "Does sustainability sell?"

In my opinion, one of the important aspects of eco and ethical fashion is transparency, and transparency involves knowing and understand the process and materials involved in making a garment, and making sure that this is done with the least damage to the environment and ensuring good working conditions for the people involved. The problem with fashion is that it is close to impossible to know every aspect of this process and all of the materials involved. I'll start with a comparison. Organic and fairtrade food is has become hugely popular in the past few years, to the point where most groceries stores carry a selection of organic and/or fairtrade products. Let's compare food and fashion.

My aunt and cousins run an organic vegetable and fruit farm, and their main business is organic raspberries (I stuffed my face full of them picked straight off the plant this weekend when I went to visit them. Delicious.) The raspberries are grown locally, here in the Fraser Valley. The raspberries are then packaged into boxes, which are made locally. Nearly all of their customers are based within driving distance of the farm, and my cousin makes the deliveries in person. So the supply chain is very simple, the raspberries are grown in British Columbia, they are consumed in British Columbia, and the packaging comes is made in British Columbia. Yes, there are a few variables, such as the source of the paper used to make the boxes, the tractors on the farm, etc... but on the most part, we know who and what was involved in getting that raspberry to the more





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