Oh the Pakistani fashion industry. Is there any aspect of local glamour that divides public opinion more? Between the moral police and the extravagant designers, the local industry never lacks controversy. But amidst the hate, have we overlooked untapped potential? Have we overlooked how we can benefit from ethical fashion?
What is ethical fashion?
It is a movement to manufacture clothes without hurting the environment and the people. It entails that workers earn fair wages and are not exploited. Think anti-sweatshop.
In Pakistan though, ethical fashion can’t stop there. If you look at Pakistan’s history, textiles, clothes and fashion have always been important. The ajrak cloth for example continues to be the single most recognizable Sindhi artifact. Similar statements can be made about other materials. However, these practices are also slowly dying. Because a lot of our traditional crafts rely on handiwork, they are slow to produce. This means that in a fast-fashion based industry, such crafts cannot meet the demand.
Thus, ethical fashion for Pakistan has to take local practices into account. The most socially conscious brands then focus not just on their environmental impact and worker wages, but also on our heritage.
Potential and Reality
The true potential of ethical fashion hasn’t been realized. Certainly not in Pakistan. There is talk about how important culture is and staying true to our roots. A lot of designers claim to be inspired by traditions. But only a handful take the leap and actually giver back to culture. Ethical fashion could help preserve or even revive cultural crafts, but it continues to be the road least travelled.