Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ethical designer Hamnett enjoys fashionable return

ROME (Reuters Life!) - British designer Katharine Hamnett is relishing a comeback now that the fashi
Hamnett stormed off the fashion step four years ago subsequent to her pleas to use organic cotton fell on deaf ears.

But the designer whose oversized T-shirts in on slogans like "Choose Life" and "Use a Condom" were all the rage in the 1980s is enjoying a return now which "ethical fashion" is in vogue.

"Years ago when I was talking about this I was a voice in the wilderness and now I have purchasers come up to me and say 'Oh, you were better all along,"' Hamnett said in an interview at Rome form week, where she was promoting ethical fashion.

Once a fixture on the London catwalk scene, Hamnett severed her contracts with licensees in 2004 to commit how she calls "commercial suicide" and headed back to selling T-shirts when her social and environmental initiatives drew miniscule amount support.

Today, she is not only enjoying a revival of the slogan t-shirt look -- actress Sarah Jessica Parker wore one in the "Sex & the City" movie -- but also plans to launch an "ethical denim" jeans line so proves ethical doesn't mean frumpy.

"It's got to be make first, and then environment," claimed Hamnett, who produced a stir by meeting British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984 in a T-shirt emblazoned with "58 percent don't want Pershing," in a reference to U.S. nuclear missiles.

"Nobody's going to buy clothes out of pity, you're going to buy clothes because you look for them, it's something that instigates you feel great, it's not anything that is kinda black and lumpy."

Hamnett's return comes as Western shoppers increasingly demand clothing made without sweatshop or child labor and develop a fondness for environmentally-sound fabrics that are made with recycled equipment or cotton grown without pesticides.

Once the domain of a few niche labels, today mainstream brands and large retailers have all hopped on the "organically made" and socially responsible clothing bandwagon.

Hamnett reports she is convinced the demand for this type of clothing is a lasting trend and not easily a passing fad because it is driven by consumers -- a voice the fashion industry can't afford to ignore within the duration of an industry downturn.

"Consumer fuel is finally incrementing its ugly head. It's want the sleeping giant too is waking up," she said.

"My experience is you try to difference the create arena from the inside and they say "f... off" but talk to my dentist, doctor, and others and they're desire 'Oh my God.' You appreciate people are very kind-hearted."

She's also trying to convince designers the present going ethical makes arena sense.

She lists studies showing companies that followed ethical practices were a good deal more profitable and favored by consumers and says organic cotton adds only 5 percent to the cost of a t-shirt but raises profits for poor cotton farmers by 50 percent.

"Industry is in such a bad way, this is the only new thing properties haven't tried," she says, referring to the global economical slowdown that is biting into profits at apparel houses.

"It's the new big thing."

As for critics who question designers who fly to fancy parties, stay at luxury hotels and gobbledygook about saving cotton farmers dying of hunger in Africa and India?

Hamnett says she has reinvested everything into her projects for ethical fashion and continually searches for a easier life.

"I always thought that you ought to be celebrated by being a bad person," she said. "The problem is to do it making a terrific person."

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