DC Fashion Week Pays Tribute to Fair Trade

Designers endorse better wages and working conditions

Fashion for a cause was the theme of DC Fashion Week’s kick-off show, Fair Trade Collections.

More than 20 designers, retailers, wholesalers, and producers from Asia, Latin America, and Africa were represented in the show hosted by Fashion 4 Development, an organization that promotes the work of designers and retailers who represent socially conscious brands.

Priya Patel, co-founder of Fashion 4 Development, said that it is important to raise awareness about fair trade, a system designed to reduce global poverty and increase the quality of life in communities where goods are produced. Organizers work to encourage fair wages, ensure a healthy work environment, and supply financial and technical support.

“We are trying to empower the individuals who produce textiles,” Patel said. “People come and watch the fashion show, but we want them to relate it back to development.”

Designers such as Global Mamas, Unique Batik, and Sangam Design presented their fall 2007 collections that included woven handbags, tunic tops, and cocktail dresses. Fluorescent pinks, pastel blues, and jewel tone purples accentuated the handmade fashions.

The featured designer of the evening, Knaf Couture by Kayda Nana Afriyie Frimpong from Ghana, showed her support for fair trade by providing her clients with custom-made designs that she produces herself. Frimpong said that she wanted to introduce other cultures to the Ghanaian style of dress

“My collection has Westernized styles with Ghanaian fabric,” Frimpong said. “It’s swanky and urbanized, but traditional. It’s just a really nice blend.”

According to Fashion for Development, one in six of the world’s population is employed by the clothing or textile industry, and many of them are under-age, poorly paid and forced to work in hazardous conditions.

Ean Williams, executive director and founder of DC Fashion Week, said that the clothing in the Fair Trade Collections fashion show was produced by designers who support fair trade.

“The show confirms the designers’ commitment to the communities and shows that they are respectful of the people handling the clothing,” Williams said. “The designers can feel good about themselves because they are enriching someone else’s life.”