Economically Ethical In Order to be Environmentally Sustainable

Creating A Solution

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The clothing industry is worth $3 trillion USD annually and is expected to see double digit growth in the next ten years. How to make its production and this massive industry as a whole more ethical and sustainable is an answer many are looking for. Efaisto wants to be part of the solution. But some say we are still part of the problem. While we provide an ethical solution for our makers, the question of our environmental ethics remains. We sell products made from genuine leather and materials not certified as organic. Can Efaisto still be considered as “slow fashion”?

Not Organic, But Still Slow

Having officially launched efaisto.com a couple months ago, we are busy building a brand with a core mission to change consumption habits and the shopping experience all while economically empowering the makers we work with. We are empowering consumers and producers alike with our ecommerce marketplace for custom-made goods made by passionate artisans from South East Asia. Our model allows for makers to earn higher incomes, for customers to purchase affordable, high-quality bespoke fashion and generates less waste.

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We are very proud of the ethical work we are doing and are encouraged by the positive feedback we have received from the Vietnamese and international communities alike. Among the many encouraging remarks, we have also gotten feedback questioning our motivations and the environmental aspects of our products. We welcome such comments as constructive criticism that help us to continue improving our brand and vision into the most impactful it can be. Such feedback has primarily questioned our intentions behind starting such a business, throwing accusations about ulterior capitalist motives masked behind social good and the ethics of the materials the makers use to make the goods .

These comments have forced us to confront how we define slow fashion and how we view our role in changing consumer and producer habits in more environmentally friendly ways. Efaisto is built around three core principals: making fashion custom-made, fair and affordable. The questions we have received have made us think about the second principal. What is fair? And how does Efaisto define fair? Are our goods slow even though we use leather?

To clarify, slow fashion is a movement that is centered around buying products based on longevity and quality over quantity. It promotes higher wages, lower carbon footprints, slower production. Exactly what Efaisto stands for. For some, however, it is not simply about high quality goods, but goods with specific qualities. The material must be organic and vegan, however,  because many of our products are leather and others are not certified organic, does that mean Efaisto is not slow? Should we discredit the impact our company and others like ours are having because we do not meet this criteria?

Economically Ethical Vs. Environmentally Ethical

In an ideal world, fair would be all-encompassing: fair to the people and the environment and economically viable. That ideal scenario is what we strive for, but right now it is not feasible. As Vu Quang astutely pointed out:

“Many young ethical brands fail, because their brand is focusing too much on activism, marketing their fashion through its ethical quality only, while what sells for a fashion brand (however ethical it is) is design and trend relevance. And business efficiency.”

While we think the mindset of activists can be profitable, as a start-up in its infancy, we are focused on establishing a viable and ethical business. We are determined not to end up as another example of what Quang is talking about.

In order to one day be ethical in all senses of the word, we must focus on being economically ethical first. Without proper economic resources, our makers cannot be environmentally conscious. Because Vietnam is one of the largest leather producers in the world, sourcing  environmentally conscious products is a tricky process. Without sufficient resources or the correct knowledge, makers do not have the ability to be more aware when purchasing their materials. Efaisto creates a partnership that begins to establish those resources by increasing their incomes and establishing humane working conditions as the norm.

Not only are we impacting the makers, but we aim to impact consumers, as well. Right now, the global fashion market is unsustainable, unethical and depleting environmental resources at unprecedented rates. By tackling how people shop we can begin to reverse the damage without sacrificing the experience of the consumer. Our goods create less waste, no surplus inventory and longer product lifespans all while creating a personalized experience for our customer. Our model has the potential to alter perceptions of fashion and its disposability and render the idea of production waste obsolete. It does not happen overnight, however. Change takes time.

It Is A Process: Not Slow, but Slower

Efaisto is not vegan. It is not organic. Not yet. We think it is slow, however. Rather than ignoring the unsustainable practices that are the norm in fashion, we are changing them one step at a time. And by making it economically viable, we are not masking capitalist intentions. Rather, we are creating a sustainable and realistic solution. Efaisto is the profitable solution with the potential to benefit all customers and makers alike.

Efaisto is reducing waste with every sale made. In our minds that is slow fashion. We are selling slow fashion with the potential to be even slower, so to speak. In our minds, sustainability is the only option. Right now the world is consuming in ways that have become uncontrollable. Regaining control means gradually slowing down first. Sustainable measures first require the resources to implement them. Before Efaisto can be environmentally ethical we must be economically ethical.

As readers, what are your thoughts on slow fashion, making the industry more ethical and our definition of it?

*Bernard Seys is cofounder and CEO at Efaisto.com. This text was co-written with the help of his two dedicated communication specialists, Marie Van den Berghe and Margot Langstaff.

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About the Author

Bernard Seys is cofounder and CEO at Efaisto.com, an eCommerce marketplace that makes fashion 1) bespoke, 2) fair and 3) affordable by connecting customers around the world with passionate makers in South-East Asia, putting human at the center of the commercial transaction.

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