Fash­ion­ing a Sus­tain­able Fu­ture

Pro­mot­ing eth­i­cal fash­ion is quickly be­com­ing a new fad in South Asia.

Southasia - - Fashion - By Aye­sha Mustafa

The South Asian fash­ion in­dus­try is grow­ing rapidly and so­cially re­spon­si­ble fash­ion is open­ing doors for woman ar­ti­sans to earn com­pet­i­tive liveli­hoods, trans­lat­ing into im­prove­ments in their house­holds and com­mu­ni­ties. Fash­ion Com­Pas­sion, an eth­i­cal fash­ion re­tailer, has been set up to pro­vide a world­wide plat­form for ap­parel and ac­ces­sories in the eth­i­cal fash­ion genre.

South Asia as a re­gion is prone to pa­tri­ar­chal at­ti­tudes and more than of­ten con­fines women to tra­di­tional roles thus stunt­ing, and in most cases prevent­ing, any scope for en­trepreneur­ship or ed­u­ca­tion. In other cases, where women run small-scale en­ter­prises from their homes, they are of­ten fi­nan­cially ex­ploited and earn mea­ger wages that fail to meet their ba­sic needs. The re­gion as a whole har­bors con­sid­er­able po­ten­tial but ini­tia­tives that pro­mote fe­male em­pow­er­ment are largely ab­sent.

Pro­mot­ing eth­i­cal fash­ion in South Asia, Fash­ion Com­Pas­sion has re­ceived con­sid­er­able sup­port and recog­ni­tion from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. By work­ing from this plat­form, brands from the de­vel­op­ing world ef­fec­tively gain ac­cess to new mar­kets. En­hanced com­mu­ni­ca­tion and dis­tri-

bu­tion in­tro­duces skills train­ing and prod­uct devel­op­ment thus equip­ping ar­ti­sans to be­come self-suf­fi­cient and gain pros­per­ity, ed­u­ca­tion and pro­fes­sional dig­nity.

Aye­sha Mustafa is the brain be­hind the ini­tia­tive and draws her in­spi­ra­tion from an in­tern­ship ex­pe­ri­ence at Grameen Bank at age 16. Mustafa aimed to cre­ate a sus­tain­able fash­ion com­pany that could gen­er­ate a pos­i­tive in­flu­ence, while re­main­ing a prof­itable busi­ness in­stead of a char­ity that de­pends on ‘pity’ buy­ing.

In­spired to merge fash­ion and busi­ness to usher in pos­i­tive change in en­trepreneur­ship and con­sumerism, Fash­ion Com­Pas­sion aims to em­pow- er women while do­nat­ing a per­cent­age of sales to char­i­ties. This year, it is link­ing with the United Na­tions World Food Pro­gram. As per the part­ner­ship, each pur­chase pro­vides un­der­privi- leged women of the Neelum Val­ley in Pak­istan with vocational and skill devel­op­ment train­ing. In ad­di­tion, the par­tic­i­pat­ing brands also con­trib­ute

di­rectly to their com­mu­ni­ties in ef­forts such as re­viv­ing the tra­di­tional crafts in Lucknow, pro­vid­ing em­ploy­ment for wid­ows in Bangladesh and rais­ing money for var­i­ous Afghan NGOs.

Fash­ion Com­Pas­sion works with so­cial en­ter­prises to pro­mote ed­u­ca­tion, em­ploy­ment and self-sus­tain­abil­ity, while pro­vid­ing train­ing to oth­er­wise marginal­ized and un­der­priv­i­leged women ar­ti­sans. Ex­quis­ite, hand-crafted prod­ucts high­light rich in­dige­nous cul­tures and tech­niques, which are pack­aged in a con­tem­po­rary style and pal­ette. Brands fea­tured in Fash­ion Com­Pas­sion’s lineup have been worn by A-list celebri­ties like Livia Firth, Eva Lon­go­ria and Anne Hath­away and have re­ceived cov­er­age in lead­ing in­ter­na­tional pub­li­ca­tions and TV shows.

Fash­ion Com­Pas­sion works with no­table so­cially re­spon­si­ble lux­ury brands from South Asia such as Beshtar, Bhalo, Gu­nas and Lost City.

Fash­ion Com­Pas­sion launched in Pak­istan this Oc­to­ber fea­tur­ing Mid­dle East­ern brands such as Pale-Style, Nawa and Sougha made with pre­mium leather and high-end de­sign sen­si­bil­i­ties. The prod­ucts are avail­able at multi­brand bou­tiques such as En­sem­ble and L’Ate­lier and on­line at La­bels’ E-store, with a por­tion of the sales go­ing to­wards the UNWFP.

In ad­di­tion to pro­vid­ing re­tail ac­cess, Fash­ion Com­Pas­sion’s foot­print in Pak­istan is also geared to pos­i­tively af­fect­ing the Pak­istani fash­ion in­dus­try to de­velop a more so­cially re­spon­si­ble at­ti­tude with fair wages so that brands can be lux­u­ri­ous with a strong so­cial man­date to pos­i­tively im­pact com­mu­ni­ties, so­cial en­trepreneur­ship and the en­vi­ron­ment. Through its own ex­am­ple, the ini­tia­tive aims to il­lus­trate that la­bels can pro­vide ar­ti­sans with train­ing, health­care, ed­u­ca­tion and child­care so that they can com­pete with the world’s finest fash­ion brands as well as be­come en­trepreneurs in their own right, all within the cul­tural frame­work of each com­mu­nity.

Con­sumers who pur­chase from Fash­ion Com­Pas­sion’s web­site, popup stores and re­tail dis­plays di­rectly con­trib­ute to­wards the so­cioe­co­nomic devel­op­ment and mo­bil­ity of de­vel­op­ing com­mu­ni­ties. Eth­i­cal fash­ion cov­ers many as­pects that con­trib­ute to­wards pros­per­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity as well as the preser­va­tion and pro­mo­tion of en­dan­gered tech­niques handed down over gen­er­a­tions. With the ex­pan­sion of glob­al­iza­tion, it be­comes in­creas­ingly im­por­tant to safe­guard hered­i­tary art by ex­pos­ing it to new mar­kets and new eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Aye­sha Mustafa is the Founder & Di­rec­tor of Fash­ion Com­Pas­sion, a so­cially re­spon­si­ble com­pany that pro­vides a plat­form to brands that are eco-friendly and so­cially con­scious.

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