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