9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN05 Sociology of Consumption

2009-09-05 13:30:00 2009-09-05 15:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 13:30 - 15:00 Consumption Practices Building II, C5.01

The rise of ethical fashion: a sociological perspective

Since the early nineteen imitation and distinction has been recognised as relevant in the functioning of fashion: indeed Simmel described fashion as one of the many forms of life through which people is trying to merge the tendency towards social equalization with the desire for individual differentiation and change (Simmel, 1904). Further, the existence of fashion relies upon a stratified society, in which imitation acts as a driver for people belonging to the lower part of society toward an higher social status, and distinction as a way for people belonging to the upper classes to distinguish themselves. Nowadays, consumers can rely on many very different fashions? styles to differentiate themselves and ethical fashion is one the most popular. In the last years there have been ethical fashion shows all over the world (i. e. Paris, Milan, London and New York) and most of the popular fashion brands have produced clothes line made with organic cotton (i.e. Zara and H&M).
The aim of the paper is to analyse the surge of ethical fashion verifying if it is rooted on an real quest for ethics or if it?s simply a marketing tool. Furthermore, the paper will explore how ethical fashion can satisfy the need of consumers toward an ethical way of consumption, as largely testified from the spread of ethical consumption in many other fields (food, tourism, bank services) and, at the same time, comply to the struggle between the two forces than characterize fashion even in Western contemporary societies, surely less stratified than in the past.

Georg S. (1904), "Fashion", International Quarterly, 10(1), October 1904, pp. 130-155.