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Eco Fashion Paper

One very important in the evolution of early humans was the act of decorating the body. All known cultures embellish the body either with marks on the skin or clothing (Entwistle 2001: 33). Body adornment recognizes the individual as a person and communicates aspects of his or her personal and social identity. In the 21st century, fashion as body adornment is still a universal part of a person’s everyday experience (Entwistle 2001: 41-43) yet, there is no one specific definition of fashion. Social scientists, philosophers and gender theorists present distinct understandings of the complexities of the fashion system.

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The modern definitions of fashion are derived from the foundational works of Bourdieu (1984), Veblen (1899) and Simmel (1957), who discussed fashion as a tool for social class distinction. Social class is just one element in the study of fashion in the 21st century, where gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and subculture affiliation play equally influential roles in the meaning production of dress (Andrew 2008; Calefato 2004; Crane 2000; Crane and Bovone 2006; Clark and Turner 2007; Entwistle 2001; Kaiser 1997; Swain 2003; Taylor 1997; Tompson and Hayiko 1997).

The notion of fashion as a non-verbal communication system is discussed by Barthes (1990, 2006), Calefato (2004), Entwistle (2001), Kaiser (1997), Crane (2000) and Taylor (1997) through the use of semiotics in their analysis of fashion, and their focus on the ways that fashion communicates the wears identity in the daily application of dress. The commonly held notion of fashion as superficial is addressed with its connection to modernity by Kawamura (2005) and Taylor (1997) in their discussion of the constant fluctuations in trends and social drive for reinvention.

With no common understanding of what fashion is, the studies and theories surrounding the praxis of fashion are expansive and often contradictory. The scholarly research on fashion that does not relate to a specific study focuses on three main questions. What is fashion and how do dress, dressing, clothing and costume fit into that definition (Barthes 1990, 2006; Calefato 2004; Crane 2000; Entwistle 2001; Kaiser 1997; Kawamuya 2005; and Taylor 1997).

What are the social meanings of styles, body modification, and individual garments (Atkinson 2003; Barthes 1990, 2006; Calefato 2004; Crane 2000; Gage 2002; Kaiser 1997; Kawamuya 2005; Mufflin 1997; Pitts 2003 and Taylor 1997). What roles does the society take in that meaning making process either in conjunction or in contrast to the role of the individual (Barthes 1990, 2006; Calefato 2004; Crane 2000; Cromwell 1999; Entwistle 2001; Kaiser 1997; Kawamuya 2005; Mufflin 1997; Pitts 2003; Taylor 1997 and Zita 1992).

Other related questions addressed are what is an identity (Bornstien 1994, 1998; Butler 2004, Cuomo; Fergeston; Taylor 1997 and Zita 1992), how does fashion effect identity recognition (Barthes 1990, 2006; Calefato 2004; Crane 2000; Cromwell 1999; Entwistle 2001; Gage 2002; Kaiser 1997; Kawamuya 2005 and Taylor 1997) and what are the power dynamics embedded in social recognition of an identity (Atkinson 2003; Bornstien 1994, 1998; Butler 2004; Clare 1999; Cromwell 1999, Entwistle 2001; Foucault 1978; Mifflin 1997; Pitts 2003 and Zita 1992).

Postmodernism’s deconstruction of identity extends to fashion, since fashion is an articulation of that identity (Entwistle 2001; Pitts 2003; Zita 1992). The emphasis of the studies on the lived experiences of people participating in the complexities of fashion is useful to see how the ideas of the theorist play out. The most recent study I found, explores the communication capacity of textiles, focusing on fiber type association (Andrew 2008).

Clarke and Turner (2007) and Tompson and Hayiko (1997) study the meanings individuals recognize and employ to construct identities in their social subcultures. The material culture elements of fashion drive Crane and Bovone’s research (2006). Kawamura (2005) separates fashion from the daily act of clothing the body and emphasizes the role of designers and the hierarchy of the fashion industry in producing meaning. Swain (2003) explores the role of the body in the identity construction of young boys.

Saiki and Makela (2007) diagram garments similar to Kroeber in 1919 to see how design proportion affects social climate (Crane 2000). The studies used a variety of sampling and data collection techniques. Studies that used human participants conducted some form of interview with a sample under 200 people (Andrew 2008; Clarke and Turner 2007; Kawamura 2005; and Swain 2003). The other studies used images from fashion magazines (Saiki and Makela 2007), or actual fabric swatches (Andrew 2008) to collect data rom. The references that did not perform studies formulated their argument based on discussions of the concepts and theories mentioned above. These studies had a few limitations. Studies were often performed with only students (Clarke and Turner 2007; Tompson and Hayiko 1997), which is not a representative age bracket for greater society. There was also an unsubstantiated assumption that all people want to participate in the class status hierarchy that fashion promotes (Kawamuya 2005; Simmel 1954).

There were common ideas and theories used in the analysis of the studies’ findings. The most common idea discussed is the interrelationship of fashion and identity construction (Bourdieu 1984; Clark and Turner 2007; Crane and Bovone 2006; Kawamura 2005; Pitts 2003; Simmel 1957; Swain 2003; and Tompson and Hayiko 1997). In an attempt to understand the symbolic meanings of garments many studies employed semiotics or touched on its concepts (Andrew 2008; Bourdieu 1984; Crane and Bovone 2006; Clarke and Turner 2007; Swain 2003; and Tompson and Hayiko 1997).

Postmodernism was used with and in contention to a somatic analysis of fashion (Kawamura 2005 and Tompson and Hayiko 1997). The overlap of fashion culture and material culture was used as a methodology source by Andrew (2008), Crane and Bovone (2006), Kawamura (2005), and Tompson and Hayiko (1997). A few studies employed more traditional sociology frameworks of structuralism, poststructuralism, symbolic interaction and phenomenology (Bourdieu 1984; Kawamura 2005; Simmel 1957 and Tompson and Hayiko 1997).

Many of the above works come to similar conclusions regardless of their divided beginnings. Pitts (2003) discussion on subversive bodies concluded with two main points; first that the person needs to remain at the forefront of semiotic analysis of fashion, which is in line with Entwistle’s (2001) conclusion that dress is a practice of the body on to the body, Kaiser’s (1997) disscusion of fashionable bodies and Taylor’s (1997) presentation of fashion, which begins at the layer of skin.

Pitts (2003) second point that the postmodernist conceptions of identity require awareness of the interplay of authoritative power and resistance is inline with the findings of Clarke and Turner (2007), Tompson and Hayiko (1997), and the stance of Atkinson (2003), Bornstein (1994, 1998) Butler (2004), Foucault (1978), Taylor (1997), and Zita (1992). Andrew (2008) concluded that the cultural understanding of the cloth is more meaningful than the cloth itself. Taylor (1997) suggests that fashion situates bodies in the unavoidable temporality of life.

The only conclusion that all the scholars’ work agrees on is that fashion effects the lives of individuals and that fashion is effected by the choices of individual. Eco-fashion brings together new perspectives for the field of fashion studies, asking a compelling set of research questions related to consumption practices and sustainability at a time of environmental crisis. The volume begins with a brief discussion of keywords used by the industry and theorists to address ecological fashion practices, including the rationale behind the usage of ‘eco-fashion. Articles throughout the volume address natural looks that emerged in the 1960s era, recycling and the appeal of ‘slow fashion,’ the rise of ‘green as the new black’ at the beginning of the twenty-first century, and the science that inspires the making of environmentally conscious garments. Other articles show how these ideas are linked to mass-market trends in the globalized political economy, offering important connections for scholars who seek to bridge fashion theory with the issues of environmental concern and global studies. Conceptually this article asks if the slow approach can offer a sustainable solution for fashion.

Clark’s (2008)Three “lines of reflection” are addressed: the valuing of local resources and distributed economies; transparent production systems with less intermediation between producer and consumer; and sustainable and sensorial products that have a longer usable life and are more highly valued than typical “consumables. ” Each is investigated using examples that address possible global dominance of fast fashion, providing more sustainable ways of approaching fashion, and concentrate on the implication of fashion as actual material garments, which can be used and discarded.

Clark’s (2008) approaches mentioned simultaneously challenge existing hierarchies of designer, producer, and consumer; questioning the notion of fashion being concerned only with the new; confront fashion’s reliance on image; present fashion as a choice instead of as a mandate; and highlight the collaborative/cooperative work—providing agency especially to women. This article addresses the branding and marketing of eco-fashion/ethical fashion, juxtaposing the experiences of today’s, often confused, fashion consumers, against the promotional methodologies used by, sometimes equally confused, fashion brands.

Looking at the journey of ethical fashion, this article takes into consideration, the factors that have influenced this. The lifestyle and societal indicators that effect consumer behavior and purchasing eco-fashion are also investigated. In answer to this theoretical discussion, this article concludes with a look on today’s materialization of the branding and promotion of eco-fashion, and the challenges ahead that both fashion brands, and consumers, face in the continuing and sustaining of eco-fashion.


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