Polish Ethical Fashion

How Bangladesh's tragedy had an influence in Poland

Have you ever considered if the catastrophe in Rana Plaza, Bangladesh had any impact on people? I found myself thinking that it has, especially seeing the advertisements for cheap clothing chain stores, looking at the shopping spree on sales and finally talking to people who say they like fashion and they are familiar with it. And do you know what? It has been a year from the tragedy, and I can see the changes, not any major ones, but more and more often people who realize what happened, take the voice and say STOP to the tragedies like this one. All these people introduce us to the new era—the ethics era.

I would like to introduce to all of you one of them. Lidia Panfil on 24th April 2013 was both a clerk in one of the Polish cities and the fashion lover— a month later, she created her own clothing brand called Uncommon Ethical Streetwear, promoting a socially-responsible fashion. I had the opportunity to Interview Lidia Panfil, on April 20, 2014, in Olsztyn City, Poland New Fashion Streetwear–Ethical Streetwear. Below is my interview:

Marta Belkiewicz: In the era of sweatshops, ethical production is neither popular nor easy. Why did you decide to launch your own ethical fashion label?

Lidia Panfil: On one hand, it was growing in me for many years, but on the other hand it was an impulse. I have been watching the companies for many years and most of them were far from calling themseles socially responsible; the fate of the workers and the environment was indifferent to them. I remember, I promised to myself, that one day I would build my own company and this one would be different. Later, when the media delivered the news about tragedies in the clothing industry in Asia that when the impulse took over.  I told myself that it had to be changed, and I could contribute. I left my job and started ethical fashion on a full-time basis. I like street style and created ethical streetwear fashion clothes.

MB: Tell me more about Ethical Streetwear. What exactly makes this style? 

LP: Ethical streetwear style, as I said before, it is street fashion, created in a spirit of ethics. It stands out above all certified materials, ecological design, responsible manufacturing and eco-marketing. I do not do everything by myself; I get strong support from my co-workers. Altogether, we try our best to make sure our work is correct and respectful for the other people and the environment. We try to design the clothes that are durable and fashionable for more than one season. For production we use only knitwears made in Poland and certified by OEKO-TEX Standard 100 – which means that these textiles are free of pesticides, chlorophenols, formaldehyde, allergenic dyes and heavy metals.

In the near future, we would like to introduce a line of organic cotton certified GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard). Uncommon has also eco-friendly marketing. The company gave up the idea of printing promotional materials, limited packaging and uses boxes made of waste paper. These are the main pillars of Uncommon Ethical Streetwear.

MB: How do customers react to ethical fashion? Are they interested in clothes like these?

LP: There is no boom on ethical fashion yet, but I can see more and more interest in it. My clients are primarily women who are very self-aware and the world around them, often businesswomen. From the point of view of promoting ethical fashion, that's good, because these women often set trends. It is important for them, what they wear, where it was produced and who made it. They usually say that they can pay a bit more, but want to be sure that the product was made in a manner that respects people and the environment. As you can see Polish fashion changes. Admittedly, I am not sure if that—what just started—can be called the revolution or evolution. But I know for sure, that fashion trend began to the right direction—the direction of ethics.

For more information, please visit www.uncommon.eu/.

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