Learning more about Greenpeace's new Detox campaign--a campaign aimed at the fashion world, and designed to motivate companies to stop using toxic chemicals in their manufacturing processes--set the old wheels a-turnin' about ethics and the fashion industry. Collectively, fashion houses have long faced external pressure to improve their ethical practices, whether that meant sourcing materials in a more sustainable way, the use of certain types of materials, or the treatment of workers at all levels.
Fashion is a multi-billion dollar industry; this 2011 article from the Economist estimates the total worth at around $252 billion. That's a-freaking-LOT of clothes. And to sell clothes you have to creating messages that resonate--and last--with customers; tying products with faces, words, and images. Over the years there have been many iconic ad campaigns that helped fuel the growth of the fashion industry, making a lasting impression on consumers: Anna Nicole Smith for Guess, Marilyn Monroe for Chanel No. 5, and Brooke Shields in Calvin Klein, for instance.
In the modern fashion world, retailers and designers have used the same marketing practices to create non-profit campaigns supporting various causes. While their motivations are probably a combination of a true desire to give back and do good and a visible way to get good PR while simultaneously marketing their brand, we have seen some iconic awareness campaigns evolve over the years.
Let's take a look.
GAP (RED) Campaign
The GAP (RED) campaign has everything: the short, catchy name PLUS punctuation; big-name celebrity support (Bono, Anne Hathaway, Don Cheadle, Wyclef Jean); the cooperation of major corporate sponsors, including heavy-hitters like Coca-Cola, Starbucks, and Apple.
The goal: an AIDS-free generation by 2015 which seems shockingly ambitious when you consider that 900 babies are born every day--today, in 2012. You can support the (RED) campaign by purchasing music, branded GAP gear, or through direct donations.
Celebrities for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) PETA gains cred by using celebrity spokespeople--usually famous vegetarians--to encourage designers to stop using fur. Pamela Anderson is at the top of that list, along with Paul McCartney (and his late wife Linda), and Alicia Silverstone. PETA people can be annoying, but we think you can have your steak, eat it too, and find some interesting stuff on their website.
PETA is pretty controversial -- their biggest critics accuse them of extremism -- but at least they are consistent. On their issues page they state, "Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any way." They oppose animals in zoos, and in movies; they oppose testing on animals, eating animals, or wearing animals.
Question: Are they opposed to pets? Answer: No, but they have some thoughts on the subject. Surprise!
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Tom's became famous for their One for One™ campaign: for each pair of Tom's shoes purchased, one pair of new shoes is given to a child who needs them; Tom's covers the shipping costs (freight, storage, and ground transportation) on the shoes they donate, to boot. They call this program the Last-Mile Contribution, and it's designed to get shoes to underserved communities without placing an undue burden on the partners with whom they work within those communities. Are they the cutest shoes in the world? Not really. But if you are going to buy a pair of scuffers (and everyone needs one pair), you can at least feel good about your Tom's.
In addition to ongoing campaigns, celebrity designers and fashion organizations like the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) also respond to raise money in times of crisis. The CFDA put together an online auction "Fashion for Sandy Relief" to benefit victims of Superstorm Sandy in addition to their ongoing work to support breast cancer health and awareness and the CFDA Health Initiative (promoting wellness in a body-conscious industry).
Fashion has a heart under all those fancy clothes, after all.