Apr 5th, 2018, 10:47 PM

Ethical Fashion: From Paris to New York

By Dorothea Mursch-Edlmayr
Times Square
Credit: Dorothea Mursch-Edlmayr
My second New York experience centered around fashion, but in a different than the first time.

New York, New York.  A few weeks ago, I visited the Big Apple. It was an exciting return for me, as I was a young, aspiring fashion journalist experiencing the glamorous fashion world as an intern at a magazine in the city a few years ago. As cheesy as it sounds – Jay Z and Alicia Keys’ song “Empire State of Mind” was always on repeat. The big city vibe, the breathtaking skyline, the cosmopolitanism and the feeling of being a part of the pulsing creativity in the fashion industry – New York has kept it’s special place in my heart.

Long story short, I couldn’t wait to go back and take in the cool and artsy atmosphere in SoHo and Brooklyn, to have lunch in Central Park and to look over the water towards the Statue of Liberty from Battery Park. Especially when living in Paris, New York demonstrates quite the opposite of my regular French surroundings and although I love Paris, I was ready for a change of scenery for a while.

So what to do in New York? Obviously, visiting Time Square is a given for every tourist in this city, and I have to admit that seeing the city by night really kind of has an empowering impact. The biggest advertising placement in the world strikes our eyes and leads us towards shopping. No wonder the big flagship stores of fast fashion chains like H&M, Gap and Forever 21 are placed in the center of this touristic magnet to invite the fascinated visitors for a shopping spree until late at night.

How very convenient for consumerism; especially since all billboards mainly display the biggest brands in fashion. Not one of them has an ethical approach in the industry. Times Square may be a magical light show, but it’s hardly the place for ethical shopping. I had to do my own research on where to shop consciously.

Similar to the experience in Paris, ethical shopping still takes an effort – but I accepted the challenge. To go one step further, I promised myself only to buy one outfit in total in order to stick to the credo of, “buy better, but less”.

Image Credit: Dorothea Mursch-Edlmayr

My first stop was at Eileen Fisher, one of the leaders in the fashion industry, when it comes to ethics and sustainability. The brand has fair trade certified collections, ensures fair working wages and conditions in the supply chain and carefully selects its materials (mainly organic cotton and linen fibers) in an environmental friendly way. One of their many boutiques in New York is at 5th Avenue. I bought a light cotton jacket, the perfect fit for spring.

I took a walk in downtown Manhattan, almost all of 5th Avenue within the area of Chelsea. There, I visited Lou & Grey. This shop was actually not on my prepared list, but the Veja Sneakers (ethical sneakers, founded in Paris) in their shop window made me wonder if I had just discovered another green boutique. I bought a denim skirt on sale, since the company belongs to the Ann Inc. – an umbrella of retail chain stores for women ensuring their principles of an ethical production, the protection of the environment and the valuation of the supply chain.

The former online-only shop Everlane recently opened a boutique in Soho. The company is all about transparency offering all information about the garments, so the customer knows exactly where the money of the purchase goes. I purchased a blouse with a square cut, made in Shenzhen, China out of 100% cotton made in Japan from a slow-spun cotton yarn – an example that shows that we should not immediately judge the “Made in China”, but to be curious and aware of the circumstances, because the “Made in …” – label doesn’t tell the whole story.

And finally, not far away, I found the most beautiful earrings at the Maiyet Collective in Crosby Street. This ethical concept store features different artisanal labels that share their values. One of them is Raven & Lily, and their mission is to empower women, ensuring an overall positive social impact with all its products. I completed my look with golden recycled brass jewelry that was crafted by women living in slum communities in Kenya.

Image Credit: Dorothea Mursch-Edlmayr

My trip back to New York was focused on fashion as well, but this time from another perspective. I bought much fewer clothes, decided on every purchase very consciously and I informed myself about the production process of the garments.

This new shopping experience felt very empowering and inspirational in order to see that we don’t have to give up on fashion; we can shop and finally connect with our garments again. Clothes do shape our identity, but only if we know the story about the Chinese garment worker and the Kenyan women we do get the chance to understand the fashion system and freely decide how we want to engage with it.

I went to Times Square to see the lights one more time before I returned to my beloved Paris – the lyrics in my head …

"In New York,

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of

There's nothin' you can't do

Now you're in New York

These streets will make you feel brand new

Big lights will inspire you

Let's hear it for New York, New York, New York"

– Alicia Keys