Karen Walker + Ethical Fashion in Ecommerce

| By: Abena Gyebi

Day 4 - New York Fashion Week Fall 2014 - Karen Walker Partners with Kenyan Artisans for Latest Campaign

Karen Walker Eyewear - VisibleKaren Walker Eyewear - VisibleKaren Walker Eyewear - VisiblePhotos via Facebook

After giving us a sneak peek on her Facebook page, Monday Feb 10, the Barneys New York featured designer, Karen Walker, released her new eyewear collection, VISIBLE, in stores worldwide.

The eyewear collection is designed with Walker’s signature bold and unique flair. But this particular collection is even more special–as part of Walker’s partnership with the United Nations’ ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative, each pair of Karen Walker Eyewear will come with a screen printed pouch produced by Kenyan craftsmen who are associated with the Initiative.

Furthermore, VISIBLE’s ad campaign features the micro-artisans themselves, photographed in urban slums and disadvantaged rural areas.  According to Walker’s Facebook page, the campaign “…directs attention to Kenya in a positive way.”

Karen Walker Eyewear - Visible      Karen Walker Eyewear - VisibleBehind the scenes photos of the making of the campaign, The New Zealand Herald

In that, I think the campaign succeeds. Given the non-traditional nature of her designs, it’s refreshing to see someone other than standard garden-variety fashion models featuring the collection. Furthermore, it’s for a good cause—it not only brings visibility to the artisans but also business (more elaborate, beaded styles are also available for purchase).

Karen Walker Eyewear - Visible      Karen Walker Eyewear - VisibleArtisan pouches for the eyewear. More elaborate styles also available for purchase The New Zealand Herald

As consumers are becoming more conscious about how their purchases are produced, social responsibility is becoming more and more common in the fashion industry. “It’s about a new generation of products rewriting the rules of quality for a new generation of consumers,” says Rob Broggi, CEO of Industrial Revolution II, a socially responsible garment factory.  “A public that has begun to exercise their consumer leverage to force organic food into the mainstream marketplace will increasingly demand ethical options from the clothing industry.”

We’ve already seen just how popular it’s become offline with efforts like the Berlin Ethical Fashion Show attracting as many as 116 brands during Berlin’s fashion week. “It shows how important the topic is among consumers,” commented Olaf Schmit, the Show organizer. But what’s surprising is how much it’s been taking off as a niche industry in ecommerce.

VallertaVideo: Amber Valletta on her new collection

In August 2013, model Amber Valletta launched an ecommerce venture with Yoox called Master and Muse. A curated collection of clothing, jewelry and accessories, Master and Muse retails high-end brands and products that have been mindfully manufactured and are environmentally responsible.

On more of a social front, Ten Thousand Villages uses its multi-channel operation to create a platform where thousands of artisans across the third world can sell their unique pieces to an eager North American market. Founded in 1946 from the trunk of founder Edna Rugh Byler’s car, the company has experienced such a positive response from the public, it has since grown to encompass 390 retail outlets in the US as well as a booming ecommerce site.

Wildwood Jewelry Collection, Ten Thousand VillagesBanyan Tree Earrings and Mountain Stone Ring from the Wildwood Jewelry Collection, Ten Thousand Villages

With such a high demand, we can only hope to see more socially responsible fashion brands and retailers on the market.

Photo via Facebook

For more of Corra’s Fashion Week blogs:

Saks Fifth Avenue and the Game of Shopping for Fashion   Daisy Marc Jacobs at Pop-Up Tweet Shop in SoHo   The Democratization of Fashion   Karen Walker Eyewear - Visible Donna Karen’s Non-Models and Lessons in Authenticity   Intel...Inside of Fashion?   day7

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[rendertool][type_person][prop_name]Abena Gyebi[/prop_name] is [prop_job]Copywriter + Marketing Manager[/prop_job][/type_person] at [type_corp][prop_desc][prop_name]Corra[/prop_name], a [prop_loc]New York[/prop_loc] and [prop_loc]Los Angeles[/prop_loc] digital agency that specializes in ecommerce solutions for fashion and lifestyle brands and retailers. [prop_mkffr]From responsive design to systems integration, we deliver award-winning web design, development, strategic consulting and support services for the Magento Enterprise and hybris platforms.[/prop_mkffr][/prop_desc][/type_corp][/rendertool]