Fashion with a Conscience: Designers Doing Their Bit for Charity

With all the conflicts, poverty and natural disasters which affect our planet every day, should we really be concerning ourselves with pricey material goods, des

With all the conflicts, poverty and natural disasters which affect our planet every day, should we really be concerning ourselves with pricey material goods, designed to make us here in the Western world look good?

Well fortunately, designers and big fashion houses are becoming increasingly concerned with the plight of their fellow man. We are familiar with designer collaborations for charities such as Red Nose Day but the scope of the big label’s charitable work is much greater than this, with big names helping out their favourite good causes on a regular basis.

Stella McCartney and Rake

These two fashion houses have teamed up with Coutts bank to produce a range of limited edition scarves, which are to be given to cancer patients free of charge. This is a cause that is very close to McCartney’s heart, after her mother, Linda, died of breast cancer aged only 56. Clive Darby, the director of men’s fashion house, Rake, has also experienced the effects of cancer, after the disease claimed both of his parents.

On the surface, this may seem like a frivolous gesture for patients and their families experiencing the toughest time of their lives. However, McCartney argues that the little things in life become more important, not less, at such pivotal moments as these.

“The idea of losing your confidence while going through such an incredibly immense moment in your life is just not acceptable,” the British designer told Harper’s Bazaar. “For me, feeling good about the way you look is key. It is empowering and helps you fight.”

The scarves will be distributed to patients at King’s College Hospital in October. 300 of the design will also be on sale to the public at £145, with proceeds going to the hospital to help future cancer patients in their struggle.

Vivienne Westwood

Westwood is renowned for being one of fashion’s most zealous campaigners against all the injustices in the world. Her latest project is Climate Revolution: a product of the Ethical Fashion Initiative that hopes to better the lives of artisans in Third World countries.

Westwood stresses that “this is not a charity, this is work.” The Ethical Fashion Initiative aims to empower women in some of Africa’s poorest areas by providing them with a steady income to help them and their families out of poverty.

Westwood’s Climate Revolution bags also help to better the world by using all recycled products. These include used roadside banners, recycled canvas and reworked brass. This has resulted in a range of beautifully unique and dynamic designs.

Ralph Lauren

Lauren has a number of charities aiming to make the world a better place. The most famous of these is the Pink Pony Foundation, which works to bring better cancer care to those in poorer areas of the US, as well as funding research internationally.

The designer was motivated to fund cancer research after his close friend and fashion editor, Nina Hyde, was diagnosed with the disease. Her death in 1989 led to the foundation of the Nina Hyde Centre for Breast Cancer Research, which, in turn, encouraged the fashion industry to create the Fashion Targets Breast Cancer worldwide campaign.

The Ralph Lauren label also produces a range of clothing and accessories, with 10 per cent of profits going to its cancer research fund. This includes the eponymous Pink Pony fragrance.

Lauren believes “”Breast Cancer is not just a women’s issue. It affects all of us – the husbands, fathers, brothers, children and friends of the women dealing with this dreaded disease.”

Not content to only aid one good cause, Lauren has amassed several charitable funds, including Habitat for Humanity, which provides families with decent, affordable homes, and the American Heroes fund, which established a university scholarship for the children of 9/11 victims.

Fashion With a Conscience

In these times of global corporations with obscene profit margins and exploitation of Third World workers, it is uplifting to see well-known designers fund worthwhile causes.

While most people can’t afford these luxury charitable products, figures like Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood and Ralph Lauren are keeping these good causes in the public eye, and are pushing for change and life-saving research.\

Image courtesy of Sara Cimino.