Ethical Insights: Can Fast Fashion Ever Be Ethical?

The highly-competitive fast fashion industry is one in which consumers expect instant access to the clothes of their choice, colour, style and price. And on-line shopping is making fast fashion even faster.

How can fast fashion companies keep pace with their competitors whilst also being ethical?

They’re having a tough job of it.  They have to offer cheap clothes of acceptable quality, delivered quickly, while ensuring respect for workers’ rights, decent wages, agreed working hours, and safe working conditions.  And they have to do this when supply chains are increasingly complex, involving multiple countries and systems that require short turnaround times and cut-rate prices.

As fashion students are becoming increasingly aware of the labour rights risks associated with the fast fashion industry, Ethical Trading Initiative and London College of Fashion, together with its Centre for Sustainable Fashion, are co-organising this evening session. Our speakers are experts in the fashion industry. They will explore current issues, illustrate the dilemmas and demonstrate best practice case studies. Come ready for a challenging debate and discussion.

The panel will include:

Professor Dilys Williams, Director and Professor of Fashion Design for Sustainability, Centre for Sustainable Fashion

Centre for Sustainable Fashion is a Research Centre of the University of the Arts London, based at the London College of Fashion (LCF). Their work explores LCF’s commitment to using fashion to drive change, build a sustainable future and improve the way we live. Dilys will illustrate LCF’s approach to Ethical Fashion and contextualise the value of fashion in life. She will highlight the progress that is being made and set out how we can reconnect with the concept of value in the fashion industry. That means the value of labour that goes into producing garments is adequately taken into account in the price of a product – (paying workers a decent wage, ensuring they are safe at work etc.), ensuring that the raw materials are sourced ethically and sustainably, etc.

Lars-Ake Bergqvist, Global COC Coordinator, H&M

As an iconic high-street brand, H&M is a major actor in the fast fashion industry, but is a company that has had a long-standing commitment to ethical trade. H&M is a member of ETI and is a leading brand in a number of important ethical trade areas, such as promoting social dialogue and worker representation in all their factories.  Lars-Ake will discuss H&M’s Global Framework Agreement with IndustriALL as an example to show how companies can manage risk by enabling workers to access their right to form trade unions and bargain collectively to improve working conditions. He will also discuss H&M’s approach to dealing with labour rights abuse and violations where they are found.

Sam Maher, Clean Clothes Campaign

Clean Clothes Campaign is an alliance of organisations in 16 European countries, with members including NGOs and trade unions, covering a broad spectrum of perspectives and interests. It is dedicated to improving working conditions and supporting the empowerment of workers in the global garment and sportswear industries. Sam will discuss how the importance of workers’ rights and engaging with workers can and should be part of the Fast Fashion industry. She will challenge the idea that consumers need to change the industry by demanding more ethically sourced products, and will make the case for the public to advocate for the right of workers’ themselves to negotiate better working conditions.  Workers are the most important agency for change.


The talk is taking place on October 13 from 5:30-7:30pm in the RHS Centre Space at John Prince’s Street.

This event is aimed especially at London College of Fashion students. If you have a question that you would like to pose to the panel, please email it to with ‘Ethical Insights’ in the subject, or tweet us @sustfash.

To resister for the event, click here.