SAN FRANCISCO, California — No matter how you feel about the fashion industry, the statistics do not lie. In 2012, the global apparel market was valued at 1.7 trillion dollars, with the U.S. raking in retail sales of 284 billion dollars. Apparel and textile are among the world’s largest industries employing approximately 75 million people.
While some brush off fashion as superficial, others have recognized the role it plays in the global economy and are using it as an opportunity to make change.
In many developing countries, fashion and design are used as a way to economically empower women and help them keep their culture and traditions alive. Where a high level of education is not widely available, unique talent and skills are tapped into to develop a brand out of traditional dress.
“Fashion 4 Development,” for example, is a global initiative that uses the power of the fashion and beauty industries to “implement creative strategies for sustainable economic growth and independence of communities worldwide through the expression of fashion.”
Their tag line is “Giving Back is the New Luxury.”
Another example of traditional dress being modernized for wearable fashion is the unique cross-stitched embroidery of Palestinian clothing. The Society of Inash al Usra is a well-known nongovernmental Palestinian volunteer organization based in Ramallah that offers a variety of services and programs to Palestinian women as a means of empowering them.
One of the most popular programs is their embroidery center, which has employed more than 5,000 village women in the Occupied Palestinian Territories by providing them with the designs and raw materials necessary to produce traditional Palestinian embroidery.
In the United States, some are using their love for fashion to raise money for causes they care about. Fashion Fighting Famine (FFF), a California-based nonprofit organization, is one such example where their love for all things fashion is paired with a love for social justice.
They recently held their annual fashion show and bazaar; the concept was designed to give charity in a unique way. Some of the charities FFF has supported in the past include those working to eliminate poverty and homelessness, micro-financing for widowed women to become entrepreneurs and providing laptops to the world’s poorest children including Internet access.
The annual charity fashion show has quickly grown to an international level, where guests and designers from all over the world come to attend. The organization’s goal is to blend fashion and charity in order to cultivate “the next generation of female entrepreneurs.”
– Rifk Ebeid