Sweatshop chic is so last year as fashion goes ethical

Launch of Oxfam's first designer shop leads trend for sustainable clothing

The fashion world is turning its back on "cheap chic" and the sweatshops that made throwaway high-street fashion a reality.

As fashionistas prepare for a summer stampede towards ethical fashion made in an environmentally responsible way, the trend gathered momentum this weekend, as Oxfam launched its first high-fashion boutique, in Westbourne Grove, London, yesterday. This was timed to coincide with World Fair Trade Day, for which the ethical fashion firm People Tree has launched a new range.

Meanwhile, news has emerged of a collaboration between the actress Lindsay Lohan and Visa to extol the virtues of ethical fashion. Also tapping into the trend, the BBC has launched an online ethical clothing magazine, Thread, with support from the designer Katharine Hamnett. She said: "[Ethical clothing] is becoming increasingly mainstream and it is consumer driven. People are horrified and want to do the right thing.

"From a manufacturer's point of view, this is a complete disaster. They were doing fine when they were making stuff in Chinese jails.

"I think once people start caring, they aren't going to stop. They're now scrambling on the high street to provide ethical and environmental clothing at an affordable price."

Visa plans to set up a fashion recycling shop, in Covent Garden, where people will get points on a card for handing in unwanted designer clothing. The points can be used to buy clothes other people have donated from a temporary "pop-up" shop, set up towards the end of July. Lohan is to be the face of the project.

A source said: "Visa wanted to be involved in fashion, to be involved in ethical and sustainable spending so it is not seen as this big, bad company just interested in making money."

Shoppers flocked to the revamped Oxfam shop. On sale were handmade Kitty Cooper heels at £240, handbags made from old leather coats for £40 or £50, and a pair of Russell & Bromley wedge sandals for £20.

Catherine Vannavong, an Oxfam regular, said: "It's a big change. It now fits in better with the area, but it's kept a lot of its old concepts. I think it will be very popular."

Anna Thorne of Oxfam said: "Sustainable fashion is what it's all about .... We had to show that we can do fashion. This could be any Westbourne Grove boutique."

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