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Japanese Local Denim from Kurashiki, Okayama Brings Ethical Fashion to the World

By Staff Writer
December 02, 2022

Ethical Fashion refers to fashion that selects, purchases, produces, and sells materials in a sensible manner that takes environmental, labor, and social issues into consideration.

The Ethical Fashion Forum established in 2006 to promote ethical fashion describes the criteria for ethical fashion as follows.
  • 1.       Against fast, cheap fashion and damaging patterns of fashion consumption
  • 2.       Defending fair wages, working conditions and workers’ rights
  • 3.       Supporting sustainable livelihoods
  • 4.       Addressing use of toxic pesticides and chemicals
  • 5.       Using and/or developing eco-friendly fabrics and components
  • 6.       Minimising water usage
  • 7.       Recycling and addressing energy efficiency and waste
  • 8.       Developing or promoting sustainability standards for fashion
  • 9.       Resources, training and/or initiatives for raising awareness
  • 10.      Animal rights
Due to the above characteristics, ethical fashion is related to sustainability and climate change.
There are fashion companies all over the world that approach ethical fashion not only as a social issue, but also a business opportunity.

Japan’s first manufacturer of women's jeans was Betty Smith, founded in 1962 in Kurashiki, Okayama prefecture. In 2002, they began the “Eco Betty” brand, producing small items by recycling leftover cloth from making jeans.

The Eco Betty brand came about as a result of the Betty Smith factory being included in an elementary school social studies textbook in 2002 as an introduction to local industry. This led to many elementary school students coming to visit the factory each year.
Bags and pouches made from denim
To produce souvenirs for the schoolchildren who visited the factory, Betty Smith began using the scraps that come out of the jeans manufacturing process. This became their Eco Betty brand.
A formal Japanese-style envelope that uses denim as a material
Betty Smith does not necessarily use the term “ethical fashion” to describe their business, but their desire to make the most of the materials from their jeans shows one aspect of ethical fashion.
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