This article appeared in the first 2016/2017 issue of the Look magazine

Fashion can sometimes be a superficial industry that taints ones opinion, based on the clothes you decide to put on your body. However, it also has this indescribable power to provoke concern and awareness through messages it conveys in campaigns and designs.

When the major global retailer H&M launched their Conscious collection in 2013, it showcased that fashion can actually stand for something bigger. While H&M’s commitment to sustainable fashion focused on its ethical production of garments, other clothing brands and campaigns committed to supporting and raising funds for a variety of issues worldwide.

On Irish soil, The Repeal the 8th Project ‘aims to vindicate the rights of Irish women to have access to free, safe and legalised abortion’. To add volume to their voices the project partnered up with ‘The T-Shirt Company’ based in North Strand Co. Dublin, and ‘The Abortions Rights Campaign’. Through these partnerships the project had the ability to produce jumpers and t-shirts in aid of the cause, donating proceeds from every sale to The Abortion Rights Campaign. The projects well-known black jumpers with the significant word ‘REPEAL’ stretched across its front is a bold statement, showing the need to reform an untouched re-occurring problem present in today’s society. This fashion statement unifies people across Ireland, allowing them to express their political and personal opinions in a single item of clothing.

Moving across the pond to the United Kingdom, the Forkan brothers Paul and Rob established a flip flop label known as Gandy’s flip flops. They developed their brand shortly after their family was devastated by the Sri Lanka tsunami off the Indian Ocean. Their family was travelling around Sri Lanka when the tsunami hit and it killed their parents. Becoming orphans at only 15 and 17 years old, the pair decided they wanted to help parentless children like themselves, in particular those who had been affected by the tsunami and the concept of Gandy’s flip flops was born. Through this brand the brothers formed the ‘Gandy Foundation’ which supports the ‘Orphans for Orphans’ initiative, aiding underprivileged children with human necessities such as nutrition, medication and education.

Another admirable brand is Arbitrage Clothing, the US fashion label created the perfect accessory for the month of ‘Movember’. When Arbitrage founders Alan Chan and Manoj Dadlani became aware of the Movember movement, where men around the world grow moustaches during the month of November to raise awareness for men’s health in particular prostate cancer, they decided to design an accessory to show their support for the movement. The brand known for its well-fitted business attire, created specific cufflinks and label pins for Movember. The exclusive Movember accessories that first debuted in 2011 are available to purchase on the Arbitrage website, $15 from every sale is donated to the cause, making them truly a unique and worthwhile purchase.

An American shoe brand that is recognised worldwide for supporting and raising awareness for impoverished children is TOMS. The shoe company founded by Blake Mycoskie in 2006, is a pioneer for supporting and raising awareness on a worldwide issue.  Each time a shoe is purchased, the company donates a pair of shoes to a child in need. It has given more than ‘60 million pairs of new shoes to children in need’ to date. Their ‘One to One’ initiative has broadened from donating a pair of shoes to sustaining and maintaining lives in underprivileged countries by providing medical care and education services to 70 countries around the world.

These brands and campaigns mentioned are some of the instrumental fashion developments that have helped change the concept of a single pair of shoes or a jumper that reads ‘REPEAL,’ giving clothes meaning and purpose, separating them from the illusive fashion garments that only serve to look stylish, these brands stand for something more than just following the trend.

By Amy Lawlor