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Ethics and the fashion industry in West Europe

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The question of ethics is about determining concepts of right and wrong humanaction. There are a number of ethical controversies in relation to the industriesthat dress the visible self, especially clothing, shoes, accessories and skincareindustries. The most important are, firstly, representations of idealized genderand body images, secondly, fakes and counterfeits of branded goods, thirdly,working conditions, fourthly, environmental impact and sustainability, andfifthly, animal rights. In a strict philosophical sense, these issues cannot be saidto be purely moral because they overlap with political, social, legal, economicand environmental concerns. But they are problems that have been cast in termsof right and wrong behaviour from the point of view of West Europeanindustries and consumers. Because both consumption and production of dressare highly globalized these debates in West Europe are not qualitativelydifferent from those of other highly developed regions. Many ethical problems,campaigns and monitoring issues are distinctly transnational because bothconsumer markets and production systems are highly globalized. It is aparadox that while many consumers have a positive involvement with clothingin terms of emotional attachment and identification, they also tend to have adistinctively negative image of the industry behind. In fact, there is awidespread cynicism about the fashion industry.

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Lise Skov

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