Image: Sarah Mason

We’re still mourning the loss of Design Week, but Portland’s fashion scene keeps charging forward.  Just in time for the holiday season, we’ll get a glimmer of traditional couture creativity at Ethical Fashion Festival, running December 5–30. 

We live in an era not just of fast fashion, but of ultra-fast fashion. Instagram influencers hawk piles of cheaply (often dangerously) made clothes while retailers like Shein, Boohoo, and ASOS add hundreds, even thousands of new designs daily to keep up with Americans’ insatiable appetite for newer, trendier garments. Many are facing charges of labor and human rights violations 

Who wouldn’t like to avoid all that and look cute at the same time?

Image: Sarah Mason

“Ethical fashion is really looking at the big picture of who made your clothes, how they made it, and how we can support their economic welfare,” says Britta Cabanos, founder of the Ethical Fashion Festival, which has been around since 2015. “It's more artisan. It's more traditional craft. It's carrying on those traditions, whether it's beading, or weaving, or knitting, or even as far down the road as farming.” 

The festival, featuring a pop-up shop at Chinatown vintage rug store Kat + Maouche from December 14–19, virtual talks and discussion from December 5–30, and an online showcase of dozens of  designers and their products, will offer alternatives at once beautiful and humane, in stark contrast to a culture of cheap commodification. Five percent of the  proceeds will go to the United Nations Ethical Fashion Initiative emerging designer project. 

So what kind of goods can be found at Portland’s Ethical Fashion Festival? Cowled linen designs by local Ale O, funky vintage-inspired felt hats and garments from Unifelt, teeny-tiny baby clothes from Bebe Ravi, handknit by women in Kenya, and dozens more. 

Image: Sarah Mason

As for the virtual talks, expect fashionistas and People In The Know from across the world. Among local opinion-shapers, voices, tune in for wisdom from Meridian Lee’s Rachel Kinley and face-melting positivity from Louisa Featherstone of LuInLuland. 

“Ethical makers are not a mass market,” says Cabanos. “It’s not a big factory. It’s a more personalized story with real effects for the individual and the makers. There's so much more love and attention and effort put into the product you’re buying.” 

Learn more about Ethical Fashion Festival on their website or on social media. 

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