Tuesday, 18 June 2013


What does ethical really mean? It may seem a lazy device to use, but there is no better definition of ethics than in the Oxford Dictionary:

   1 moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour or the conducting of an activity
   2 the branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles

Schools of ethics in Western philosophy can be divided, very roughly, into three sorts. The first, drawing on the work of Aristotle, holds that the virtues (such as justice, charity, and generosity) are dispositions to act in ways that benefit both the person possessing them and that person’s society. The second, defended particularly by Kant, makes the concept of duty central to morality: humans are bound, from a knowledge of their duty as rational beings, to obey the categorical imperative to respect other rational beings. Thirdly, utilitarianism asserts that the guiding principle of conduct should be the greatest happiness or benefit of the greatest number.

All three principles were exemplified at the Observer Ethical Awards, where those who received accolades including the National Campaigner of the Year, Ecover Green Young Champions and Lifetime Achievement Award were celebrated. Each category, whether it focused on tourism or trade, showed the importance of peering past the boundaries of our own lives. As I sat in the ceremony, tears were not far away on several occasions. The first was when Francis McCrickard received the Unsung Hero award – reminiscent of the story of ‘The Man Who Planted Trees’ in his commitment to, well, doing just that. Over 8000 trees have sprung from his hands, as well as meadows yielding wildlife and a project restoring old tools for new use. The ‘unsung’ part of the award is important, for he was incredibly gracious, doing what he does not for the praise but for the practical impact on others.
The second was Malala Yousafzai. I mentioned her in my last post but one, expressing my admiration for her very vocal call for girls' education in the Swat Valley, and more widely in Pakistan. She is three years younger than me, and many decades braver. This astounding girl was the rightful winner of the International Campaigner of the Year. I know I wasn’t the only one who felt shivers at watching a video that summarized her actions. It was humbling.  
We live in unsettled times. We’re witnessing not only the effects of climate change, but also the impact of global corporations who value profit above people. Technology moves faster than our resources. Women are still deemed second-class in many countries, while the global and local gap between wealth and poverty is deplorable. When all of that is acknowledged, things can feel bleak. To be honest, some of it is.
But that’s not it. There are good people, good initiatives and good businesses at work. They are the ones who adhere to Aristotle’s ideas of justice and generosity, or Kant’s moral duty. No one person can (or should be expected to) take on the weight of the world’s problems. Yet this shouldn’t stop the individual or collective helping to add to the sum of humanity in a small way. I respect those who don’t just stumble through their own life, but actively try to improve the lives of others. I aspire to their actions. This isn’t some ‘holier than thou’ comment though; just a recognition that the world extends beyond the parameters we each mark our existence with. 

I was lucky enough to be at the awards ceremony because I had been shortlisted for the Well Dressed Award - a new category based on sustainable style which was judged by Livia Firth and Baroness Lola Young, and sponsored by Eco-Age. I was both thrilled and shocked to find that I was the winner. The adrenaline rush of this exciting news carried me through my last exam the next day (completed after a long train journey back from London), and I was featured in The Observer magazine the following weekend (wearing my beautiful handmade cape by ethical designer Asuyeta.)  It was also written up by the lovely Jessica Bumpus from Vogue.co.uk here.

I wore this dress from ethical company Beautiful Soul (also shown in the top photos) paired with my paternal grandma's belt and my late maternal grandma's handmade silver rings recycled by a local silversmith/artist from old, scrap jewellery. That, and a nice layer of Chanel Lilis nail varnish. The clutch is a vintage pyjama case. 

There had been a shortlist of three, and my surprise at winning was due to my knowledge of the amazing credentials of the other two...

Zoe Robinson (pictured on the right in a vintage dress sourced from eBay, with Alice Wilby the editor of Eco-Age on the left) is a sustainable stylist, charity consultant, writer, fashion editor and founder of the brilliant ethical community hub The Good Wardrobe. In between all that she's also finding time to work on a sustainable food festival. It was a great delight to meet and talk with her.

Jane Molloy is behind the stunning business Get Clobbered. Pictured above is one of her beautiful creations (stylist: Lisa Fifer). The ethos is one of "consume less, re-use more" and Jane was the perfect figurehead for her own designs in a fabulous, fringed belt at the ceremony. 


Vix said...

Well done! I can't think of a more beautiful, modest and worthy winner! That dress is exceptionally lovely! xxx

Emalina said...

Didn't I say you'd win with those amazing photos? of you in your fab outfit? I did! Well done dear Roz! The dress is made even more magnificently lovely by its ethical credentials.

Helen Le Caplain said...

Wow! Congratulations!!! As Vix says - definitely a worthy winner.... and what a fab dress!


Melanie said...

Congratulations to Francis McCrickard, Malala Yousafzai, and you on your awards. I have to say that the unsung hero award is a favourite and I suspect if asked that Mr. McCrickard would nominate someone eles for the award, such is the nature of an unsung hero. I like your description of Ms. Yousafzai as "many decades braver." And you dazzle in your unique and stunning way in your own ensemble. I didn't even know there were such things as pyjama cases! Congratulations again. What an exciting year this has been for you so far!

Closet Fashionista said...

Oh wow that is so exciting! Congratulations!!! I can't think of a more deserving person! :D
I love the outfit you wore, you look super tall!

Thrifted Shift said...

Congratulations! What a nice honor! I love that your clutch was a pajama case!

Charmaine said...

An honestly moving piece! You are a BRILLIANT writer. I am pleased to a fashion blogger out there with a) intent a bit deeper than just what they are wearing b) who's not afraid to discuss meatier topics! Well done. Perfect mix - you've got a new reader. How have I only come across your blog now?!

Aman Kaur said...

Love your blog xx


Sacramento Amate said...

You are maturing so beautifully, my dear Rosaling.
I am so proud and honoured with you in this award.
Much love always.

Retro Chick said...

Congratulations! That's amazing!

You look fabulous, and what a great award to win.

vintagevixenarts said...

What a wonderful event rewarding a wonderful talent! Three cheer's!And the dress is smashing and I never saw such a thing as a p.j. holder, and a great clutch it is!xo Dawn

daisychain said...

You, dearest girl are blossoming. Truly blossoming.


Ellie Williams said...

Clich├ęd as it sounds, you've really inspired me to stand up for the things I believe in through each of your carefully considered words. You've made me aware of so many great movements for change that are happening of which I previously had no idea. It's so brilliant to see people who are around my age who are so conscious of the world around them and prepared to talk about topics that matter, as well as having such wonderful sense of style and creativity! Thanks again for being so inspiring x

Izzy DM said...

I'm so proud to know you! Or "know" you rather as I feel I do after reading your blog for...has it been nearly two years now?

It was so inspiring to stumble upon this blog when I was living in the hell that is the giant mall of Soho, so rife with frenzied shopping hordes that people used to scream at me to hold my dog lest she be trampled!

It caused me to lose my interest in fashion out of disgust for the daily waste and the quick turnover I was a witness to, but I've missed the creative and colorful aspect fashion brought to my life. Your blog is inspiring me to reconsider fashion-blogging. Meantime I'm writing about what I'm currently most in love with: New York City, becoming a mother and the tonnage of books I've been reading. Yes, I finally started a new blog!


Please check it out if you have any time and let me know your thoughts! Have a fabulous summer and congratulations again for all your stunning successes!
Much love,

shipshapeandbristolfashion said...

Congratulations! I second Daisy Chain Dream - exciting times are ahead for you :)

JiJJys Maison said...

A Big congratulation on your award. Well deserved. Really love your vintage Dresses and love your style, you look very beautiful.Your clutch was a vintage pyjama case... that is amazing, that's why we #lovevintagefashion xx please follow me on twitter @JiJJysMaison... will be honoured :)

Fashionistable said...

Congratulations Rosalind. Al well deserved award in my eyes. For a woman with a true sense of ethics and style. Enjoy a summer of freedom as it spreads out below your feet and takes you on to University. Xxxx

Jean at www.drossintogold.com said...

Congrats!! You look lovely and I was so excited to learn about the other wonderful people who participated and were honored. XXOO

The Foolish Aesthete said...

Congratulations on a very well deserved award! You certainly carry the torch for ethical style and are in wonderful company there. I love how you kept that little bit of news until the end of the post! It was a wonderful surprise.

As for ethics, I do often ponder man's moral dilemma and struggle between the individual and society. Since I am only a casual student of Philosophy and Government, I haven't made up my mind on what the "right way" is! But in conversation with my brother, a Philosophy and English Lit major, we both wish our mom were still around for some stimulating midnight discussions (she was a Professor of Political Science and would certainly have had opinions on all this)!

I am certainly heartened if you represent the youth of today, or at least one direction of the youth of today. As you carry that ethical torch, I'm sure you will spread the flame to other young people around you when you begin University! - J xxx

Greenhunter said...

Congratulations! Great to se an ethical award! More of this <3

Willow said...

Congratulations on your much deserved award! I imagine it would have been incredibly inspiring and moving to witness Francis and Malala receive their awards.

I can often feel very upset and angry by what goes on in the world and it's so important to remember that, like you said "there are good people, good initiatives and good businesses at work". When reading your blog I am often reminded of this.

Thanks for your comment on my blog, it made me smile. I'd love to hear that poem if you remember it. x

Cameron Adams said...

Long a minor champion of both original dressing and the 'reduce, reuse, recycle' ethic, I am thrilled to learn of your honor from no less than The Observer.