If you are male, only read the sports pages and think jumpsuits are what you stick babies in, you may be forgiven for being unaware that London Fashion Week is in town.
For me, co-inciding with a new chill in the early morning air, it's starting to get me just a tiny bit excited about refreshing my winter wardrobe - while simultaneously worrying whether those eco-friendly mothballs I invested in earlier in the year have worked.
Many people involved in ethical trade know about Fashion Week too - it's a keen reminder of one of the drivers of poor working conditions for the millions of vulnerable people who work in the garment industry: fast fashion. This is the trend that took off in the noughties for high street retailers to take only weeks to reproduce cheap copies of catwalk looks, and to start to replenish their lines not just with the four seasons, but every month.
And despite predictions by the Guardian and others of the end of ‘cheap chic', from what I hear many of our corporate, trade union and NGO members say, there appears little let up in the pressures on suppliers to supply their retail customers with the latest looks at ever lower prices, and with ever shorter lead times to boot.
The impact of this on workers has been well documented by ETI member NGOs Oxfam and Traidcraft, and many others. It includes forced overtime, excessive working hours and employers cutting corners in health and safety. It can also result in a reliance on the use of more vulnerable casual workers, and/or unauthorised subcontracting to suppliers who may care less about their workers' rights.
Getting buyers on board
Fashion buying teams play a critical role here. While ethical trade staff are typically the guardians of a company's code of conduct, these are the people who have the commercial relationship with their suppliers, who have the power to make last-minute changes to designs, and perhaps most critically, to decide how much they're going to pay for their product.
Typically, it's the ethical trade staff - who I once heard referred to by their commercial colleagues as ‘those wierd do-gooders down the corridor' - who have the monumental task of getting their buyers on board with ethical trade.
In this they are making progress - over a thousand buyers so far have taken part in our half-day buyer training course, run by the excellent Muriel Johnson. As well as awareness-raising, companies are also starting to look at how to get buyers' incentives right, so they start to look at the impact on workers of their decisions.
This is all well and good, but for many companies - perhaps the smaller ones, or those who are just starting out in ethical trade - our ultimate ideal of full integration between ethics and core business practices may seem overwhelming.
If that's your company, don't panic! Here are a few tips - all of them based on our members' collective experience - to get you started:
Know your suppliers - cut out the middle man and where possible, develop long-term, direct relationships with your suppliers. This will help you build the trust and leverage you need to help make sustained improvements to workers' conditions.
Incentivise your suppliers. Make sure compliance with labour standards is built into your contracts with your suppliers, so they know you mean business. Reward them for their efforts with repeat orders.
Get your buyers to ‘think worker'. Educate your buyers about the impact of their decisions on workers, and make sure they include ethical criteria alongside cost and quality when selecting suppliers.
Improve production planning. Deciding to change an entire line of t-shirts from pink to blue when production has already started can mean workers are forced to work excessive hours in their efforts to complete orders on time. Give suppliers clear and predictable lead times, making it easier for them to ensure their employees work predictable and reasonable hours.
Look at the price you pay your suppliers. At the very least, make sure that it allows your suppliers to pay their workers a wage that they can afford to live on.