The Observer Ethical Awards: how 'Well dressed' are you?

Since 2005, The Observer Ethical Awards have celebrated individuals, campaigners and organisations who actively seek to make a positive contribution to the environment and to society. And this year, your sustainable style savvy could make you a winner too.

Rosalind Jana - Eco Age Fru-galTo date, the categories have included an award for Fashion and Accessories, won last year by Veja, who you may remember we featured in our AW13 coverage of London Fashion week.  But for 2013, awards founder Lucy Siegle (BBC One Show presenter and Observer ethical living columnist) has shaken things up by creating a brand new style category. Lucy has teamed up with her ethical fashion partner in crime Livia Firth (creative director of Eco Age and co-founder of the Green Carpet Challenge) to create a 'Well dressed' category inspired by Eco Age’s Fru-gal Challenge.

A street style project with a difference, the Fru-gal Challenge launched in 2011 on the Eco Age blog - the aim was to profile women (and the occasional man or ‘Fru-guy’) who eschewed fast-fashion, in favour of a more considered approach. As the name implies, this initiative is not about spending big bucks on designer eco attire - according to Eco Age, a ‘Fru-Gal has an eye for a bargain and an effortlessly chic style all her own’. When I took part during London Fashion Week in September 2012, most of my Fru-gal outfits were charity shop-bought, peppered with a few ethical wardrobe staples. 

Me as Fru-gal in 2011: top by Beaumont Organic, vintage skirt by Marks and Spencer (50p from charity shop), belt from a swish, shoes owned by me for around 15 years

Like me, Fru-gals and guys are often lovers of vintage and charity shop chic, they see the value in quality over quantity, buy for longevity and recognise the positive impact of making ethical purchases. All shop consciously and they think before they buy (not something I have always been able to claim, particularly in my fast-fashion student days). 

It’s no surprise to see Lucy Siegle and Livia Firth collaborating – this is one of many joint projects which most recently saw them launch the GCC Brand Mark at Paris Fashion Week – but it is unusual to see a high profile style award being open to any member of the public. The ‘Well dressed’ award serves as an acknowledgment of the power of street style. Fashion does not only come from the top down – it is not just the editors, designers and stylists who are the style-makers. Anyone, regardless of their occupation, fashion credentials or disposable income can inspire others with their style, and anyone can enter the Fru-gal category (subject to a few Ts&Cs naturally). And as Lucy explained, "it’s a great way to show how ethical style movement is not just theoretical but actually changing people's wardrobes."

Lucy, Livia and Eco Age editor Alice Wilby are amongst the judges of the ‘Well dressed’ award and they are hoping to find “an individual who lives and breathes sustainable fashion and style.” Could that be you? 

Caroline Swarbrick - Eco Age Fru-gal

We know there are some very stylish readers of The Good Wardrobe out there - many of you have a few sewing skills too which, who knows, may just give you the edge with the judges (how could they not give you bonus points for expertly customising, altering or mending your beloved garments?) The entry deadline of 22nd March is fast approaching so if you think you've got what it takes in the sustainable style stakes, why not apply?  To enter you'll need some great photos of you in your 'good wardrobe' - submit them, along with the story behind your outfit for your chance to be ‘crowned king or queen of stylish ethics’. Visit The Observer website for more details.

My coverage of Veja's win in The Observer Ethical Awards 2012 can be read on EggMag.

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Founder and Director of The Good Wardrobe. Lover of charity shops and mending stuff. New to Bristol. Follow on Twitter

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