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The slums meet the world of fashion through initiatives being taken by development organizations around the world. Through projects like three-month fashion design courses, post-graduate courses in craft management and entrepreneurship, and other infrastructure creation strategies – artisans are getting a chance to become entrepreneurial within the fashion industry.

From concepts such as cutting and tailoring, manufacturing using a variety of materials, producing household handicrafts, and using a variety of technologies, individuals are being trained to create products that can compete in the traditional marketplace. In the end, the goal is to provide the skills and knowledge based training to educate people in order to embrace entrepreneurial opportunities in their communities.  These skills not only have long term economic implications but also help these individuals gain long-lasting self-confidence.

In another unique twist, this concept of education in order to create entrepreneurial opportunities is being explored as a rehabilitation option for inmates. Under a unique label, prisoners in Indonesia are getting a chance to learn patchwork handicraft and sell their products in bazaars and at exhibitions. In addition to gaining a host of skills, they are also able to save up a certain amount of money for when they are released after their time in the penitentiary. While at first, one would assume that the prisoners, convicted for minor to serious offences, would have thought lowly of stitching, eventually the prisoners began to enjoy the hard work and the rewards it brings.

Yet this goal goes one step further – not only do these organizations hope to prepare locals to be fashion entrepreneurs, but also aspire to ensure that the products these individuals are producing can compete in the mainstream fashion market. In regions that are often dictated by ancient taboos or age old practices it is shocking to think that the trends off of runways around the world could be the inspiration for handicrafts and fashion accessories. Yet social entrepreneurs are beginning to realize that the only way ethical products can compete in the fashion space is if they can match traditional fashion trends and equivalent prices.

Here lies another issue with the ethical fashion product space – cost. While many big box retailers rely on cheap labour in foreign countries, ethical fashion requires a higher investment. By reviewing margins and focusing on the long term profits, this problem can also begin to be addressed.

Whether it is rehabilitating prisoners or helping women find their voice, fashion is finding ways to shirk boundaries, be sustainable and transform into a social business. Fashion trends are playing a role in some of the most impoverished regions of the world to create sustainable solutions to our everyday needs and transform the everyday lives of the individuals who produce them. While the way to achieve mainstream success with ethical products is still a work in progress, huge leaps are being taken around the world to find and implement these solutions.

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