Driven by the consumers who are becoming greener as well as ethical of mind which in turn makes the retailers re-think their strategies Designers I feel have no real input within a fashion house its really the buyers and merchandisers who make the call.
I fear I am responding "after the horse has bolted", but I'd like to give my feedback.
I would say that initially this innovation in sourcing and production was begun by designers, particularly those at Esprit who began the ecollection in the 80's (see Lynda Grose at CCA). They took many risks in creating a type of product for which there was no market. Since then, other designers followed suit, but the real push has been from the media and those people around which the media centers. This introduced a desire in consumers who respond with money to that which the media promotes.
So all this is just to say that the vision was introduced by designers, but the real shift is being lead by the media.
As an independent designer I still find it difficult to produce an eco-friendly product within standard pricing structures. The media has to teach the consumers that there is value in buying ethically produced product in order to justify the heftier price tag. In so doing, more and more designers will produce the items the customers want.
Like Katie I am also doing my final year project around who is responsible for making the change (Katie I would really like to know how you get on). My project isn't due until Dec, and one of the big questions I am looking at is who's job is it to educate consumers and what information do consumers need to change their behaviour. Evan, if it is the media who need to teach consumers about the value of buying ethically produced garments even if they are slightly more expensive - what do you think is the best way to do this? What should they focus on and how can they get this message out so it will actually provoke change? Any ideas?