Fashion revolution: why we should all ask ‘who made my clothes?’


Recently I bought a handmade birthday card from Oxfam and was surprised to turn it over and find written on the back that it had been made by Rose in Rwanda.  Though the card was priced similarly with all the others, this suddenly made it seem very special.

On 24 April Fashion Revolution Day offers us the same chance to find out who made our clothes.  It is an important question to ask.  Fairtrade manufacturers and retailers are only slowly building business in a highly competitive market where they find that their costs are often higher than those of the large chains.  At the other end of the scale, many of the international chain stores are involved in social and environmental initiatives but keep quiet about it, perhaps concerned that any brand benefit is outweighed by the risk that they will be criticised for not doing enough.

This is a pity.  At an excellent panel discussion at Somerset House on 20 April, we heard some powerful arguments for engaging consumers more actively in a fairer fashion business and that the way to do this is through showing the craft and artisanship involved in making them.  Saffia Minney, CEO of People Tree, has built a successful fair trade fashion label that does just this.  People Tree offers competitively-priced and trend-driven basics, both online and in boutiques.   Like Sweet Lime, that I posted on last month, People Tree also supports community initiatives in the places where it sources products.

This season People Tree has some beautiful jewellery produced in collaboration with Tara, an Indian fair trade label.  For every 100 pieces of the line sold, People Tree will donate $30 to Tara’s learning centre in Purnil Nagar that helps children out of labour and into education.  There is a wonderful chunky turquoise cuff, a range of delicate gold and enamel hoop earrings and bracelets, and a gorgeous tiered, beaded necklace among the treasures available.

So check it out online, buy impromptu presents for all your friends and they can feel as special as the recipient of that handcrafted birthday card that Rose made.


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