ethical catwalks: it has been defined as ‘an unprecedented kind of fashion event’, and it is probably true. In late 2004 (November 18-21), Paris, the most glamorous haute couture catwalk in the world, hosted the first edition of the Ethical Fashion Show.
Conceived and organised by the French Universal Love, the show invited 25 designers to show off their talents. They came from all over the world, including Bangladesh, Brazil, France, Ivory Coast, Madagascar, the Philippines, Senegal, South Africa and the UK. Models traipsing down the runway wore clothing creations that emphasised fair trade and natural products. Isabelle Quehe, who established the event, said "You almost never see designers from developing countries doing shows in Paris, so this brings together e natural products, local fair labour, respect for the environment and finding sales outlets in Paris." She was keen for similar shows to be held in Berlin, London and Barcelona. Unlike most fashion soirees, this one included sales to the public and trade seminars on fair trade.
designers: Oumou Sy (Senegal), Bibi Russell (Bangladesh), Nandita Basu (India), Eric Raisina (Madagascar), Craig Native (South Africa), Michael Kra (Ivory Coast), Sakina M’sa (Comoros), Coopa-Roca (Brazil) and some fifteen European representatives. Amongst them: People Tree, a pioneer in Fair Trade and Ecology Fashion. They are passionate about their work and protective of those who make their products.
contagious commitment: August 17th saw the Fair Trade and organic cotton collection from People Tree launched at Selfridges (Oxford Street, London). The new collection, which was a double first for Selfridges (first Fair Trade, first organic), is now available in all four Selfridges stores. Safia Minney, founder and director of People Tree, commented, “It’s very exciting for People Tree to be here. Although it’s very difficult for me to represent thousands of artisans and farmers, I also want to thank Selfridges on behalf of hand-weavers, knitters and embroidery artisans who would love to have a chance to earn a livelihood through selling in the high street.”
organisation: People Tree works in close partnership with 70 producer groups in 20 countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America, helping some of the world's most marginalised communities to improve their lives through Fair Trade. The organisation provides product design skills and assistance, a fair price, regular orders and advance payment as needed. They also support village welfare projects and schools for their producers' children.
collection: People Tree's collection is made with organic cotton and hand-woven fabrics to promote natural farming and production methods that are safe for the environment and safe for the consumer, as well as generating much-needed income in rural areas and keeping traditional skills alive.
- organic: “We think of cotton as ‘natural’ but it's actually one of the greatest guzzlers of agricultural pesticides," says Safia Minney. "In the developing world, where most of the world's cotton is grown, 20,000 farmers died last year as a direct result of pesticide poisoning. So it's important to buy organic to promote cotton production that's people and planet friendly.”
Rather than simply importing a haphazard collection of highly coloured garments from developing countries, People Tree employs designers to work with local producers and oversee a range which includes such style-conscious options as organic cotton terry yoga outfits, asymmetric Indian jersey skirts, Celine-esqe brass disc earrings from Africa and this season's chunky outsize cardies and ponchos hand-knitted in Nepal. The catalogue also includes popular men's and children’s wear.
- fair: the garments in the People Tree collection are made by a Fair Trade project in India that employs 150 young women from poor families, many of them hearing and speech impaired, who would otherwise be extremely marginalised within their communities.