The garment industry has a justified reputation for its indifference to workers, their conditions of employment, and indeed the whole supply-chain from raw material to finished product. The use of child labour, exposure to hazardous chemicals, forced overtime, suppression of traded unions…historically, and today, the garment industry has a shoddy reality below the catwalk glossiness. Ask yourself: do you know how the clothes you are wearing were made, and from what?
The centrality of personal ethical behaviour to our daily life is one of the most distinct trends of the 21stcentury; if we are conscious consumers, we want to know about the conditions in which our food was produced, our transport is conducted, our entertainment manufactured – and our clothing created.
People Tree is a key element in this wider social self-interrogation. For more than 25 years it has worked with Fair Trade producers, garment workers, artisans and farmers in the developing world to produce ethical and eco-fashion collections. Fair Trade is about creating access to markets and opportunities for people who live in the developing world. People Tree implemented the first supply chain for organic cotton and was the first organization in the world to achieve GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certification for a supply chain located in the developing world.
Once upon a time ethical fashion might have been synonymous with ill-designed, ill-fitting drabness; thanks to People Tree that’s no longer true. The ultra-stylish Emma Watson – who played Hermione in the Harry Potter movies – has been a brand ambassador for People Tree collections. Behaving well no longer need mean behaving boringly. If you lust after something by the fashion design icon Zandra Rhodes, you’ll find it with People Tree. The People Tree label can be found today in 500 stores around the world, including some very trendy ones indeed.
People Tree’s ethical approach goes right back to basics, to the farmers producing the cotton. All its cotton is 100% Fairtrade, certified organic by the Soil Association, produced by Agrocel, a Fair Trade group that assists farmers to convert to organic production, using natural pesticides made from chili, neem, garlic and soap. It has a rare focus on gender equality – women are paid the same as men and given paid maternity leave. Farmers receive a pension, health insurance and good medical facilities. Farmers are paid a premium for the quality and provenance of organic and Fairtrade cotton. These premiums help fund clean water and local schools. You can see a brief video about People Tree’s farmers here.
The Rana Plaza garment factory disaster of 2013 highlighted the human damage that results from the global demand for fast fashion; 1,134 workers died after the building’s collapse. The people who lost their lives that day there did not die in vain, but highlighted just how rancid much of the world’s garment production really is. No-one can say today that the clothes on their back are not an ethical matter. As People Tree prepares itself for its next stage of growth, meeting the needs of artisans in developing countries that have no collateral or access to credit, buying its products becomes a concrete choice to make a positive impact.
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