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Fair trade hope for fashion victims
By Sarah Womack
(Filed: 26/03/2005)

They have been dubbed "ethics girls" but those behind fair trade fashion say it's the Next Big Thing.

Forget Gucci and Givenchy, they say; the new coveted designer label will be Fairtrade.

In June the Fairtrade Foundation, the award-winning charity that promotes coffee, chocolate and bananas, is launching its fashion "mark" - a clothes label that gives shoppers a guarantee that cotton farmers in West Africa and India get a better deal.

The charity is in talks with leading high street chains about buying and selling clothes made from fair trade cotton. It predicts that many of the big stores will be selling ethically-produced clothes within the next few years.

Just as customers in Starbucks now demand fair trade coffee, men and women will demand fair trade clothes when fashion stores start supplying them, the campaigners say.

"The door is wide open for companies to work with us," said Harriet Lamb, the foundation's executive director. "The public is hungry for these products."

But how realistic is the move from fair trade coffee to fair trade couture and is it likely that fashion's role models - from Sarah Jessica Parker to Sienna Miller - will set the pace by abandoning Dolce and Gabbana for a "fair trade" linen suit?

Well, yes. Miller already cites People Tree - a fair trade and ecology retailer - as her favourite catalogue, according to Harpers & Queen.

Fashion writers say "ethical chic" is all the rage, enabling people to "look good while doing good".

Miss Lamb is "totally confident" that there is a market for fair trade cotton. "Shops just cannot keep up with demand for fair trade," she said.

Most people were aware of the fair trade mark applied to food, flowers and even footballs, she added. One in five British households bought fair trade bananas last year.

"Our vision is much bigger. International standards have been developed for raw cotton that will guarantee certified farmers a fair and sustainable price for the raw cotton that they sell into registered supply chains," she said.

Miss Lamb admitted that financial pressures on high street stores, particularly in the fashion sector, are huge. Most clothes stores have endless sales these days, and fair trade does not come cheap.

"But one person's bargain is another person's tragedy," she said, "and farmers often end up getting very, very low prices for their produce. There is a move against that by the public.''

It is true that consumer pressure is a big thing. Boycotts of brands and May Day protests have created headlines.

A report this week by Mintel, the consumer analyst, said well-informed customers were "taking a more individual and personal approach to the choices they make and are rebelling against mass marketing".

The move towards fair trade clothes could not have come at a more crucial time for cotton farmers devastated by falling world prices. According to Oxfam, cotton has become "the symbol of the inequities of global agricultural trade", demonstrating how agriculture subsidies in a rich country can cause harm to a developing country's farmers.

In 2002, the United States government provided $3.4 billion (£1.8 billion) in subsidies to its domestic cotton sector, almost twice the total US foreign aid given to sub-Saharan Africa and more than the gross domestic product of Benin, Burkina Faso or Chad - the main cotton-producing countries in the region.

Safia Minney, the founder and director of People Tree, the clothes company that is now worth £5 million, has made a huge success from selling organic cotton and hand-woven fabrics that are safe to the environment and create much-needed income in rural areas.

The company was started 14 years ago in Japan by British-born Miss Minney.

She said that she was shocked by the lack of environmental awareness in Tokyo and started to work with Bangladeshi women's groups to produce a fashion collection with hand-woven products and natural dyes.

1 Posts
Fair-trade needs fair dealing and fair thinking about fashion. I know a lot of people who know trading but never focus on fair dealings. It is as important as the fashion required to be pure and sustainable. If you want to know anything about sustainable fashion then visit this website lyallpurwalay you can see all the traditional and custom dresses there. The fashion that they are sharing is more comfortable and very sustainable. I always like to buy my dresses from this website. Let yourself know about the fair trading in fashion but some really attractive dresses.
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