Author: siobhan

Six Items Challenge: One Year On

This time last year, I was weeks into the Six Items Challenge. It’s a brilliant campaign run by the charity Labour Behind the Label to raise money and awareness for garment workers across the world. I wrote a whole blog about the experience, you can read it here.

I’m not taking part this year but what I wear and how I shop have changed immeasurably since completing the challenge: I run a capsule wardrobe and am mindful about how much I buy and where I shop.

I started writing this post when it was snowing. On the coldest day I was wrapped up for sub zero conditions: black MUD jeans, grey H&M vest, white and navy People Tree Breton t-shirt and Fair Isle Sea Salt jumper for indoors with a thick Barbour coat and winter DMs for the short yet practically arctic school run. Today is much more spring like and considerably warmer. Today I’m wearing a black and white stripey People Tree dress, tights and some Po-Zu ankle boots. Jeans, ankle boots and stripey dress aside, I owned all of these items this time last year. The Breton was one of the 6 items I chose for the challenge and the jumper is the same one that I wore in the photo on my fundraising page. I’m really proud that all of these items are still going strong, especially the Breton t-shirt.

 

Different year, different bedroom, same t-shirt. Long live the Breton!

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One of my newer purchases. A black and white dress from People Tree bought in August last year and worn at least weekly since. 

If you’re a fellow mum, you’ll know that the school run can feel quite daunting. A bit like being at school again but somehow worse. I *think* I’m much scruffier than most of the well heeled mums in the playground but I don’t think I look too bad all things considered. When you’re a stay at home mum and live semi-rurally, you can get away with a, shall we say, more casual look. Yet at the age of 36, I just don’t care as much. Maybe its an age thing or a shortage of time thing or a Mum thing or maybe I’m lucky to live in a village where everyone is lovely and friendly. I actually think it’s a self-esteem thing. I really, truly believe in my heart that I’m more, so much more, than my outer appearance and clothes. This is huge for me. I’ve never thought like this before. And it’s one of the biggest things I took from the challenge. Be confident in who you are and in your choices. Remember that what you do and how you treat others is so much more important than how on trend you are. Have you ever thought about the garment workers who make your clothes? I hadn’t until I read about the challenge last year and found out more about Rana Plaza. Garment workers may be invisible to us when we’re buying new clothes but they’re there and they’re real humans. Perhaps if we all thought a little bit more about them and a little less about ourselves, they’d be less invisible and their workers’ rights could be improved. And maybe, just maybe together we could help stop any more Rana Plazas.

I haven’t bought any fast fashion items since completing the challenge. I’m completely aware that boycott is a contentious issue. In fact, Labour Behind the Label and Fashion Revolution are both anti-boycott. And as consumers, we can’t take the full brunt of an exploitative industry fully on our own shoulders. But as consumers we do have choice. And I choose ethical. How you spend your money in my eyes is pretty much a vote for what you believe to be acceptable. I believe it really is that simple.

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MUD jeans bought in October 2017 from The Fair Shop, Brighton. The only pair of jeans I now own. MUD are a fantastic ethical brand, well worth a look if you’re in need of a new pair of jeans. http://www.mudjeans.eu

I own and continue to wear 5 of the items chosen for the challenge last year. The 6th, one of the pairs of jeans have been replaced with a pair of MUD jeans. I wore and wore the jeans from the challenge until they literally fell to pieces: knee hole, crotch hole, threadbare. I recycled them at the local rubbish dump. A bit gutting as they weren’t really old. Just poor quality. This really annoys me actually. Why do we expect so little from our clothes? Why is it ok that they fall to pieces after just a few months?

It wasn’t uncommon for me to turf out a couple of bin bags (or more) of clothes once or twice a year. Most went to charity, some went in the bin. I’m not proud of this. I thought donating loads to charity was a responsible and kind thing to do. I didn’t know about fabric recycling. I’m now much more aware of being less wasteful and kinder to the environment. One of the best things to do? Buy less. And only donate items that are in pristine condition. If you wouldn’t gift the old clothes you’re donating, repurpose, repair or recycle them. Another thing to do? Buy from charity shops as well as donating to them.

I’ve bought most new clothes from ethical brand People Tree. People Tree pay and treat their employees fairly and use sustainable fabrics such as fair trade and organic cotton and Tencel. I’m a huge fan. I’ve bought from other labels too and I’m lucky enough to live near the Fair Shop in Brighton, which is an Aladdin’s Cave of fair trade clothes, gifts and accessories. I’d like to start buying from vintage shops again but if I’m honest I find shopping in vintage shops time consuming and time isn’t a luxury I have right now.

Since finishing the challenge at the beginning of April last year I’ve bought 13 new garments. I was gifted some gym clothes, a pair of trainers, a shirt dress, a jacket and a jumper for my birthday and a pair of Po-Zu boots for Christmas. For some people, this is excessive but compared to my old shopping habits this is very restrained. Proudly, no high street hauls, no bulging Zara or H&M carrier bags, and no massive ASOS parcels in the post. No new winter coat this year and just one pair of jeans in over a year. You could say that a lifetime of bad habits was overhauled by one 6 week long challenge.

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Micro-capsule for our summer holiday last year.

So what gems can I pass on a year after the challenge.

  • You need a lot less than you think.

 

  • Only buy clothes that you love. Truly love. Always have the 30 wear rule in mind. If you’re not going to wear it 30 times leave it on the rack or send it back.

 

  • Stop shopping as a hobby (including internet shopping). I dread to think how many hours I’ve wasted “shopping”. How about spending time with family and friends. Writing a poem. Keeping a journal. Watching a film. Reading a book. Looking at something awesome in nature. Baking a cake. Making something from scratch. You’ll be a happier and more interesting person for it.

 

  • Clothes don’t have to be seasonal. A vest is a vest, a pair of jeans is a pair of jeans. A black cotton jumpsuit can be worn on Christmas Day or the hottest day of the year.

 

  • Invest in key pieces not novelty pieces.  A proper warm and waterproof coat, jeans that fit like a glove, organic cotton base layers that will last for years and a jumper or sweater that will become an old, trusty friend.

 

  • Don’t be scared of less. Carefully planned, you can put 1,000 outfits together wth just 30 garments. Don’t believe me? Check out Wendy Mak’s book or website. Her style may not be your style but it’s a great starting point and will get you thinking in the right direction.

 

  • Shop ethically and sustainably. Remember, someone made your clothes. Not a robot, but a human. Were they paid enough? Did they work in a safe factory? What will happen to your purchase in the future? Heirloom? Donation? Scrap? Maybe try  buying second hand from a vintage or charity shop, swap with friends, recycle or upcycle, choose ethical labels. If you have a limited budget and don’t want to buy second hand, minimising your fast fashion consumption is better than nothing. Just please, resist the haul!

 

  • Lobby. Write to your MP. Write to your favourite high street store. Get involved in Fashion Revolution week. So much is changing as a direct result of people power. Your voice matters. Feel incensed? Get involved.

 

A year on, I still pinch myself saying that I have a capsule wardrobe, lived for 6 weeks with just 6 items of clothing and have inspired countless others to really think about their own consumption. If I can do it, anyone can.

Will you join in with Fashion Revolution this year (23rd April – 29th April 2018)? Why not have a quick look to see if there are any events near you. Would you consider challenging yourself to have a go at the Six Items Challenge in 2019? Or how about sorting through your clothes and setting up your very own capsule wardobe? 

Guest post by Katie Yarde, Mid-Sussex, UK.  Please visit Katie’s wonderful blog at practicallyethical.com 

How Can We Afford to Buy Ethical and Sustainable Clothing?

 
 

When you first start looking at ethical and sustainable clothing you might think, like I did ‘I can’t afford to buy these clothes’. However the more I learned about how most of the clothes on the high street are made the less I wanted to support these cruel and harmful ways of production. Even if a company was showing signs of trying to make improvements it just didn’t feel right or acceptable that people and the environment were currently suffering for my purchases.

Rewind 12 years back when I was a student sitting in my flatmate’s/shopping buddy’s bedroom. She was crying, complaining that she had nothing to wear and staring at her triple wardrobe full of clothes most of which we picked up in sales while browsing the shops after uni, which happened several times a week. She broke down saying that she has all these clothes but they are all rubbish. I thought how is it possible that she doesn’t like any of them? I too had built up quite a collection myself of random sale items. I remember looking down at myself one day thinking this outfit is awful, such a mismatch and not in a good way. I just put it down to not having an ‘eye for fashion’. 

 

Over the following years I gradually slowed down on my thoughtless impulse shopping, I made myself more aware of what I already had and began to edit down my wardrobe. I had bought a lot. I got rid of a lot, giving to charity things that I had hardly worn. I had more than I could possibly wear plus I had things that I couldn’t wear, that just were not practical for me, my shape or my lifestyle.

I later became more aware of ethical issues. Torn between the idea of spending more than I usually would on an item or buying an unethical product I ended up barely buying anything at all. I walked past shop windows refusing to be enticed by their big sales or individual items that caught my eye. I didn’t really need to do a lot more shopping but there were a few simple items I was missing, like jeans that fitted well, comfortable shoes and jumpers that were actually warm. Eventually I gave myself an allowance of £50 a month to spend ethically. If something was over £50 I would have to save up for the following month.

I put a lot of thought into my one purchase of the month, spending the whole of the rest of the month considering the next. Fast forward about a year and I have an amazing pair of MUD Jeans that I don’t want to take off at the end of the day, I want to wear every day and actually pretty much can as they don’t need to go in the wash after just one wear like many of my previous trousers. I have a couple of beautiful jumpers from People Tree that go with practically any outfit I wear. I have several soft organic cotton long sleeve base layer tops by Thought and one from Unoa. They are all so nice and comfy I wear them every chance I get.

I’m sure there are many others who shop like I used to, buying multiple ‘bargain’ items. I think most people probably have more clothes than they need, how else could so many high street stores be in business? Have you noticed how there are so many more clothes shops for women and the women’s sections are much bigger yet there aren’t a load of men walking around naked? Maybe we shop too much? That’s not to say some men don’t also have more than they need. How can these big high street stores and brands be so successful with huge profits when their prices are so low? Perhaps it’s because it’s a lot easier to get you to spend £10 ten times than it is to get you to spend £70 in one go.

Mass consumption of clothing is a relatively new thing. Clothes were not always as cheap in relation to our earnings, as we know them to be today. Sustainable and ethical clothing is seen as expensive, but it is merely what it costs to make and to keep the businesses going, there are no huge profits. You get better quality materials and workers are paid fairly for their work. Think of how much time it would take you to make an item of clothing, add the cost of the material to the value of your time and I think you will begin to ask ‘how can all the other clothes be so cheap?’

 

I originally decided to shop for ethical and sustainable clothing because I was concerned with the way workers were treated, their working conditions and how chemicals used in the production of materials affected the environment and peoples homes in the areas where they were made. I had not even begun to realise the benefits it would have on myself. My clothes feel so nice and comfortable. I know in my head they are made from lovely materials that don’t cause harm to the environment, no one has suffered to produce them, which makes me feel good about wearing them. Each piece is thoughtfully selected so I cherish and care for them and will wear them to death (which may take a while as they seem to last well). I actually save a lot of money by buying a lot less and getting more wears out of each item. My amount of washing each week has drastically reduced.  I have more space in my home. It’s quicker and easier to find an outfit in the morning and people have actually started complimenting me on what I wear!

So before you decide that ethical and sustainable clothing is too expensive for you, take a look in your wardrobe, start to add it up and see if you are getting your money’s worth. You might find you can’t afford not to buy ethical!

Guest Blog by Jenny Rolfe Herbert, Brighton UK  Instagram: @jrolfeh

World Factory – interactive theatre show in Brighton

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After a sold out and extended run at the Young Vic during 2015, World Factory  METIS’s latest interactive theatre show – returns with performances in Cambridge (Cambridge Festival of Ideas), Manchester and our home town Brighton. Just a week away from showing in Brighton, we thought we’d share our excitement for this immersive game- making theatre which spotlights what actually goes on behind the scenes during the process of mass production.

World Factory pulls the curtains back on how small decisions contribute to a much bigger picture of exploitation. This isn’t a show about where you buy your clothes, but rather about the global system in which we all live,” said World Factory co-creator, ZoeSvendsen.

The show offers audience members business insight, as they are given opportunities to make decisions that will affect revenue, commodities and quality of life. Through a scenario-based card game; audience members become factory managers of a Chinese clothing factory, where they must reckon with what success looks like, while considering profits, products and workers.

“…at a time when citizen engagement with economic issues is becoming increasingly vital for the maintenance of meaningful democracy, World Factory is an excellent way to encourage people to think about the economy in a systemic and nuanced way,” said author and economist, Ha-Joon Chang.

World Factory interweaves real-life accounts of mass production – both here and abroad – with a moving score, video and live performance. The level of audience participation however, is up to each individual’s discretion.

In addition to theatre, METIS has extended their World Factory vision and have gone further, creating their own shirt, which has a barcode that you scan with your phone to reveal the people and processes involved in its production.

World Factory runs from 18 October – 10 December in Cambridge, Brighton and Manchester.

Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, BrightonPerformances: Tuesday 15 November – Friday 18 November 2016

See Tickets to book

Box Office: 01273 678822

HOME, Manchester

Performances: Wednesday 7 December – Saturday 10 December 2016

See Tickets to book

Box Office: 0161 200 1500

http://metisarts.co.uk/world-factory/

 

 

‘The True Cost’- A Fashion Documentary Movie

search     We wanted to give you a heads up about a great educational film that has just premiered in New York, ‘The True Cost’ Daily News Washington says ‘ Don’t expect easy answers from “The True Cost,” but expect to feel like you need to find some, and urgently.’ We hope that this film will help to start opening peoples eyes to the real repercussions behind our over-consumption and we would love for you to help spread the word too.

Watch the trailer to this very moving film

Here’s a link to their site where you can watch the whole thing

Swishing at FAIR! June 2015

Another exciting Date for your Diary: 13th June

Here at FAIR we believe in ethical fashion in all senses. For this reason, we’d love to introduce you to Rags Revival. An amazing chance to swap in those garments that have been hiding in the back of your wardrobe for something you may just fall in love with.  For £5 you can bring up to 10 items of clothing or accessories to swap! From experience, we can safely say there are always plenty of gems to be swapped! We will also be offering you lovely swishers 10% off all clothing at FAIR from 11am-7pm. Do come and join in the fabulous fun!

Check out more details on the facebook event

https://www.facebook.com/events/968932539824094/

or to know more about swishing with Rag Revival have a peek at their website

http://swishing.wix.com/rags-revival

 

 

 

 

 

Pop-up Shoe Shop at FAIR May-June 2015

Coming up at FAIR…

 Date for your Diary: 30th May

The brilliant shoes of Bourgeois Boheme will be making an appearance in FAIR! We will be holding a Pop Up event from 12-4pm on the 30th May, as we are sure you will love BoBo shoes as much as we do! Check out their website below for a preview of the type of selection we will have in store. There will also be healthy drinks and nibbles on offer as you browse. If you’re fancying a lovely outfit to go with your new shoes, you’re in luck! FAIR will also be offering 10% off all clothing to all BoBo customers!

http://www.bboheme.com/blog/popping-up-in-brighton/

 

 

With the election just passed…’Who should have the power?’

With the election just passed, we have been regularly asked ‘who should have the power?’ When it comes to creating an ethical world, here at FAIR we believe you have the power. Every five years we elect a new government, but the real change of the World will come from you. As consumers we hold just as much, if not more power, the power for positive change. Fairtrade food has become a household name, but what about the other things we do daily? Each day we get dressed, we should think of where our clothes come from, where or energy comes from, think of where most things we use and consume come from. We know it’s easier not to ask questions, but if you don’t, who will? A small change to your daily life can make a monumental positive affect.

Here is a video showing why we need to think more about where our cotton comes from.

http://thecottonfilm.com/

We can make a change in so many ways, from shopping Fair Trade, or if your purse is a little tighter, shopping vintage or even attending swish nights such as Rags Revival here in Brighton.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1OSJQ1t1ZM

If we change our habits when it comes to shopping, we can still treat ourselves, but with the added benefit of knowing we are helping the World.

Be the change you want to see. Feel the power you have, for just being you.

 

World Fair Trade Day 9/5/2015: Be an Agent for Change

BE an agent for CHANGE: buimgresy FAIR TRADE

World Fair Trade Day: the inclusive worldwide festival celebrating Fair Trade as a tangible contribution to the fight against poverty, exploitation, climate change and the economic crisis

With World Fair Trade Day on the 9th of May, we wanted to share with you some great things Fair Trade has brought about.

People Tree is just one of the brands we stock that is certified Fair Trade. With Fair Trade pay and working conditions, People Tree has been supporting Kumbeshwar Technical School helping 260 children go to school as well as running a health scheme for all workers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PLk2MDKPQQmXMusyMJsBh_V1Ln52mnK-Sw&t=136&v=XWnwskwPEC0

Bombolulu supplies the beautiful Fair Trade jewellery we supply in store. They are also responsible for the wheelchair campaign, using the profits made through the sale of their jewellery, they aim to supply every disabled child in Kenya with a wheelchair.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3x0Up7NNydU

By buying organic cotton products, you are supporting the families of cotton farmers around the globe. The usual pay for the cotton fibre has decreased dramatically, without the price of production following the same trend. This is leaving cotton farmers in a state of desperation, even to the extent of taking their own lives as too many already have. By buying Organic Fair Trade cotton products, you are ensuring that this doesn’t happen, that farmers are paid the correct amount to provide for their family without being forced to use environmentally harmful pesticides to increase their yield.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEHAszUjiRc

So please we encourage you to celebrate all that is Fair Trade, especially on 9th of May!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growing Suchana

New water pump built in 2010 for the Suchana School
New water pump built in 2010 for the Suchana School 

Each trip we make to Kolkata includes an excursion out to Khanjanpur outside of Santiniketan, West Bengal.  We visit Kirsty and Rahul Bose who set up Suchana school as a resource for local Santali, Kora and Bengali children.  Although the village children are educated in government schools they are taught in Bengali.  This a second language for the tribal children as the Santali and Kora tribes traditionally have their own spoken but not written language.  Being taught in another language sets the children at a disadvantage to learning which affects them gaining much needed local employment.  We spoke to Kirsty and asked her to tell us more about Suchana.

When did you start Suchana and why?
We started in 2004, it started as an attempt to do pre-schooling with my own kids and other middle class families in Santiniketan.  My kids were 5, 2 and 0.  It was supposed to be a joint effort between a group of parents- the regulars ended up being the local children from the village that we had invited, who happened to be older.  It quickly transpired that although they were in school they couldn’t read.  They came every Sunday and so we hired a Santali teacher to teach them.  As we had a teacher we decided to fill up a class.  We spoke to the local primary school teacher to ask them to recommend some children that could use extra support.
The first year we ended up teaching 30 kids that we paid for ourselves.  The second year we generated funds from selling cards and went up to teaching 65 children on our verandah.  By the 6th year we started using an extra building at the end of our garden and increased to 150 kids.  By 2009 we started to build the Suchana school house and expanded on insecure funds but the past three years we have received funding from Tata.
What opportunities does it create for the students?
We are just discovering that now as the first group of children are leaving.  One has entered an IT program and three are taking a humanities degree at the local college in Bolpur.  We think two will pass but one might have funding issues.  The classes they attend have funding issues and classes are up to 70 students so there is a cost to get extra tuition classes which are needed. For the other students Bolpur is a rural economy which will have openings for people with broad education.  They are encouraged to try things but they are disadvantaged due to their tribal status.
How do you see Suchana evolving?
A lot depends on funds, but there are now 25 competent staff employed part time (including former students) for a mobile teaching unit and outreach programs.
Mobile tuition is growing with 6 teachers and 15 laptops that go and teach out in the villages farther away.  The mobile library (rickshaw van and 3 trunks of books with 2 teachers) visits 2 villages a day.  Children in those villages get the library once a week.
The other way in which things have been developing is finding ways to act as a resource centre for newer or less innovative organisations.  Currently we have 250 core students at the main school location, 100 core students at a second centre and we reach 600 students with the mobile library and developing material for children using their first language and how to teach in a multilingual setting.
Suchana includes English, Science, Maths, Bangla, History, Geography within their curriculum.
Read more about the school or make donations to Friends of Suchana at suchana-community.org
Volunteer opportunities for skilled teachers in IT, accounting, building and mobile technology are welcome.  The minimum commitment for volunteering is one year.
Siobhan with suchana
Celebrating Holi March 2015