Fashion Takes Action


On Tuesday 29th October, over a hundred people came to an event hosted by People Tree, to hear where the Fashion Industry was at 6 months after the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh. A number of topics were covered, with different representatives sharing their experiences and understandings of what makes Fair Trade stand out. The room was a mix of people, individuals yet to be convinced, others there for research and some converts ready to carry the campaign through. The Rag Rage campaign pioneered by People Tree, alongside campaigns from War on Want and the Clean Clothes Campaign has so far seen a hundred brands pledge to the Bangladesh Safety Accord, but hundreds more names need to be added.

In amongst all of the talks and presentations, it was a straight question asked to Lord Peter Melchett from the Soil Association, that got me thinking most of all – “What will it take for the British general public to buy ethically produced clothes?” His answer paralleled the fashion industry to the food industry. He drew our minds to the ‘sourced locally’, ‘free range’ and ‘Best of British’ tags we expect to see, from the market stall to the supermarkets. You almost have to go out of your way to buy meat from another country and seasonal veg is celebrated in magazines and on cooking programmes. Jamie Oliver has gathered a huge following and seen changes to animal welfare and school dinners for the better whilst Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has inspired many veg patches in our back gardens. For some it is not uncommon to know of individuals going ‘foraging’ on a Sunday afternoon. And why not? A connection with food and where it came from, with peace of mind, brings joy to cooking, sharing and eating.
So when will we begin to get this stirred up and convicted about the clothes which we wear day in day out? When will we demand for transparency in the supply chain and not settle for less than ‘made by people with choice’ on our tags? How long will it be before we ask who made our clothes not just what brand name it has on the label? By considering who, we may see their talent and creativity, taking joy and care in wearing it. Lord Melchett believes it will take this type of compassionate thinking about clothes for the culture to change. The food industry isn’t there yet, but the fashion industry has a lot of catching up to do.

It’s a challenge to many to keep our wardrobes aboveboard, so thank you to FAIR for being part of the alternative.

Lizzy Dalby

Lizzy is our first guest blogger, a great customer and part of the Brighton affiliate of STOP THE TRAFFIK

BAFTS Week and Autumn Collections: Celebrate Thursday September 26th

Introducing Autumn Collections 2013, BAFTS Week, The Fashion Revolution AND….look out for us in this month’s ELLE magazine!

Celebrate the First BAFTS WEEK ever…21st-28th September

BAFTS is the UK body for certification of Fair Trade shops and importers.  It certifies that all members sell a minimum of 70% of products by recognised Fair Trade organisations such as Fairtrade Foundation and WFTO. FAIR has been a member since 2009 and has just received a renewed certification for the next 12 months.    We are celebrating BAFTS week by holding our Autumn Collection event this Thursday. We will also be letting people know about the Fashion Revolution that will take place on April 24th, 2014 to commemorate the 1,129 lives lost in Rana Plaza, Bangladesh this year and current plans for this event.  We will bring you the first taste of our Autumn styles with organic cottons, warm woollens and soft sustainable fabrics in gorgeous classic styles.  It is clothing that respects the environment and the people that make it.

We will be offering 20% off new collections ALL DAY (10am to 8pm) and a chance to win an outfit to the value of £100 if you enter our raffle.  We will announce the winner at the end of the evening.  Refreshments and nibbles will be available between 5 and 7:30pm.  Please find a taste below of the offers available:-)

People Tree Brooke Ruched Organic Cotton Skirt in black or floral pattern will be reduced from £35 to £28.00.

Komodo Fling Dress in Herringbone will be reduced from £95 to £76

Bibico 100% Wool will be reduced from £79 to £63.20

FAIR visit from WFTO President Rudi Dalvai

FAIR was thrilled to have a surprise visit from World Fair Trade Organisation President Rudi Dalvai and Christine Gent, who has been working on their new Guarantee System. The WFTO is the main Fair Trade certification body for many of the producers who make the products at FAIR. We had a quick chat about labelling for Fair Trade clothing and the need for WFTO to have a bigger presence here in the UK alongside the well known Fairtrade Foundation.  The visit was far too brief and we look forward to meeting him again soon and giving you the chance to talk to him too.

Fair Trade Film for Brighton and Hove Schools

Recently we were involved in the making of a film for local schools to enable students to understand how fair trade works from the development of products: from design to manufacture to the shop floor.  We filmed a segment here with discussions with Teddy from Teddy Exports in India and Louise Birchmore from the lovely children’s Fair Trade Brighton brand Believe You Can

It will give the students of Brighton and Hove Schools a great insight into how Fair Trade really works and the breadth of products that Fair Trade producers now make.

Elle Magazine!

FAIR has been featured in this month’s Elle Magazine in”Secret Addresses” a listing of all the Elle Fashion Intern’s favourite places around the country.  We’re are so excited that they have selected an ethical fashion venue for the list!

Launching Oh So Shika’s NEW Collection


Our clothes tell a story…. from the disadvantaged women who take pride in producing beautiful garments as a means of providing for their families.  To the unique fabrics which have been thoughtfully sourced in Africa.  To the statement you make when you wear oh so shika.  To the vulnerable young people who are given a real chance to change their lives through education thanks to profits generated by oh so Shika garments.  Passionate about Africa!

The oh so Shika story

Who are we?
We are a collaboration of hard working and talented women from two continents who have come together to make beautiful sustainable fashion.  Our clothing is mostly designed in the UK by designers who know Africa well, are passionate about the the continent and its potential as a destination for trade and fashion.  We love spending time there sourcing the best African prints and trims to make our garments.  The fabric stays in Africa where a group of talented but disadvantaged women transform it into stunning African print dresses, skirts and jackets.

While we are passionate about our clothing, we are also passionate about some of the issues causing the biggest problems in Africa.  Poverty, lack of education, lack of trade opportunities.  We want to use our clothing to not only to reflect the promise, passion and ability available in the continent but also how trade with Africa can work and can pose a viable business option to those looking for manufacturing opportunities there.

Did you know?

“Africa will have the world’s fastest-growing economy during the next five years of any continent”

According to the International Monetary Fund, 7 out of 10 of the world’s fastest growing economies will be African.

Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Congo, Ghana, Zambia and Nigeria expected to expand by more than 6 per cent a year until 2015.

While we want to shout about the economic potential of Africa, we also want to promote sustainable, economic development and wise investment in the future of Tanzania through education.  And this is exactly what we do with oh so Shika.

Why are our clothes so special? They look special because we source the best fabrics from Africa ourselves.  We use small quantities of each print fabric so every garment is a limited edition.   It is highly unlikely that you will ever meet somebody wearing the same garment.  Each piece feels special because it has been produced by a great group of talented but happy people whose work enables them to earn a fair wage, doing something they love.  Our garments are not churned out on a production line in their thousands every day.  Each garment is laboured over by individual seamstresses who add their personal touches.  These women are poor by western standards but their jobs with oh so Shika enables them to support their families and provide them with best chance they will get to work their way out of poverty. In addition, all profits generated by oh so Shika support Shika’s educational programmes to wisely invest in Tanzania’s future generations

Who benefits from the dress you buy?  Everyone from the small scale fabric sellers that we purchase our fabric from to the women who earn a good wage producing our clothing.   Ultimately the vulnerable children and young people we support through our educational programmes benefit as all the profits go to help finance our other activities.

How is our clothing made?

Our clothing is made in a small workshop in the deprived area of Sinone in Arusha.  Located in the heart of the community, it is easily accessible for the women in the oh so Shika producer group.  It is very small scale.  We don’t use big factories with hundreds of machinists.  We have just four at the moment.   We use limited electricity.  Electricity isn’t always readily available in the community.  Our sturdy old singer machines are powered by good old pedal power – literally.  Our irons are mostly powered by charcoal – not electricity.   Our workshop isn’t hi-tech which means much of the clothing production is by hand. Our tailors are skilled but such is the quality demanded, every day each tailor will produce between 1- 2 finished garments.   We are all about quality not quantity.  Fair not fast fashion.

All our tailors are happy.  They work for a very good wage in good conditions with good benefits.  We think this makes are garments feel special as well as look special.  You should feel proud to wear oh so shika, knowing that you have invested in a garment which helps women living in poverty earn a living wage.  One which helps them pay for their children’s education, the home they live in and the food they eat.  Why should these women work for anything less than a living wage?

Who makes oh so Shika clothing?
We want you to connect to the women who make your clothing.  That’s why when you buy an oh so Shika garment, our swing tag will tell you who made it.

We currently have four seamtresses making our clothing in Arusha.

Let’s meet the ladies:
Mama Sonia – The linchpin is Mama Sonia.  Mama Sonia is a skilled tailor who has been making clothing for the local community for years.  She is clever, hard working, eager to learn and highly regarded among her community.  She is the perfect person to run the workshop in Tanzania.

Is oh so Shika different to Shika?
Yes, Shika is a UK registered charity that practices social enterprise providing quality education opportunities to orphaned and young people in Tanzania.  While also registered as a charity, oh so Shika is a self sustainable social enterprise which runs as a business.  We work with disadvantaged women to provide them training, equipment and jobs producing oh so Shika clothing.  We use a business model to run oh so Shika to ensure that we can be profitable and generate fair trade income and jobs for all concerned.

Our values
Sustainability | Passion | Awareness | Innovation


Responsibility in the supply chain

Responsibility in the Supply Chain

In light of the recent Bangladesh garment factory collapse, FAIR’s team members will be posting about some of their thoughts here on our blog over the next few weeks.

This week Amelia Glynn shares some of her thoughts on responsibility in the garment industry:


The recent collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh producing Primark, Mango and Matalan clothing amongst other brands has brought some much needed media attention to the irresponsibility of the fashion industry.

The question we ask today is who is responsible?

Is it the factory owners who are in hiding; the owners who knew about cracks in the building days before hand but decided not to halt production? Or is it the companies that hire the factory owners to produce clothing on absurdly tight deadlines? What about the people who buy the clothes; you and me, the consumers?

Most highstreet fashion brands do not own the factories that produce their garments. They outsource to countries with cheap labour to whichever factory can produce the garments for the lowest price. This way fashion brands claim no responsibility for the working conditions and wages of the staff producing their clothes.

But does this really let them off the hook? Just because they don’t personally over see the conditions their clothes are created in does not mean they are not responsible for them. By maintaining stronger links with the factories and paying a higher price for production, big brands like Primark and Mango could avoid serious disasters like this most recent tragedy.

Ethical brands such as People Tree and Fairly Covered both create garments and textiles in Bangladesh but strictly enforce and over see high welfare standards and fair wages. Why should we not demand the same from our multi-million pound highstreet chains?

We strongly encourage you to sign the petition to call on Primark, Mango and Matalan to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement to prevent any future deaths for garment workers.

Demand more from your fashion brands.



Fair Trade Beyond 2015

Fair Trade Beyond 2013

by Lucy, FAIR team member and ethical blogger

This May the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) will be holding its 12th Biennial  Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Timed to coincide with Global Fair Trade Week which takes place from 26th to 31st May 2013, Rio will carry the enviable title of Global Fair Trade Capital for the duration of the conference.

The theme of the event – Fair Trade Beyond 2015 – recognises that the deadline for the UN’s 2015 Millennium Development Goals, agreed upon by 189 nations in 2000, is fast approaching and a new vision is now needed.

The original aim of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals was to tackle extreme poverty and combat many forms of deprivation experienced across the world, with significant progress made towards this.

Want to be part of the discussion before the UN General Assembly meet in September to talk about this? Visit today and complete the United Nations Global Survey for a Better World.




A few of my favourite things at FAIR…

A few of my favourite things at FAIR…

by Lucy, FAIR team member and ethical blogger

Given that Christmas is just around the corner, I thought it might be nice to share with you five wonderful items that we have in at FAIR right now and that everyone seems to be lusting after! They would make fabulous gifts for Christmas or even just as a treat to yourself. As if you needed an excuse…

This Orla Kiely Red Owl Dress from People Tree has been selling like hotcakes! With an absolutely gorgeous owl print, this striking red dress, made of 100% fair trade, organic cotton is guaranteed to get you in the party spirit.

Keeping with the owl theme, this adorable statement necklace is produced for People Tree by fair trade cooperative Bombolulu Workshops based in Kenya. We like it very much!

This Pomponette Scarf from Bibico will keep you feeling like a Russian princess all throughout the winter. Handknitted from mohair and unbelievably soft, we guarantee you’ll fall in love!


This Manchu Wool coat from Komodo is so unbelievably snug and will certainly keep you warm for many winters to come. Looking super stylish is just a bonus.

This long sleeved fox and badger tee from amazing ethical children’s brand Little Green Radicals has proved immensely popular with FAIR customers. So cute!


Biba and Beyond

Biba and Beyond

In 2008 FAIR moved in to 21 Queens Road. We knew nothing about the building except that it had been a doctor’s office. During the first couple of years we were open people would come in and ask us if we were the former Biba shop (people would also walk in wondering where their doctor had disappeared to!) We heard stories of students rushing out of school up to Queen’s Road to see the latest pieces of clothing from Biba whilst others would reminisce about the mini skirts they used to wear. The stories always created one consistent emotion: excitement! Biba had been so new and unlike anything else before. Biba was changing fashion and making it more accessible to everyone with styles that allowed people to express themselves through their clothing.

It wasn’t confirmed until January this year, by Brighton museum, that 21 Queens Road was in fact the location of the Brighton Biba shop. They popped in to let us know about the exhibition at the museum to open in September this year.

We had the pleasure of meeting Barbara Hulanicki in July this year as she came to reminisce about the Biba Shop. I could have listened to her stories of Biba for hours. It was such a different world. Brighton Biba did not have a window display as Barbara was not around to be able to oversee it. Instead the beautiful Biba girls would sit chatting together on the window ledges. It sounded as if discussing their active social lives took precedence over the customer! They seemed to not follow any of the rules of today’s massive retail industry yet they were a huge success. The video made the day we met Barbara shows stunning pieces that she created and gives real insight into her talents and the reason for her success. The video can be viewed here

More information about the Biba exhibition taking place at Brighton Museum can be found here.

FAIR is also working to change the world of fashion but not the styles that are out there, but how and by whom they are produced. Barbara Hulanicki has paved the way for the wonderful creativity and imagination that exists in London’s fashion world today. Luxurious textiles, strong prints and good simple modern designs have bought the customer through our door and have reinforced our move into fashion. Living on London’s doorstep has given FAIR access to the vibrant industry of fashion, with more and more exciting cutting edge brands moving into sustainable and fair trade fashion all the time. It was then so exciting to find out we were housed in the shop of an iconic fashion label.

Since FAIR’s doors have opened our growing focus on fashion as a solution and a way to generate income for communities of skilled artisans living in deprived communities in the Global South has been overshadowed by the continuing need for organisations such as War on Want and Labour Behind the Label to highlight the human rights abuses that continue to go on in the world of retail and fashion. For consumers it is hard to know who on the high street is using sweatshops unless these organisations spend huge effort highlighting it. On the other hand it feels like Fair Trade fashion which offers the positive solution to communities is getting closer and closer to creating the exciting brands it needs. People Tree is doing so well this season at FAIR with stock selling almost as soon as it comes through our door. Other companies such as accessories brand Oh My Bag we can’t wait to bring in.

Clothing and textile imports from developing countries are significantly greater in quantity then the current popular Fair Trade products of coffee and bananas and we need a new generation of students rushing out of schools and universities to the shop to buy their fair trade fashion.

It’s been such a wonderful year with the opportunity to meet such a gifted lady with a great attitude. I think the only question now is what will Barbara Hulanicki do next….how does creating the most accessible and exciting Fair Trade brand yet sound?
Siobhan Wilson September 12th, 2012

FAIR goes to Pure London 2012

Lucy Dunne of the FAIR shop

FAIR goes to Pure London 2012

Olympia, London, 19 – 21 August 2012

Pure London, one of the key events in any fashion buyer’s calendar worth their salt, has just finished a magnificent three days at the Olympia Exhibition Centre in London’s West Kensington. Playing host to more than 1000 tantalisingly gorgeous brands, ethical brands were well represented by the likes of People TreeNancy DeeBibicoPants to Poverty, and Komodo, to name but a few. Between the attractions of cupcakes and the delights of the catwalk shows displaying the new designs for 2013, it was heartening to see so many new brands coming through who are driving forward sustainable fashion. One of the ways many younger brands are doing this is through their use of sustainable materials, including organic cotton, bamboo and the increasingly popular material modal, often produced from beech trees.

Aside from the exhibitors, one of the key draws this year was a talk focussing on Ethical Fashion and addressing its key challenges – for producers, consumers, designers and brands alike. Led by Tamsin Lejeune, managing director of the Ethical Fashion Forum, the panel included manager of the FAIR shop Siobhan Wilson, Merryn Leslie of 69b, Emma McCutcheon of Tellusfashion, Victoria McQuillan of Think Boutique and David Thomas of Danaqa. Sharing their particular industry knowledge and expertise, the speakers underlined how sustainable fashion is increasingly influencing the mainstream fashion world and its ethical agenda, when only ten years ago sustainability was regarded as something entirely anathema to the business.

What did I learn? Firstly, perhaps to the relief of many, ethical brands are increasingly holding their own in the fashion world thanks to the sheer beauty of their designs and the quality of their products. Indeed, it was widely agreed that the ethics of an ethical brand should be the “icing on the cake” of a wonderful product, rather than the other way around, as the survival of any fashion business depends on this. In the cutthroat world of fashion, this is hardly disputable, yet I think that as public awareness of issues surrounding sweatshops and global warming increases, there will be more people actively seeking out brands that do good rather than harm. That is my hope at least.

A plethora of ethical fashion dilemmas were equally highlighted by the panel: do we opt for vegetan leather or real leather if we are working in an “ethical” fashion context? How should we regard the ethical credentials of an organic T-shirt made in a sweatshop? How important are producers’ stories to a customer buying fair trade? Given the impossibility of being 100% ethical, some on the panel emphasised that “engagement” with ethics in the industry is the most important factor, which I personally found rather wanting. What if this engagement consists of nothing more than “greenwash”, which some larger high street brands might be accused of, simply selling a few environmentally sound T-shirts to look as if they are doing their bit? For my two cents, ethical fashion should be less about the fleeting world of fashion and more about style, and as such proposes quite a different approach to the throw away fashion brands of this world.

What is particularly wonderful about fair trade fashion in particular is that it has strict ethical criteria on which it is judged, as the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) will only accept members who actively commit and apply their principles of fair trade. Safia Minney, founder of fair trade fashion brand People Tree, was in attendance at the talk, and People Tree is a clear example of a brand that have been consistent not only in their ethics but in the strength and beauty of their designs. Their collection for autumn and winter 2012 has just been launched and accompanying video can be viewed here:

With many questions and issues left to ponder and discuss, I left the talk at Pure London encouraged that the fashion industry is finally starting to listen to its conscience, refreshed by the surprisingly candid nature of the conversation.

People Tree producer visits the FAIR shop

Lucy Dunne of the FAIR shop

People Tree producer visits the FAIR shop

Last week, the FAIR shop was visited by Subrata Saha, Senior Executive of Kumudini, which produces clothes for People Tree in Bangladesh. Supporting disadvantaged women and traditional craft skills, Kumudini create beautiful items of clothing using hand embroidery and block printing.

We have been selling a number of very popular designs, such as an asymmetric hand block printed dress, which Kumudini worked on in Bangladesh. The visit to the FAIR shop was a great opportunity for Subrata to see Kumudini’s items on sale in the UK. It was also a wonderful opportunity to show Subrata the shop in general, including our wide selection of People Tree items and other brands such as Bibico, Nancy Dee and Komodo. A few steps away from the FAIR shop towards the sea and you enter the world of fast fashion. The visit from Subrata underlined how at the FAIR shop, we do things differently, offering beautiful and exquisitely made items that you’ll want to keep forever, whilst ensuring good working conditions for those who make them. Come in and see for yourself!

People Tree producer visits The Fair Shop
Subrata outside the FAIR shop 

People Tree producer
Showing Subrata one of our most popular Bibico summer dresses, produced in the most gorgeous broderie anglaise