Greening my passion for fashion

Anna Louise Batchelor - 19 October 2012

Anna Louise wearing a People Tree dressI recently had an MOT at the doctors and received a gold star for my good health. Not smoking, rarely drinking, eating all the right foods and exercising plenty make me healthy but also a bit of a 'goody two shoes'. On my walk home from the surgery I decided to work out just what my vice is. As I looked down at my new frock I realised that my deadly sin is gluttony of gorgeous dresses.

Yes if you prise open my wardrobe you will be amazed at its Tardis like ability to hoard clothes, specifically dresses. From winter wonders to sun ready summer numbers, I have a far too extensive range of dresses. My only saving grace to this vice is People Tree the ‘Fair Trade fashion pioneers’.

For many years I have been a devotee to People Tree, from the company's early days that focussed mainly on Fair Trade cotton separates, to this year’s outstanding Autumn/Winter collection. This new collection contains many Soil Association certified garments and some of the most beautiful organic dresses I have ever seen. Being such a fan of People Tree when I recently got the opportunity to interview Safia Minney founder, CEO and powerhouse of the company, I jumped at the chance!

If you ever questioned the point of organic clothes or recoiled a little at the price of a Fair Trade garment then you need to meet Miss Minney. Right from the start of this interview I am left in no doubt (and it was one of my key questions) in the importance of organic fabrics to People Tree and how central they are to their business model. During the interview Safia clearly explained how she worked; to have environmental standards incorporated into Fair Trade certification process and how People Tree were the first company to certify organic cotton in the developing world.

Safia MinneyAs Safia sees it there has to be parity in the welfare of the people producing the garment and the environment. What is the most powerful way to get this message across? Hearing someone who produces garments speak at the People Tree’s Fair Trade Fashion event. Once you’ve heard someone talk about the benefits it has had to her community; education, health care and a Fair Trade income it’s hard to ever go back to the high street's 'fast fashion'.

After my day with People Tree I’ve truly 'cotton(ed) on' to the dual human-environment benefit of organic cotton. I hope you will too by reading more on the Soil Association and GOTS Organic Cotton Initiative and signing up to the ‘Cottoned On’ campaign.

Anna Louise Batchelor is an environmental scientist who has worked in academia, government and industry. For the last six years she has been part of Reading's True Food Co-op.

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Anna Louise Batchelor
21 November 2012 07:49

Thank you for your comments Yinghui. I agree on your point of a sustainable buying, i.e. keep using what you have. People Tree certainly advocate 'investment pieces' and their clothes are of such high quality that they last for years - I speak from experience as I have an Xmas dress that has been coming out for the party season for years.On organic underwear can I suggest you have a look at the company 'Greenfibers'

Yinghui Zhang-Carraro
06 November 2012 20:36

i have witnessed the ups and downs of eco business including organic cotton and hemp clothes because of the need to clothe myself and my family. Currently it is difficult to find organic sportswear, underwear and clothes for teens, so i have no choice but buy conventional cotton clothes for my 11 year old boy and he always asks me if they are organic!

Yinghui Zhang-Carraro
06 November 2012 20:15

It is great that Soil Association has started to promote organic cotton. i have two boys aged 11 and 9. They have been wearing organic cotton clothes since about nine years ago. Gossypium, People Tree (used to have baby and children clothes), Greenbaby, Greenfibres, Bishopston Trading, Howies, Living Crafts(Germay), Kite Kids, Cotton Comfort... There was also Clean Slate doing fair trade organic school uniforms, but sadly it disappeared... One question has often come to my mind is that how sustainable eco fashion is, such as People Tree, which has new designs every season every year just as normal fashion names! Clean fabric and practices are essential, but the philosophy behind eco fashion should be equally important, i.e. making organic clothes that last and can be passed down and educating/guiding people to buy less.

Anna Louise Batchelor
22 October 2012 16:23

Thank you for your comment Nick and for informing me about 'Little Green Radicals' - they have a great website! It's hard to exhaustively talk about all organic clothes retailers in a blog post so it's great to hear about other people's favourite companies.

22 October 2012 12:17

Good post, it is such a hard market place in which to offer a better alternative, welldone People Tree et al

19 October 2012 23:31

I love what People Tree do. They have to work incredibly hard to make their supply chains work. It is a shame they don't do baby and childrens clothes any more. Thankfully, there are are some great brands that do it Fairtrade and organic, like Little Green Radicals

Rach Jones
19 October 2012 10:52

Nice post. Definitely going to have a look at People Trees clothes.

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