Interview with Safia Minney, founder and CEO of People Tree.
What change does Fair Trade fashion bring about?
Fair Trade can transform farmers, artisans and tailors lives and communities, bringing better incomes, clean water, education and health care, too. Since the Rana Plaza tragic factory collapse in Bangladesh people have become more aware. People Tree has been campaigning on labouring rights for garment factory workers for over 20 years. We are delighted that People Tree has proved that Fair Trade fashion is as desirable, but also delivers huge benefits to people at every stage of production. People Tree also pioneers best environmental practice in the fashion industry – 20 years ago we pioneered organic cotton, which together with Fair Trade means farmers, their land, soils, crops and waters are protected from pollution. I think Fair Trade changes consumer’s lives too. We all like to be part of the solution not the problem. It’s great to see so many people are arranging events around the country to promote Fair Trade this Fairtrade Fortnight. Fashion shows, Fairtrade brunches and more!
What was your inspiration to start People Tree and what are the challenges?
I’ve been an ‘ethical’ consumer since I was 20! I want as much of my money to support companies working for social change and help put pressure to change the industry by pushing for better business practice.
People Tree work with some of the world’s most economically marginalized people in villages in the developing world. We work in close partnership helping them solve problems and this can be challenging sometimes. We reflect traditional craft skills and use organic and natural fibres and fabrics in the design process.
Why is sustainable and Fair Trade fashion so important?
Without sustainable fashion we don’t have a future. Conventional fashion ignores the planets’ limited resources and the rights of workers – how is that sustainable or socially just?
How can you monitor and measure the impact of Fair Trade fashion?
People Tree regularly visits Fair Trade groups and we have independent ISO auditors who audit. People Tree is the first clothing company in the world to receive the World Fair Trade Organisation mark. This guarantees People Tree’s 100% dedication and compliance to the Principles of Fair Trade, covering fair wages, working conditions, transparency, capacity building, environmental best practice, gender equality and setting standards for conventional fashion companies to improve their supply chains. You can read our Social Review (link).
Can you give us a sneak preview of what lies ahead for People Tree?
I’m working away at my next book about sustainable and ethical fashion, retail concept store and Lifestyle movement internationally to celebrate People Tree’s 25th anniversary in 2016.
Are there any other Fairtrade companies you would recommend?
I love Divine, Café Direct and Tropical Wholefoods, Clipper – real pioneers!