Sometimes I day dream about setting up my own ethical fashion line, but having been involved with Trading For Development over the past year, a small ethical knitwear and jewellery brand based in Oxford, I have come to realise that doing so is no mean feat. I’ve been helping with the creation and launch of Trading For Development’s new website, Facebook and Pinterest pages, and have been hearing first hand how hard it is to coordinate a team of producers from all over the world on your own, even – and especially – when you have big orders from high street brands like Toast and Topshop. No wonder most fashion lines choose the easy route and prefer not to look too deeply into their supply chains. The middle man may make companies less ethical, but he sure does make things easier.
Based in Oxford, Trading for Development is a business that supplies ethically-minded designers with over 40 contacts to World Fair Trade Organisation certified producers around the world. The company also produces naturally dyed fibres, educates young designers about ethical fashion, and has its own line of knitwear and jewellery, too. Some of Trading For Development’s collections have been sold in the Topshop flagship store in Oxford Circus, London, and this Winter the cosy knitted slipper socks were sold in Toast.
The company motto is that the traditional skills of talented textiles workers around the world are worth protecting, and that having a different attitude to trade can have an incredibly positive effect on small communities, the environment, and our society at large. It may be in the fledgling stages, but Trading For Development’s founder Judith Condor Vidal is a force to be reckoned with, and she is bound to see that it goes far; her company won the 2006-2007 La Redoute Ethical Award, and Judith helped found the Ethical Fashion Forum in London as well as helping to make Oxford a Fairtrade city in 2004.
As Judith herself says, “Fair Trade isn’t perfect. We’re walking a new path, and this is a consumer revolution.” We have to try new ways of doing business, and constantly be working to improve them.
Another perspective on ethical fashion is offered by the creators of Local Wisdom, from the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at the London College of Fashion. These guys are busy investigating what they call ‘the craft of use’, working on the principle that because around 30% of our wardrobes are unused, perhaps we need to learn enjoy fashion in alternative ways. Instead of focusing on the thrill of purchase, they would like to embed a mentality of caring for our clothes, buying vintage and second hand, and recycling old clothes, into our culture’s consciousness. This fashion research project is ongoing, and runs various workshops around the world to collect information about how you think about your wardrobe. To find out more, or to get info about how to be a part of the project, check out their website here.