Tag Archives: fairtrade

It’s All About Ethical Knickers

(Images from whomadeyourpants.co.uk)

Flicking through a magazine the other day I came across an advert for Who Made Your Pants? (I’ll refer to them as WMYP) which is a worker’s co-operative based in the UK where they make beautiful lacy knickers out of fabric that is sold on by big lingerie companies at the end of the season, thus diverting it from landfill. The material is in good condition, it’s just that it’s left over and the companies are wasteful. Anyway, I had a look at their website and the pants are gorgeous. I want to own every pair! What’s more, they’re produced in good working conditions and the brand is even actively working to empower disadvantaged local women. Basically, Southampton, where their factory is, has a high population of women refugees from war-damaged areas in Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan who are often highly isolated. Many of them have never had a job before and haven’t been through education. WMYP employs these women and offers them training and support. They start off working on the production line and after a period are invited to join the co-op, meaning they have a vote in how the business is run and own part of it. They are also offered training to go into other areas of the business, such as marketing and finance. And if you really do want to know who made your pants, you can find out. Every pair has a little swing tag with the date of it’s manufacture on it. You can type the date into a clever app on their website and it’ll tell you who was working on the production line that day. How’s that for transparency in business?

On the about page of their website, is says:

”Who Made Your Pants? is a campaigning lingerie brand based in Southampton, UK. We’re about two things – amazing pants, and amazing women.”

Well how great is that? I think WMYP is awesome because they produce a high quality and beautiful product, whilst making a positive impact to the lives of people in their local area and reducing the amount of waste going to landfill. This is such a great example of what I call a ‘future-facing’ business – a business that makes money out of doing good.

So why don’t you treat yourself to some pretty, ethical lingerie that’s bound to make you feel amazing? Or for you male readers… Don’t you think your lucky lady would be over the moon to receive such a gift? I’m sure she’d be singing your praises for weeks to come! At a price ranging from £12.50 – £28.00 per pair, (mostly £18.00) my only criticism is that they seem a bit on the pricey side.  However, we’re probably all just a it too used to cheap garments with the real cost being borne by other people besides us… This is most likely just the price you pay for a quality product made with fair labour.

So anyway, I’d like to offer my congratulations to Becky, the WMYP founder, for starting something so great. I’ll be treating myself as soon as I’ve brought a Sunrise ticket!

Why must “green” clothes be different?

Eco fashion has come a long way. I quite want to make a timeline, and some day I will, but for now I’ll just say that I remember when all it meant was oatmeal coloured sack-dresses made out of hemp. Now there’s all sorts of high-end shenanigans involving vegetarian silk, elegant poses and lots of $$$. Celebrities like to rock up to red-carpet events and wax lyrical about their ethical dresses.  Topshop and New Look even sell organic cotton ranges. Most environmentally and socially friendly clothes are still a fair amount more expensive than their conventional counterparts, which means I don’t really bother with them and buy most of my clothes second hand. But there’s no use denying there’s gallons of progress afoot.

So what, then, am I complaining about? It’s this. They look different.

Ethically produced clothes don’t just differ in material and production method, they differ in style too. And maybe, for you, this is all part of the charm. “It’s not just a run-of-the-mill jacket, it’s an eco jacket! Look, you can tell!” I’m not convinced. I think making all these great garments in hippie, ethnic, shabby chic, indie or just “different” styles is unfair on the environment. What about the millions of people who want to dress fashionably? May they not reduce their carbon footprint without looking like a different person? Don’t they deserve the chance to endorse fair working wages AND YET not become a hippie?

Basically I think there’s no reason while the same mainstream trends can’t be produced ethically. I do’t even like the phrase “eco fashion”. “Eco” isn’t a trend or a look, it should just be normal practise. But as long as it distinguishes itself in this way, it will only reach a niche market. Fashion is a powerful force. People follow it. It’s much easier to work with it than against it.

All this is on my mind because in my town a new “eco fashion” shop has just opened and I went inside to take a look. Their clothes are actually very nice. It was a little expensive but not unreasonable. You can get a lovely soft stripy jumper for £30. Pretty good. And they’re style was cool, I liked it. The fact that it wasn’t trendy New Look-ey stuff didn’t bother me because I personally don’t like that stuff. But it does both me in the more general sense that I’ve just been discussing. All fashion needs to get progressively greener, regardless of what it looks like. Skaters, housewives, gothic teenagers, fashionable girly girls and business men should all have the equal opportunity to choose more environmentally friendly ways of dressing. Diversify!

This would have been the best you could do a few year's ago.

And now this. You wouldn't know by looking that it's 100% organic cotton, made by people with a fair wage in a factory run by wind power.

The above tee-shirt, by Ascension, is an example of what I’m saying we should have more of. Perfectly “normal” looking clothes that just happen to have great green credentials.

Ethletic Trainers

This may look like a Converse shoe, but it’s actually an Ethletic.

Now I would usually have qualms about the copy-cat nature of this, but these shoes have some serious credidentials worth taking into consideration.

They’re made of Fairtrade and organic cotton, and the soles are Fairtrade and FSC rubber, and they are assembled in Pakistan where the workers are payed a Fairtrade premium. This pays for health and welfare fascilities they would otherwise be living without. They’re vegan friendly, very soft, and have supporting arches for your feet, making them lovely and comfortable.

For something that ethical, I’d be expecting to drop my purse in horror when I see the price, but they’re only £45.

I’m kind of surprised there isn’t some kind of copy right thing about them looking literally the same as a well known brand. But at least there’s no doubt about the consumer popularity of the design?…

You can read about and buy Ethletic shoes here: