It was a gift from a friend, a hand woven grey dress with textured geometric pink and white lines running through it. It was not a colour, cut nor material I was used to. I would soon learn that this dress that was not my style would become my number one dress. This gift has kept on giving. It allows me to advocate and discuss issues of labour rights, environmental degradation and business ethics. This dress is from People Tree whose strategic vision is to do fashion in a better manner, taking a revolutionary step towards the value chain. It gives me honour and joy each time I reach into my closet and accessorise this dress, because it reaffirms what I believe and reminds me I am part of something bigger and everlasting. It’s enough to put a smile on anyone’s face.
Now how exactly do they do this? Well, their website is extremely transparent on how they go beyond paying fair prices in trading with producers from developing countries. They participate in cultivating luxury products with diverse fair trade groups by sharing their knowledge and providing financial assistance to encourage sustainable independent livelihoods. In addition, they were trailblazers in being the first organisation attain GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certification on their supply chains located in the developing world!
My favourite thing about fashion is buying items and then making them your own expression of who you are. As this dresses design is bold and comfortable, I usually wear it with ballet flats and I’m out the door (sometimes, I can get away with not wearing a bra!). However to give it a bit of a va-va voom, I cinch the waist with a small belt and elongate my legs with grey kitten sandals. What makes this number even more fantastic, is that it was hand woven, creating jobs that were being replaced by machines whilst saving 1 ton of Co2 emissions annually per handloom.
Gifts can be much more than just a symbol of gratitude and appreciation, in my case this gift started me on a road of discovering the many issues that are in the Fashion Industry. I feel empowered with information as a consumer, as I know that it is Artisan Hut in partnership with People Tree who made my dress in safe conditions. There are awesome videos on the latter’s website showing these artisans at work with their wonderful creations. For over twenty years, People Tree with Artisan Hut, and other companies have provided access to markets and opportunities for people who live in the developing world in a sustainable and eco-conscious manner. They stand as an example of what it means for companies to take responsibility for their impact on society, and have
pride in increasing the quality of life for producers and consumers. The experience of adorning People Tree attire leaves nothing else to be desired. It’s high quality, high conscious fashion that gets all heads turning.
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About the Author
Natasha Taneka is a London based consultant with an MA in political theory and human security, and a background in Purchasing and supply chains. While she primarily works in the business world, contracted by major international corporations, she maintains a keen interest in all things fashionable and questions of sustainability. You can read her blog ‘Ain’t seen nothing yet’ at www.maonei.org