Sunday, April 20, 2008

People Tree - Fair Trade Fashion

In the next few weeks I would like to share with you some of the inspirational designers I've discovered in the past few years. You will notice a common theme connecting them all, which is their interest in combining social responsibility with their businesses. These are values I respect a great deal, and I hope to some day make my mark in the world, while contributing to the economic livelihood of a community somewhere. (Most likely Mexico, because of my own personal connection to its people).

Safia Minney is an extraordinary visionary and pioneer in the world of Fair Trade Fashion. You may or may not have heard of her Fashion Company People Tree. It is based out of Japan (where she lives) and the UK (where most of her designers are located). The Mission Statement of People tree is "to use fashion as a tool to help the world's most marginalized people". Wow - what a great idea! It's so true that the world really doesn't need "another" new fashion label. So, why not at least make one with a good cause behind it?

People Tree works with 50 Fair Trade Groups in 15 different countries around the world to create beautiful clothing made of organic cotton, using fair trade practices and safe and natural dyes. The goal for the designers is to create fashion forward clothing using the MOST amount of labor possible! This goes completely against conventional thinking for mass produced clothing production. The designers for People Tree intentionally design hand techniques such as embroidery, beading or hand woven details into the garments so that more people will be needed to create the garments - thus giving more people a chance to earn money!

People Tree also offers internships to Fashion Students looking for work experience in the area of Fair Trade fashion. If such a thing had existed back when I was a design student I would have jumped at this opportunity!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A little progress...

I've been working away at this embroidery project in my spare moments for the past two weeks. It's finally starting to look like something...I'm teaching myself as I go along (to be totally honest I haven't embroidered anything in at least 18 years)!

Three books I've found enormously helpful are "The New Crewel", "The complete Guide to Embroidery Stitches" and "The Embroidery Stitch Bible" .

Have I mentioned that I replaced my eBay "habit" with an Amazon one?! You see it's just that I really hate shopping. I loathe it in fact. Then I discovered you can shop from the comfort of your own home and I haven't looked back. You know you've got issues when the six books Amazon is "suggesting" you might find interesting, based on your "user profile" - you already have!! I've got 3 more on order that haven't arrived yet... I'll share them next week.

Hope you had a great weekend!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Sustainable fashion & Organic Cotton

My apologies for such a rant in my last post about pollution. That was a topic I needed to get off my chest! I'll try to focus on more inspirational topics going forward. Every once in a while it's good to think about the heavier issues facing our lives too....

Now on to fashion! It's an interesting topic for me because although I have a degree in "fashion design" I have never considered myself to be a fashion designer - probably one of the main reasons which led me to working in the Outdoor Apparel industry for my career. I've always been very intimidated by the fashion world, its sophistication and obsession with beauty. Much of it conflicts with my own personal values, and issues with self esteem, body image etc...

Then along comes a designer who knocks me sideways with inspiration! This does not happen very often but when it does it hits hard. A co-worker had told me a bit about her because she could see how much I would love her work. However, I didn't give it much thought until I stumbled across her new book "Alabama Stitch Book" in the blogosphere, then her blog and website. The woman I'm speaking of is Natalie Chanin. Yes, I'm sure you have already heard about her and Alabama Chanin, her re-launched business.

Her love of all things made by hand, passion for sustainability in fashion, commitment to working with organic cotton and desire to keep her business small and local are the perfect combination of an ideal business to me. I can't wait to receive her new book! in Canada gets new releases after they launch in the USA which is frustrating but expected for us folks in the North!

I've already read numerous glowing blog reviews of her new book "Alabama Stitch Book" and you can link to them here and here.

Another inspirational fabric designer I would like to highlight is Harmony of Harmony Art. She has made a commitment to only using Organic Cotton for her fabric designs. How inspiring to read about a woman who not only designs her own fabric prints, but also produces the finished fabric! It has been a long slow labor of love for her to build this business from the ground up. You can read about her challenges and triumphs in her blog "The Journey is the prize".

That's it for today I must run off to work now!


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Manufacturing and Global Pollution

How's that for a heavy blog title?! Thank you Bari for requesting more about my travels.... Because it was a work trip and not a personal holiday I've been thinking a great deal about what I should talk about. Should I make it funny and light hearted or talk about my biggest impression from the trip which was pollution?

First off I would like to say the company I work for is extremely progressive and ethical about their manufacturing policies. This is one of the reasons why I returned to work for them 3 years ago. You can link to them here (but I'm not going to type the name because they publish links to blogs talking about them every month to the entire organization). I really don't want my little craft blog highlighted to everyone I work with!! Please do check out the website, it has won all kinds of awards for online retailing.

This leads me to another related topic which is "The Story of Stuff". It is a video talking about the earth, our place on it, how we are killing our planet with our enormous demands for more "stuff" which is being manufactured in developing countries such as India and China. The video is very well done, and even though it is a heavy topic it doesn't lecture in such a heavy handed way as to make you flee! It's spoken in easy to understand English that even kids would understand. I couldn't stop thinking about this video while in China. We drove past factory after factory after factory and all I could see was the hazy silhouettes if large buildings though the thick smog of pollution. I do feel morally conflicted to be working in an industry that is still contributing to this global pollution.

I guess this is a contributing reason to my gravitation into the crafting community. I have a desire to return to live a more simple life where things are still made by hand....

I understand that manufacturing in developing countries helps the livelihoods of the impoverished people living there, but it needs to be done in a more responsible way. Organizations manufacturing in these countries need to put more pressure on factories to manufacture with less polluting practices.

I'm sorry this blog post turned into an environmental rant but this has been on my mind for the past week. Please check out "The Story of Stuff" and share it with your friends and family. It is a topic worth passing along.

I promise something more "crafty" in my next post! I've been working on some new embroidery projects.

Cheers, Jodi