Fairtrade Focus: People Tree

March 10, 2009 by Maria Kaski 

Should you ever want to draw a family tree of Fair Trade fashion, make sure you place People Tree right up there as the grand-daddy of stylishly ethical goods. We take a look at People Tree through the ages and check out their latest charity initiative. Greenmystyle.com’s Fairtrade Fortnight content is sponsored by ethical fair trade fashion boutique Equa.

Although most of us have only become acquainted with People Tree’s timeless designs since it launched on the UK high street with a concession in Topshop’s flagship Oxford Circus store in London in 2006, the truth is that this is a brand with a rich history.

Launched in 1991 by Safia Minney as an environmental NGO, it wasn’t until 1997 that the brand developed a Fair Trade and ecological fashion line in Japan. Having gained huge popularity, a flagship store was opened in Tokyo in 1998, and the launch of People Tree in the UK was quick to follow in 2001.

Since then there has been no looking back as People Tree has branched out to pioneer fair trade fashion internationally and promote environmental justice and fair pay and conditions for workers. And the pioneering brand has now announced the launch of the People Tree Foundation, an independent charity working alongside People Tree.

Since its inception, People Tree has worked closely with people in developing countries to build viable businesses that can sustain communities, passing on knowledge and financial assistance to ensure that fledgling business can meet high production standards and offer a competitive product. The charity aims to continue this good work by addressing the following aims:

1) To alleviate poverty and create decent livelihoods in developing countries in Asia, Africa and South America through the promotion of Fair Trade.

2) The protect the environment through the promotion of environmental projects related to the communities People Tree works in and the garment trade in general.

3) To promote community development by supporting community projects where People Tree works (including the establishments and running of schools).

4) To promote and develop awareness of Fair Trade and environmental issues in Britain and the developed world.

Mighty tasks indeed, but if there is a brand capable of making a difference it is People Tree. We need only look at their sales figure to understand how People Tree has connected with the UK consumer. (Since People Tree launched in the UK in 2001 its sales have grown 40% in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 30% in 2006.)

So how can we get involved, aside from splashing out on one of People Tree’s gorgeous collections, which currently include collaborations with none other than Karen Nicol and Bora Asku? Well, luckily for us, People Tree has launched a limited edition silver-plated metal charm bracelet with traditional Kenyan charms made of stone and wood to raise money for The People Tree Foundation (half the sale of each bracelet will be donated to the charity. The bracelet costs £25).

With a truly inspirational collection on display at London Fashion Week recently, it is safe to say that People Tree is leading the way in Fair Trade fashion and is now top of the good books for its charity work. With designs inspired by the rich textile heritage and traditional hand skills of the artisans it works with, and a desire to produce stylish clothes that last a lifetime and not just a season, People Tree might just about be as fair trade perfect as can be.

People Tree is available to buy at Equa or at PeopleTree.co.uk

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