Claire Watt-Smith – Fair Trade Fashion

Posted on 08 April 2008

Having started 2008 on a rather gloomy note, what with the rise of interest rates and the prospect of an economic slump, it was surprising, yet reassuring, to see that the levels of ‘fast fashion’ purchasing seem to have levied off. The discount fashion market has slowly been declining for the first time in a decade.

Kate and Nia Earrings – Designed and hand made in WalesIn particular, Primark, George at ASDA and Matalan have seen sales drop by 1%. Conversely, higher priced retailers have seen sales increase by 4% (Connie Tran, City AM, February 2008). This has been a welcome response to hundreds of independent, organic, fair trade and eco-friendly shops and sites who are pleased and relieved to hear that the ‘fast fashion’ bubble may have burst.

With this in mind, it is important to carry on supporting our local independent retailers, spreading the ‘fair trade’ word and encouraging more resourceful production. Fair Trade Fortnight in 2008 saw sales of fair trade goods rise to £493 million (www.fairtrade.org.uk). This is very encouraging, and hopefully we will see 2009 sales being even higher.

Isabella Smith Apothecary Bath Set – Produced in Denmark under fair trade conditionsThere are more and more companies who are focusing solely on fair trade accessories, gifts and more. Fair trade is not just limited to chocolate, tea and bananas, but can be associated with all products. However, seemingly, it has been proved that the fresh produce areas of fair trade have received more publicity and thus more sales than other sectors. Indeed in the UK, fresh fair trade produce makes up 52% of the total fair trade market (www.talkingretail.com). For example, fair trade coffee sales rose to over £117 million in 2008 (www.fairtrade.org.uk) and 8 million fair trade cups of tea and hot beverages were drunk in 2008 (www.fairtrade.org.uk).

Makki Eel Skin Clutch Bag and Purse – Designed in the UK and hand made in Korea under fair trade conditionsHowever, as well as sourcing fair trade goods why not look for companies who use recycled and natural materials? It is amazing what one can recycle and re-use to create something new and original. By supporting smaller boutiques you are helping them to become more established and hopefully more successful. Perhaps try, even if it just once a week, to support your local florists, butchers, fishmongers and market stall workers. To them, sales mean everything. To supermarkets, your money means next to nothing. It is vital we encourage young entrepreneurs and not to succumb to the corporate world. By shopping at boutiques, both on the high street and online, one receives a more personable service, as well as a unique and individual gift. Try not to succumb to the lure of the high street where not only the products are generally produced in sweat shops, but also the choice, as well as the quality, is limited. With over 320 fair trade towns in the UK (www.fairtrade.org.uk) why not look to see where your nearest fair trade town is?

Claire Watt-Smith
CEO BoBelle
www.bobelle.co.uk
Fair Trade Fashion
Organic Cotton Baby Wear
Hand Made Gifts

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