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Fairtrade Fashion and the Age of Empathy

Today is the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Fairtrade foundation in the UK. 20 years – that is quite an anniversary - this will make you feel old but 1994 was also the year that Friends first hit our screens, the year that three of the best movies of all time were released (Forrest Gump, Lion King and Four Weddings and a Funeral) and also the year of the very first launch of the Sony Playstation. Just like the Playstation, the Fairtrade movement has not only stood the test of time but grown, developed and evolved into a brand that is supported, promoted and loved by millions around the world.

From coffee to bananas, chocolate to wine – Fairtrade has, over the past two decades, appeared on our supermarket shelves and become a mark of authenticity, credibility and empathy. By choosing Fairtrade products we acknowledge and act upon the power that we have as consumers to make a difference.  We can choose brands that guarantee to pay the farmers a fair wage, provide decent working conditions and support small producers. It is a no brainer – requires minimal thought (just look for the label) and in most cases the price difference is a matter of a few pence.  And for that you can help 1.4 million farmers worldwide.  

What makes us care, why should we want to spend 5p more on Fairtrade bananas vs non-Fairtrade. It is about empathy. George Monbiot wrote in the Guardian yesterday about society moving to an “Age of Loneliness” – that we are individuals so focused on our own personal advancement in the world that we are no longer social beings (ironic given that we are also living in the age of social media).  Speaking from a generation that has embraced Fairtrade I think there is another option – could it just be that we are starting to live in an “Age of Empathy”?  And if that were the case would it be so ludicrous to believe that Fashion could lead the way in this movement?

 With over £23million generated from Fairtrade sales in the UK the movement has done well in the past 20 years but the momentum needs to keep going.  The fashion industry should be the next growth area for Fairtrade. ‘Farm to Table’ has become a fashionable phrase in the high-end restaurant industry – the notion of making a connection and caring bout the provenance of our food is now ‘de rigeur’. Whilst ‘Farm to Wardrobe’ might not have the same ring to it, the same connection needs to be made to our fashion choices. 

At Gather&See we are proud to stock labels such as Osei Duro, Kowtow, Bhalo, A Peace Treaty and Lalesso, all of which pride themselves on using Fairtrade cotton and silk and they are all committed to paying their own garment workers a fair, living wage.  Fashion lovers, you have a choice - in the words of Snap, just sing it…. “I’ve got the power, heh yeah heh yehhhhhhh!!!”

Kowtow View All Posts

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