Fairtrade with Design in mind

Over the past year I've been doing some freelance graphic design work at the pioneering fairtrade and sustainable fashion company People Tree.  People Tree's aim is to improve the lives and environment of the artisans and farmers who work to make the products. I wanted to support them in this mission. I feel strongly that good design is key to getting people engaged.
I'd never worked in a fashion environment before. I love clothes, and fabrics of course, so I was keen to find out more.

At People Tree, the fabrics are hand and block printed, woven or hand knitted, mainly in India and Bangladesh.  Seeing them at close hand, it's the woven fabrics which are the most unique.

When People Tree keep the looms busy weaving lengths of fabric for their dresses, this halts the potential break up of a family. People would otherwise travel great distances away from their home to seek work.  So, this seemingly old-fashioned process already provides benefits.  I have to admit to being a teeny bit suspicious of people who want things to stay as they are. What about innovation and change I found myself thinking?  What I hadn't completely appreciated was that all this weaving is done without any electricity.  This struck me as generous. Whilst we spew out tons of carbon daily, pure human energy makes these clothes.

Watch how it's done here

I read Safia Minney's book 'Naked Fashion' before working there, and I would highly recommend this as a highly accessible book describing how and why we should all support fairtrade.  On a personal level, I don't think I've ever worked with anyone as energetic or committed to a cause as Safia. She truly has a lifelong commitment to environmental, trade and social justice issues.

Chris Haugton is a fantastic illustrator who's made lots of drawings for People Tree over the years. He has recently launched his own collection of fairtrade rugs called MadeByNode.

I visited the Design Museum this week to hear talks from many of the designers and artists who have created artwork for the rugs.  Great, inspiring night.  Here are my favourites by Petra Borner, Jon Klassen and Clayton Junior.

All are available from the Design Museum Shop
Their video which shows just how much skilled work goes into them

What's really exciting is that you can also design your own rug and they'll make it for you....just got to save up now