Caryn Franklin interviews Safia Minney about her latest book: Slow Fashion – Aesthetics meets Ethics

23rd March 2016


Caryn: Good evening everyone and lovely to see you. I’m going to be really teasing out information from Safia about her book that you will hopefully all take home with you tonight. It’s a fantastic book because it is packed with knowledge and words from people who have done a small part of the journey with Safia and for helping to bring those voices and an alternative belief system and that’s crucially important because we need a system to believe in or a logistic to engage with in order to shift and in order to change and Safia is doing all of that work and we just have to agree with it!

So just tell us a little bit about the book…

Safia: There has been a staggering shift in the awareness – in civil society in industry, in policy and in the media after the horrific tragedy of the collapse of Rana Plaza. I wanted to really capture this new chapter which has been full of incredible campaigns like Fashion Revolution, ethical brands and stores that have really put pressure on the industry and policy makers to change. Also, as I was developing the European market for People Tree (now celebrating our 25th anniversary since I started the company in Japan). The retail growth of eco concept stores worldwide is amazing. They sell Fair Trade, sustainable and ethical fashion and look completely different to how they looked 10 years ago. Travelling around Germany, Scandinavia, Japan, it’s incredible to see the prolification of ethical brands has led to better quality stores – alongside ethical and vintage fashion, they sell ethical lifestyle products, local art, they have organic cafes and run talks about well-being and social issues. I think the whole fashion industry is changing and we have some of those key people here tonight who have helped shaped that change.

I’m hoping you can download the QR code reader app onto your phone and watch the films. You can actually go into the stores, look around and see the products and meet the people who run them. These people have done a remarkable job of creating stores which are really engaging. And we need more stores like this, so I’m really hoping that we can promote the eco-concept stores near us. Because this is the future of fashion, telling the story of fashion – the story of the producer and the products.

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Caryn: Tell us a little about why you think it’s taking much longer for the fashion industry to embrace slow produce – we’re in one of many organic, slow food pubs in London but why is slow fashion taking longer?

Safia: Clearly fashion product has a shorter product life cycle – a maximum 6 months often to design a product and get it to market – it makes it very expensive in terms of supply chain development – all of the transparency needs to be done and truly sustainable and fair – this takes time to check properly. We’ve come to a place where we have fair trade and ethical systems and standards for cotton like organic cottons and Fair Trade standards for clothing manufacture. There’s a lot of initiatives that show how to improve the supply chain, worker’s rights and environmental protection, compared to 5 to 10 years ago, I don’t think that fashion companies now have any excuse to not engage with delivering sustainability and worker’s rights behind the products they make and retail.

Caryn: How can we now get over the worthiness of Fair Trade issues not having the edgy approach or coolness that people are looking for when it comes to fashion – how can we weave this in that its uncool not to link the worker with the product?

Safia: There’s beautiful, quality products and really desirable fashion that you will buy because you love the product. Clearly ethical fashion is competing on an un-level playing field and there is no real environmental or social cost factored into conventional fashion prices.

That is a genuine challenge for ethical brands as we spend money on developing supply chains, paying fair prices and better environmental practice, results in less money available to spend on marketing. Caryn, how do you think ethical fashion companies can get more for their tiny marketing budgets?

Caryn: What I do know from the work that I’ve done in promotional work with sustainable fashion is that if we can reach these individuals and get them to make a personal decision and unite them. What happens is that people get stuck in a system and they feel disempowered which is why an alternative belief system is crucial. Everyone wants to make a contribution to change. Especially if you work in fashion – we need to contribute to what feels good about being human. I’ve seen you do it say ‘come and help, you know you want to.’ We need to incorporate more ambassadors who can do that on your behalf, invite people to switch, to make changes in their lives on a limited budget so that they feel very engaged with slow fashion and what it is they love about fashion itself and the opportunity for change.


Safia: It might sound strange, but despite being an owner of People Tree, we ought to be buying less fashion. We ought to be buying more second-hand vintage, up-cycled and when we do buy something new, of course it should be Fair Trade and organic! It’s about people being more conscious about what they buy.

Caryn: Do you have a simple point to leave our audience with tonight?

Safia: I just want to tell you about some of the feedback I got from some of the Fair Trade groups I work with from around the world including Nepal, Bangladesh and India about the Slow Fashion Book.

In Bangladesh they said: “If we have better stores selling our clothing and products, we can empower more women, more people with these orders, we can build schools, we can build clean water facilities, we can start micro credit programs”.

From India: “We want to introduce some of your campaigns in Europe here in India – your book is inspiring to us!”

So really there is just so much excitement from the Fair Trade movement about this book. I really hope to create livelihoods and support people to help themselves, my new book will inspire people to start new stores and to continue to campaign for fairer fashion, I hope.

Slow Fashion is available to purchase from local bookshops, Amazon and direct from New Internationalist.

Zandra Rhodes AW16 London Fashion Week Presentation at ICA, London


This is Zandra’s second season showing her clothing collection in London. A designer better known for her bags and accessories so far in London, Zandra’s clothing designs have always been big with Americans.

“I wanted to bring movement and character to my clothes,” says Zandra of her latest London stage. Her presentation has 16 models swaying and walking around on an island installed in the middle of a well-refreshed, well DJ’d, well-lit hall at The ICA. What I love about Zandra’s presentation is that it reminds me of the theatre of Alexander McQueen’s ‘Savage Beauty’ but in place of mannequins Zandra presents us with real women.


There is something very real and wonderful about the event. Zandra’s collection, the care with which she has directed every detail of the production, the guests that span her decades working in fashion, the new ethical and eco brigade who know and love our work together at People Tree and the amazing collections she’s designed with us in organic cotton.

Zandra, 75, is such a hard worker, travelling with me around India and Bangladesh, her energy levels are incredible and we share the same love of textiles and craft skills.

What I love about her collection tonight is that I can see her bold prints and graphics echoing some of the gorgeous textiles that we admired together in Bangladesh. There are at least 3 dresses I would love to own.

Safia Minney and Anna Borgeryd in Conversation

Safia interviews Anna Borgeryd, Swedish business woman and author of ‘Integrity’, a revolutionary new eco-novel, at her book launch event in ‘Tibits’, London. Published this month by New Internationalist.
February 2016


Safia: You are well known in Sweden as an entrepreneur and environmental researcher. Why was it so important to you to express your ideas in a novel aimed at a wide, popular readership?

Anna: I had this calling, this huge need to write the novel, body and spirit and an interest in ecology pushed me to write ‘Integrity’ – some of it is based on personal experience too. The novel was a way to make environmental issues more accessible to people.

Safia: Throughout the novel, you more or less alternate between Vera’s and Peter’s perspective, giving them around the same space. Why were you so keen to do that, given that the starting standpoint for both you and the reader is likely to be much closer to Vera’s?

Anna: They say for a good love story you have to give both people equal space and share their perspectives, thoughts and characters with the reader, otherwise one person becomes simply an object.

Safia: Did you find it difficult to put yourself in Peter’s shoes at the beginning, given his inveterate and unthinking womanizing?

Anna: I wanted the reader to get to know Peter better, at first he is difficult to like as you say, then you see him growing and that the problem her faces come from his difficult upbringing. He is a womanizer at the beginning and then he grows up and shows real strength, strength that Vera lacks, so they complement each other.

Safia: How much of you is there in Vera?

Anna: I guess there’s a lot of Vera in me – she is a strong woman, a feminist and has real integrity.

Safia: Throughout the novel, you return to Vera’s experience with the Kogi indigenous people of the Colombian rainforest. Why is that so important to the message of the book and how does it relate to our predicament in the early 21st century?

Anna: The Kogi indigenous people fascinate me. I found videos of The Kogi Shaman called Mamas. We really need to find solutions and new economic systems that properly value the natural resource base of our earth and protect our environment. This is the message the Kogi people are sending to us – they can see signs of devastation even in their pristine hilltops in Colombia. They are calling to us to wake up and act responsibly.

Safia: You also have a background in film, I sense this in the dramatic opening of the book. The story that would translate well to a TV miniseries or a movie – have you had any interest from film-makers either in Sweden or abroad?
Anna: Yes, I think it will be very soon made into a film or mini-series – I’ll be hearing about it very soon. I’m passionate about films and excited about this next project.

Safia: Tell me how do you address sustainability in your own business Polarbröd? You are fifth generation bread makers – how incredible!

Anna: We have built our own wind turbines and meet much of our energy demands with renewable energy – we are also using more organic ingredients. We are one of the largest bread businesses in Sweden, so we need to lead by example and get the debate going about sustainable ways of producing food.

“A compelling novel – compassionate and empowering.” Vandana Shiva

Borås Textile Centre: The Next Generation of Fashion

By Billie Hall


It’s been a long fight and it’s far from over, but the work done by pioneers in ethical business and fashion has undeniably changed the future for the next generation of fashion designers and fashion business owners.

At a recent event in Borås, Sweden, Safia Minney was invited to discuss sustainability and ethics in the textile and fashion industries. Fair Trade and environmental representatives and advocates gathered with students to share and highlight the actions being taken to create the sustainable future the world so urgently needs.


Hosted at the incredible Borås Textile Fashion University – an old textiles factory reimagined to provide the designers of tomorrow with the space to create and innovate – the keenest attendees were the students themselves. The museum at the university also shows technology from the 1960s for spinning, knitting and weaving fabrics.

Undergraduates and Master’s students from as far away as Pakistan and Iran shared their ideas and input on how to improve supply chains, promote ethical working practices and encourage the use of organic materials. Students wanted to know about the barriers Safia faced in starting up with People Tree, where these difficulties the same as those faced today? How have things progressed? What can be done to ensure those in the fashion industry buy sustainable and organic fabrics and promote ethical fashion? And what of the differences in the design details themselves in Fair Trade and sustainable fashion compared to conventional fashion?


What emerged is that there can be no single answer to ‘how do we create a sustainable fashion industry?’ The reality will take input from every level, from the designers, through to the commercial buyers and, ultimately, will be driven by consumer demand. Designers and consumers want sustainable fashion and we need a more nurturing environment and effective legislation in place to maintain it.

But with this next generation of fashion students, finally, the truth is clear and the agenda is set. The future of fashion is a sustainable one, there can be no question about that if the industry is to survive. And the dedication, creativity and spark shown by those in attending the event is what companies new and established will need to harness.


Young people are the next generation of fashion and they’re bringing the change from within the industry and with their own brands and ethical drive. Now we the industry, governments and consumers join in with this collaborative change.