Modern Slavery in fashion… How do we eradicate it? We can start by TALKING about it – and here at the ‘Slave To Fashion’ project, led by founder of People Tree and Managing Director of Po-Zu, @Safia_Minney, we want to hear from you.
Tag a friend, and tell us in eight words (or more!), why Slavery is wrong – And be in with a chance to win a ‘Slave to Fashion’ Fair trade Tshirt and Jute Duffle Bag- to assist you in spreading the word further – you may select from either a black bag, or a magenta bag – see them here:
Freeset Jute bags are manufactured in fair trade conditions. All workers are paid fair wages and have healthy working conditions. And the most important thing of all – each Bag is sewn by the talented Freeset seamstresses and represents another step on their journey to freedom.
All the fabrics are knitted at their in-house facilities, and dyed with GOTS approved chemicals, using low-water and controlled waste discharge processes, certified to OekoTex 100 Class I standard and conforming to REACH.
Organic certified fabrics are dyed in our zero-discharge dyehouse, where all the water is recycled in a closed-loop system.
Despite having a rich handcraft and textile heritage, unlike countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan has no Fair Trade movement. My role in the mentoring program was to work with them to help develop their collections for London Fashion Week using sustainable and Fair Trade practices where possible.
All the designers are passionate about showcasing the best of Pakistan’s hand skills in their collections and their work is exquisite. Some of my favourite skills like Zardozi embroidery, using metal wire beads together with hand embroidery, featured strongly in many collections. Designers were also keen to use hand woven textile at the same time to innovate and use organic cotton and other materials – Munib was incredible at making very eco and avant garde fabrics locally.
One of the issues is that with weak local NGOs and trade unions, Pakistan has little awareness of minimum wages – let alone a debate about Living Wages. Setting up cost sheets and looking at ways to reflect fair labour costs into design and product development reminded me of designing collections for People Tree with their producers.
The results were strong and some friendships made for life. Have a look at the fashion show presented at London Fashion Week.
It’s an historic day to launch a book. The 4th anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh killing over 1,000 garment factory workers who work under highly exploitative conditions to make the clothes we buy, often for the price of a lunch, on our high streets.
I started the project excited to understand what the impact of the new UK Modern Slavery Act* meant to companies in changing their business practice and delivering fundamental human rights to their workers. After having spent over two decades visiting factories and setting up ethical and Fair Trade supply chains, I feel a window of change is here.
Friends and long-time campaigners, were calling me excited that the term ‘modern slavery’ was being used and that finally some progressive business leaders wanted ‘social dialogue’ and a level playing field and to enable them to look at their supply chains for slavery – whether it is ‘risk management’ or a sense of ‘wanting to do the right thing’ this has the potential to change things at the grassroots. The principles of Fair Trade have never been more relevant. My hope is that the Slave to Fashion book provides a snap shot and promotes awareness on how can industry, campaigners and consumers can help eradicate slavery.
Published by New Internationalist and with the help of over 500 supporters through Kickstarter, what was clear was that a large number of people want to know more about modern-slavery in fashion supply chains. The research took myself and Miki Alcalde, photographer and film-maker, to India, Cambodia and Bangladesh. I interviewed leaders in the anti-slavery movement, trade unions, progressive businesses and tech start-ups working on transparency. Also, some of the most moving interviews were with people who themselves are caught up in slavery and lawyers and activists working to free them, rehabilitate them; and on prevention. What’s clear is that the principles of Fair Trade and better business would radically help to do this.
I am deeply grateful to the supporters of the book, the team and contributors across the world that helped me to research and write Slave to Fashion.
Watch the Slave to Fashion launch event hosted by the Duke of Cambridge, Angel, Islington in London and supported by New Internationalist and Po-Zu ethical shoes.
Safia Minney’s “Slave to Fashion” Book Launch at the Duke of Cambridge.
The inspiration for Slave to Fashion came to me in a dream. The faces and hands of women, children and men reached out to me, calling, smiling, asking for solidarity, not charity, and for me to witness and tell their story. (It was not a nightmare; nightmares leave you trying to forget. In this dream I wanted to remember the feelings and the colours, and to reconnect with the people in it.) They are us and we are them…
To name a few, special thanks go to:
Caryn Franklin, Livia Firth & the Eco-Age team, Lucy Siegle, Geetie Singh-Watson, Andrew Morgan & The True Cost team, Baroness Lola Young, Cindy Berman, ETI, Quintin Lake, Tamsin Lejeune & Harold Tillman, CBE of Ethical Fashion Forum, Matt Morgan, Fact Studio, Walton Li, Liz Wilkinson, Wendy Chapman & the one-and-only Miki Alcalde for all their support and faith.
by Safia Minney, Founder of People Tree and Managing Director of Po-Zu (ethical footwear company)
Safia launches her new book ‘Slave to Fashion’ during Fashion Revolution Week. The book discusses modern slavery in fashion supply chains and goes through Safia’s journey finding out more behind the fashion industry.
I’m hoping that Slave to Fashion will be a crash course on modern slavery; why is it still happening in numbers like we have never seen before and what needs to change to stop it. Modern slavery includes; human trafficking, bonded, forced and child labour and excessive overtime.
The inspiration for Slave to Fashion came to me in a dream.
The faces and hands of women, children and men reached out to me, calling, smiling, asking for solidarity, not charity, and for me to witness and tell their stories. I wanted a big solution to poverty, exploitation and social injustice…
The book covers The Modern Slavery Act, The Global economy, Meet the Slaves (to protect the people I changed their names and masked their faces with a pink ribbon), the Social & Technical Innovations and investigative journalism that is making the difference, and a Toolkit.
The Fair Trade movement has been key to building public awareness, set decent standards for different agricultural commodities and manufacturing for products and terms of trade and has inspired policy makers and the media. The MSA (Modern Slavery Act), passed in 2015, which included supply chains and requires companies with a turnover of £36mn to file a Slavery Report on what they are doing to eradicate slavery in their supply chains, requires sign off of the company board. There is a lot that needs to happen to make this more effective and give the public access to this information, and make it easy to act upon.
The MSA represents a unique opportunity to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (remember those?!) and the Ruggie Principles (UN Guiding Principles and Human Rights). But what does this mean in reality for the workers?
It is clear that it has the power as companies are forced to get to know their supply chains and maintain information through good transparency, promote social dialogue, design and plan their orders better, to strengthen local legal systems, challenge corruption and strengthen human rights through laws and codes of practice that WORK, including paying a living wage and respecting independent trade unions.
Researching, interviewing for and writing Slave to Fashion, I spend 6 months meeting women men and children in India, Cambodia and Bangladesh and hearing their stories and interviewed business people and activists working on human rights and slavery issues. Girls who were 12 when they started working at a cotton mill where her friends, other children were bonded labourers, and at 15 felt too exhausted and burnt out to work in a garment factory for 6 days a week; women who were trafficked and ended up in the sex and garment trade. Women who are sexually harassed by their male supervisors and who walk a thin line daily between losing the benefits of a permanent job and ‘giving sexual favours’. The sickening violence of slavery and misused power.
The great news is that there are Fairtrade, social enterprise and tech solutions out there and there are progressive companies too who are pushing the boundaries forward and inviting their peers to work with them to improve practice.
As a Fairtrade leader and entrepreneur, having worked in the so-called developing world with trade unions and economically marginalised people for over 20 years, we know that good trade can make a huge difference to people and prevent communities protect themselves from criminal gangs that broker people.