Panchachuli – Interview

Panchachuli is a women’s weavers co-op founded in 2005 and based in India. They make beautiful fabrics and pashminas using natural fibres and traditional techniques. I first came across Panchachuli at the Eco Luxe exhibit during London fashion Week in 2010 and later heard Mary King, UK agent, speak at the Ethical Fashion Forum Source Expo. Panchachuli provides opportunities for training and employment for marginalised women, currently working with nearly 800 women in 32 villages. They have a waiting list of girls hoping to start training and the enterprise has enabled schools and a hospital to be developed. Mary answered my questions below.

1. What does your role for Panchachuli in the UK involve on a day to day basis?
In the U.K. I liaise with designers and retail outlets to sell the items which I import from India. Admin takes up a considerable amount of time as well as meeting customers.

2. In what way does the Panchachuli women’s weavers’ co-op help the women involved in the enterprise?
It has empowered the women totally in a remote and economically backward region of India. Before the co-operative these women would not have been employed in this way. It also provides health care, eight schools and a hospital for the entire community so benefitting not only the women but their families as well.

3. What do you think these workers in Almora would be doing if Panchachuli had not been established?
They would be leading extremely difficult lives. A recent World Bank study concluded that Panchachuli should be used as a model for socio-economic change. The problems range from alcoholic husbands, single parent families, and other social issues. Today a Panchachuli woman stands for an independent wage earner.

4. Where do the raw fibres come from for Panchachuli products?
Lambs wool from New Zealand. Cashmere from Mongolia. Local products are Oak Silk, Himalayan Nettle and Sheep wool.

5. What is the biggest challenge Panchachuli has faced as an enterprise?
Persuading the local population to accept the changes in lifestyle and training the women to export standard.

6. What does the future hold for Panchachuli?
More expansion. It is hoped to train a further 500-1,000 women across the area.

7. How are the products and the enterprise as a whole marketed to consumers?
All labels are beautifully hand painted and name the weaver and village. In the U.K. the business is “ethical luxury” and works with The Ethical Fashion Forum so it adheres to ethical guidelines and banking.

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Ethical Fashion Resources

This list of resources includes some of the key texts that I have come across over the last two to three years. It doesn’t cover every area of ethical fashion as the selections are based on my own research interests. The main areas not covered are the ethics of wearing fur, and recycling/waste, although these areas are touched upon in some of the generalised books.

Books

Prehistoric Textiles. Barber, E.J.W. 1992, Princeton University Press

Information on early textiles, relevant to explore how textiles have been important in our lives for thousands of years.

Design for Sustainability: A practical approach. Bhamra, T. 2007, Gower Publishing

Covers sustainable design in general, covers the whole life cycle.

Eco-Chic: The Fashion Paradox. Black, S. 2008, Black Dog Publishing

Key ethical fashion text written by London College of Fashion professor, Sandy Black.

Future fashion: White Papers. Hoffman, L. 2007, Earth Pledge

Fantastic resource for ethical/sustainable fashion and textiles. Compilation of detailed academic papers covering most topics.

Sustainable Textiles: Life cycle and environmental impact. Blackburn, R.S. 2009, Woodhead Publishing in Textiles

Fantastic edited book of various journal papers. Extremely detailed and useful information, but book is very difficult to get hold of.

Environmental Life Cycle Analysis. D. F. Ciambrone 1997, CRC Press.

This is a very specific book for LCA, not needed for undergrads but useful for business or professional research purposes. Hard going without background knowledge, but essential for anyone trying to compile a comprehensive LCA.

Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journeys. Fletcher, K. 2008, Earthscan.

Fantastic book by Dr Kate Fletcher of London College of Fashion. Covers whole textile life cycle, really useful read.

The Textile Book. Gale, C.; Kaur, J. 2002, Berg

Puts textiles into a social and creative context. Great final chapter called, ‘Ecology’ which covers ethical issues.

Ecological Intelligence, Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy. Goleman, D.
2009, Penguin Group

A great read on consumption and ethics in general. Detailed discussion on LCA.

Sustainable Fashion, Why Now? Hethorn, J.; Ulasewicz, C. 2008, Fairchild Books

A collection of critical essays, fantastic. Something for everyone.

Ethics in the Fashion Industry. Hillery, J.L.; Paulins, V.A. 2009, Fairchild Books

A slightly different angle on ethics, concerns more the decisions that fashion professionals have to make. Retail/human perspective.

The Apparel Industry. Jones, R.M. 2006, Blackwell Publishing

Not specifically from an ethical angle, but a detailed look at the global clothing industry including a chapter on UK production, labour issues, offshore production and trade barriers.

Eco Chic: The Savvy Shoppers Guide to Ethical Fashion. Lee, M.; Hamnett, K. 2007, Octopus Publishing.

Nice read, good background info but not an academic text.

The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy. Rivoli, P. 2006, John Wiley & Sons

As the title says. Very interesting look at production stage from cotton farms to consumer.

Slaves to Fashion. Ross, R. 2004, The University of Michigan Press

American perspective, history and impact of sweatshop labour. Essential for labour studies.

Explaining Environmentalism: In search of a new social movement. Sutton, P.W. 2000, Ashgate Publishing

Provides theoretical basis to justify ethical fashion perspectives.

Trigger Issues: T-shirt. Wells, T. 2007, New Internationalist Publications

Ethical issues in producing a cotton t-shirt, pesticide use, sweatshops.

Eco Fashion. Brown, S. 2010, Laurence King

A catalogue of ethical designers, great resource for case studies.

Making Sweatshops: The globalisation of the US apparel industry. Rosen, E. 2002, University of California Press

An historical analysis of the US clothing industry and the rise of sweatshops.

Reports

Environmental Assessment of Textiles. 2007, Danish Environmental Protection Agency

Scientific study, only needed for detailed assessment.

Public Understanding of Sustainable Clothing: A report to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Cooper, T.; Fisher, T.; Goworek, H.; Hiller, A.; Woodward. 2008, Defra

Defra report, very useful for consumer study data.

Ethical Clothing. Mintel, 2009, Mintel Group

Respected market research, look out for future updated reports.

Are We Well Dressed? Allwood, J.M.; Broken, N.M.P.; Laursen, S.E.; Rodriguez, C.M. 2006, University of Cambridge.

Excellent reference report looking at UK textile industry and LCA for different products.

Fashioning the Future. 2008, Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion

Documents the debates raised from a conference, therefore more of a conversation amongst key representatives than an informative report.

Fashioning Sustainability. 2007, Forum for the Future

A useful and very readable summary of all ethical fashion issues.

Websites

http://www.ethicalfashionforum.com/

A fab source for resources, designers and events.

http://www.fashioninganethicalindustry.org/

http://www.labourbehindthelabel.org/

http://www.pan-uk.org/

http://www.forumforthefuture.org/

http://www.sustainable-fashion.com/

http://www.waronwant.org/

http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/products/cotton/default.aspx

http://slowtextiles.org/

http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-clothing/fur.aspx

http://www.trackmyt.com/

http://www.soilassociation.org/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/thread/

http://www.ecochiccollection.co.uk/magazine/

http://www.ecofashionworld.com/

http://www.offsetwarehouse.com/

http://www.peopletree.co.uk/

I haven’t included a list of journal articles because I would only be able to list specific papers that I have used, missing many out. Newspapers, magazines and trade magazines also have helpful news stories, especially Drapers.

If you know of any other key resources please let me know! Leave your additions as a comment below, this list certainly isn’t exhaustive.

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EFF Sourcing Expo

On Wednesday I went to the Ethical Fashion Forum – Ethical Sourcing Expo at Central Hall Westminster. I was helping out as a note taker for some of the seminars and got to have a good look around too. It had expanded greatly from last year’s event, there were plenty of ethical fashion brands, accessories, materials and organisations exhibiting. I was hoping to source some ethical fabrics to make my own range, but was a little disappointed. There was not as much choice as I hoped, and the fabric available was generally wool or boring cottons, whereas I want pretty silks and bright colours to make underwear. Nevertheless, I came across a fair few new brands that I would like to shop with in the future and the seminars were helpful.

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