Beats for Global SeeSaw

Tammy, Han and Me with Global SeeSaw's goodies

Tammy, Han and Me with Global SeeSaw’s goodies

Music, fair trade shopping and wholesome food (and wine) is my idea of a pretty perfect Friday night. That’s exactly the position I found myself in last week at Mettricks Guildhall, Southampton, at Beats for Global SeeSaw. Global SeeSaw are a Hampshire-based social enterprise who work with women in India to produce and sell fair trade bags, clothing, jewellery, homeware and gifts. Southampton graduate and blogger, Hannah Talbot (Han Meets World), pulled the event together to showcase Global SeeSaw’s great work as well as promote local artists (musical ones that is). It was a fairly familiar format for Global SeeSaw, who are used to working with local community groups and churches to hold shopping parties and showcase events. They also sell online and wholesale to independent shops.

Global SeeSaw products

Global SeeSaw products

For me, one of the best things about the evening was meeting Tammy from Global SeeSaw and Han, who I’d previously only known on Twitter, to talk about ethical fashion and social justice and all those things that mean so much to all three of us. I’d recently been feeling a bit lost in terms of my role and impact as an ethical fashion/shopping advocate (see my story here) so just having the chance to get involved in the conversation again was a big motivational boost. I also felt sad that I don’t live in Southampton anymore to fully immerse myself in the cultural shift that seems to be occurring in the town. Because I’m not sure where I’ll be in three/six months I’ve been hesitant to commit to particular events, or make contacts in my local area (i.e. back home, where I haven’t properly lived for ten years). I want to get back into doing things again – doing things and writing about things!

Charlie Hawkins takes to the stage

Charlie Hawkins takes to the stage

Global SeeSaw has been selling fair trade goods since before fair trade became fashionable. They started off as the UK distributor for Freeset, an enterprise with the aim of creating sustainable employment for women who have been trafficked into prostitution. They now work with a range of producer partners in India, using sustainable materials like jute and organic cotton to create their products. All profits from Global SeeSaw are re-invested into the business to create more employment and freedom worldwide. At the heart of their model they fight against human trafficking by providing employment to vulnerable women.

Freedom Bracelets made from recycled saris

Freedom Bracelets made from recycled saris

Last Friday’s event not only showcased Global SeeSaw’s products but also fundraised for the enterprise, with Mettricks donating all of the takings from a limited edition charity cocktail. Attendees were entertained with music from locally-based student artists (shout out to Charlie Hawkins, Aaron Lewns and Archie Combe) and tucked into wholesome dishes from Mettricks’ menu. I nearly went home with one these happy chaps, but I wasn’t sure how he’d feel about a bar crawl around Southampton’s finest. I might have to start my Christmas shopping soon instead!

Why not hold a fair trade shopping party of your own? You’ll find more information about their Freedom Parties here.

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Mindful, Fair Trade Jewellery by Mosami

clover2

Jewellery can be so much more than adornment. Often we attach deep meaning to pieces because they were a gift, an heirloom, a memory, a way of saying thank you, well done or I love you. The pieces by Mosami can mean all of these things, but importantly they also come with a symbolism of their own. Mosami is a brand combining beautiful jewellery design with the benefits of mindfulness, a feature I find captivating. If you seek to find greater courage, success or happiness, there is an ethically crafted piece to suit your mood along with an accompanying simple mindfulness ritual to practice whenever the moment takes you.

Mosami was founded by Sarah Greenaway, a woman passionate about sustainability, peace and beautiful things. We met up over coffee to chat about her plans for Mosami, my plans for Ethical High Street and the global need to continue moving towards a greener economy. Mosami pieces (necklaces, earrings and bracelets) are made from recycled or Fairtrade silver. As Sarah explained, she’d like to use more Fairtrade silver but as it is fairly new on the market, availability cannot currently keep pace with demand. In fact, with just one Fairtrade certified mine in the world, Sarah is part of a small group pioneering the Fairtrade metal. The silver is sourced from Sotrami, a mine in Peru where a dedicated team have worked hard to gain Fairtrade accreditation.

All of the Mosami pieces are designed by British designers and made by men and women highly skilled in their craft. Mosami aims to raise awareness of the shocking environmental impact of artisanal mining, offering jewellery that is beautiful to wear, and made with respect for people and planet.

So how does Mosami team jewellery with mindfulness?

“With a little practice jewellery can do more than just remind us of happy times passed, it can remind us to make positive choices for a happy future too. Mosami pieces are created to inspire beautiful personal rituals that blend empowering thought patterns with everyday routine”

Just as Buddhist prayer beads help aid meditation, Mosami show you how to use their pieces to take time out and focus your thoughts. I love the Wisdom Cuff (£125) that Sarah was wearing when we met. Made from 100% Fairtrade silver the “Words to Live By” cuffs are a tribute to the Celtic reverence for the wise oak. Each is decorated with oak leaves and acorns, and discreetly inscribed with words of wisdom from icons of more recent times.

WisdomCuff_Mosami
Not only do the inscribed quotes by Mother Theresa, Mahatma Ghandi and Charlie Chaplin provide a mindful thought to empower you through the day, but the bracelet itself can provide reminder to be true to your own wisdom as you gently touch the hand-beaten metal as a reminder to slow down and take a mindful moment.

Browsing online you can shop by product, wish and ritual. So –

to improve positive thinking and to feel lucky every day try the Lucky Day Clover Necklace (£70) and accompanying Lucky Day ritual.

Clover_mosami

Or be reminded of your inner happiness with the Marigold necklace (£60) and accompanying happiness ritual.

marigold_Mosami

You can shop Mosami online at: www.mosami.co.uk

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Brand Watch: Nomads Clothing Fairtrade Since 1989

Nomads Clothing began with a beautiful story. Founded by a pair who met whilst backpacking around India in the 1980s, they snapped up £200 worth of ethnic clothing and headed back to sell it in the UK. Returning to India with the profits they made they decided to start Nomads Clothing, inspired by the Indian culture and gorgeous fabrics and artisan crafts they came across. Nomads continue to travel to India several times a year to develop their collections, which make use of print and detail to create contemporary, covetable pieces.

There is plenty of information online about Nomads fair trade policies. Supporting handicraft artisan skills, you will find traditional methods such as patchwork and block printing in their collections. Equality of pay for male and female workers is guaranteed, as is no child labour. Keen to protect the environment too, Nomads continue to increase their use of organic cotton.

You can pick up a wide range of womenswear from Nomads – dresses, tunics, trousers, coats, tops and blouses. Pictured here you can see me in the Jasmine Print Cowl Neck Dress (now on sale at £42 from £60) which I absolutely love! Made from organic cotton with an easy side zip fastening and just the right amount of stretch, it’s the perfect go-to dress for any occasion. The print is quite Christmassy too!

Nomads fair trade organic dress

Alongside all the great prints they have plain basics including quality long-sleeved t-shirts and shirts. Jewellery, bags, scarves and gloves can be found in their accessories collection including cashmere fingerless gloves for just £20. You can find a stockist list online and head to your local fair trade retailer, or else, now is the time to check out their collections online where they have 30% off many products www.nomadsclothing.com.

Nomads have been trading for 15 years and have refined a business model to support workers, protect the environment wherever possible and offer lovely, and affordable clothing for conscious consumers. They should be a staple in any women’s wardrobe.
Nomads fair trade ethical clothing

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COSSAC Cool: Ethical Fashion

COSSAC ethical fashion yoga

I get approached by new ethical fashion brands quite regularly but COSSAC is different because COSSAC is a fashion label that just so happens to be consciously ethical in approach. This means that rather than relying on ethics alone to make a brand profile, COSSAC is a trend-led label for the youthful woman who loves life, loves fashion and wants to make a stand for what she believes in.

COSSAC launched yesterday, 24th October 2014, and currently has two small women’s collections. Utilising conscious design with low environmental impact, the label was founded by the lovely Agata Natalia Kozak who says:

“The reason for starting COSSAC is the desire to make something good, something I believe in and love doing that additionally will have a positive impact on fashion, society and environment. It’s not about making money, it’s about starting a positive change, a little fashion revolution.”

Agata uses fabric suppliers in the UK, India, Germany and Turkey and currently bases production in the UK and India. At present 80% of the fabrics are fair trade, organic, recycled and/or sustainable with Agata working towards 100%.

For the Eye’ is a fashion-forward collection of trendy separates. The look is minimalist, pieces for going out in the evening or heading to parties. This top (£75) for example, is made from organic cotton velvet and recycled fur with a sheer organza panel at the hem. The organic cotton top I’m wearing above (£25) is part of the ‘For the Soul’ collection, a range of lounge/casual/yoga gear featuring my favourite – slogan tees. I will definitely wear mine for yoga, but right now I’m wearing it with a long grey jersey skirt. I can’t wait to see what COSSAC have in store for future collections!

To view the full collection visit: www.COSSAC.co.uk
Facebook: www.facebook.com/COSSACfashion

Twitter: www.twitter.com/COSSACfashion

Instagram: www.instagram.com/COSSACfashion
Watch COSSAC Behind The Scenes. A/W14 photo-shoot on You Tube: http://youtu.be/U98OZ7Mnd-c

You can support COSSAC through their Kickstarter campaign and get your own piece of Eco-Hot fashion here https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1393449163/cossac-ss15-eco-hot-fashion

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SOKO Kenya Interview

SOKO is a production unit based in Kenya, founded by Jo Maiden originally from London. They produce high quality garments for the international fashion industry and run as a social enterprise, improving the quality of life for the local workers through employment, training and improved social services. I’ve been following their progress since the end of 2009 and was lucky enough to speak to Jo this week. SOKO supplies the ASOS Africa collection and Jessica Ogden for ASOS collection which you can find in the Green Room.


Emma: You worked for ethical fashion forum before starting SOKO, what did you do before that, how did you get into the ethical fashion arena?
Jo: I did a fashion degree, and through that started to think about where clothes came from. Fairtrade coffee and things like that were starting to come on to the scene but people weren’t really thinking about it from a clothing perspective. So I started to look into it, I wrote my dissertation on fashion and ethics and what was available for the customer. After finishing my degree I moved back to London. Ethical Fashion Forum was just forming then, so I started to go to things that they were a part of, and just teach myself what was going on. At the time I was working for a small couture designer as her assistant and just trying to find my feet. I got more involved in the Ethical Fashion Forum as they grew and I freelanced for them for three years part time as well as doing other projects part time.

E: So what lead you to start up the enterprise in Kenya?
Jo: My husband and I wanted to move somewhere out of London and we ended up in Nairobi, I was running some workshops with Tamsin, who’s the founder of Ethical Fashion Forum. While I was there I met a lady who invited me down to Diani which is where SOKO is based and she had four tailors that she employed to make her clothes. She runs Lalesso, her own fashion brand and was also managing production. She said she didn’t want to do the production anymore, but there wasn’t anything around and she didn’t want to go to a massive factory. So she was looking for someone that she could outsource to, so that’s when the idea of starting SOKO came up. We moved here in Feb 2009 and she gave me her four tailors and I set up SOKO. She was my first customer and I still produce for her and then because of my connections with the fashion industry in the UK, the collaboration with ASOS began.

E: The ASOS Africa collection, is that designed by the ASOS team and manufactured by you?
Jo: Yes exactly, I’m involved in helping with some of the sourcing of fabrics, I try to source as much as possible locally, but yes it’s all designed in house by them.

E: Where do you get most of the fabrics from? Do you try to use environmentally friendly fabrics?
Jo: It’s for the client’s specification, and most clients deliver fabric to me. Every time I work with ASOS we try to source locally if we can. We haven’t to date been able to use any environmentally friendly fabrics. We would love to of course, but it’s about doing one step at a time and it has to be commercial in terms of price, so we haven’t yet been in a position to do that. But for the last ASOS Africa collection we used hand woven fabric using Kenyan cotton which wasn’t organic but it’s a really good step.

E: How many workers do you have at the unit there, and where do you find the workers from?
Jo: There are 28 of us altogether and they are all local. People just show up really, or when a small workshop closed down locally we’ve employed their workers.


E: Did a lot of them already have the skills that were required?
Jo: All of my tailors could sew, but their standards weren’t as we required, so that’s what I’ve worked with them on. Nobody that has worked for me has ever worked in a big factory before, because there are big clothing manufacturers here but they are run in a very different way and no one here has worked there before, which actually may have helped. We just train as we’ve gone along.

E: What’s your connection to the Ukunda Youth Polytechnic?
Jo: We are partnered with the polytechnic and our workshops are based inside the polytechnic grounds. We sponsor all the orphan students that study here. We help them pay their school fees, we also take on tailoring graduates from the polytechnic and train them up and then employ them. We also try to promote what the polytechnic does.

E: What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced since starting SOKO?
Jo: As with any business it’s starting out. I didn’t have any experience of doing this before. One thing was finding the right people, people have come and gone, and it feels as if now I’ve got a really strong team and a good set of managers. So that’s one thing and the other thing is getting the systems in place. So if you imagine that no one who works here has ever been into a clothes shop where there is a rack of say, one style of dress, in three different colours, size 6 to 16 and they are all exactly the same, other than the size – the labels are in the same place, the care labels are the same, they’re perfect. So having never seen that before and not being able to imagine what walking into Topshop for example looks like, then to try and help them understand why the quality and consistency is so important has been difficult. With ASOS, I got an 80 page manual with all their different requirements.

E: What are your expansion plans and plans for the future?
Jo: We’re in a very small space at the moment which isn’t big enough so we’re looking for a new workshop, whether we renovate an old space or buy some land and build, or rent somewhere, we’re looking into that. At the moment we’ve got a small crèche which is under a tent, so we need a proper space for the babies and all of those sorts of things.

E: Have you had donations and extra funding that hasn’t come through sales?
Jo: Yes, when I first started I got a donation from Joffe Charitable Trust which is a small charity run by Lord Joffe and I got a donation for £10 000 which was to kick start us and from then I’ve had donations from individuals who support and believe in our work. Initially I was trying to raise a lot of money to properly start up with which I didn’t get but I’m actually grateful for that because its meant that we’ve grown organically.

See a video of SOKO Kenya here

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Fair( )trade




Fair trade: The more I think about it the more confusing it gets. I learnt a lot more about it at the social labelling conference from people who work for the key fair trade organisations. First there’s the fact that fair trade, and Fairtrade are not the same. This I did know before – fair trade is a generic term which anyone can use, whereas Fairtrade is a certifying organisation – proof that it is fair trade. What I hadn’t quite grasped before, I’m ashamed to say, was the limits of Fairtrade within apparel. Basically that when a t-shirt says ‘Fairtrade certified cotton’ it is literally just the cotton growing stage that is certified Fairtrade, not in fact the cotton processing stage or t-shirt manufacture stage. Makes sense now, but it’s so easy to just assume. It just seems strange that this is the case, and worth shouting about, when much of the labour intensive part is perhaps the sewing of the garment. I suppose it links on from the fact that the Fairtrade foundation’s most successful area is food, which comes straight from the farmer to us almost. Indeed they only developed the Fairtrade cotton standard in 2004 so perhaps the standard will develop and grow in due course, but if I hadn’t grasped that fact in full, no wonder other consumers are confused.

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