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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Win a Scarf from Sancho’s Dress New Collection

Sancho's Dress Scarves

Sancho’s Dress is an ethical fashion and gift store in the beautiful city of Exeter. Earlier this year, the store’s owners Kalkidan Legesse and Vidmantas Markevicius, launched a Kickstarter campaign to set up a loom workshop in Northern Ethiopia in order to produce their own range of scarves and shawls. They wanted to create training opportunities and jobs for local women using back-to-basic wooden looms that require no electricity, fossil fuels, excessive water or heavy machinery, and have a minimal carbon footprint.

Happily, the Kickstarter was a success and they have just launched their winter collection! The organically-grown cotton is hand-picked and hand-spun to ensure it is made of the softest and most sustainable fabric. Each scarf is uniquely made with care and consideration. The colours are soft and perfect for autumn, with hints of burnt orange, sky blue and moss green. Each scarf takes three hours to make and in a transparency lost in most textile enterprises, both of the founders know exactly which seamster or seamstress made each piece. A range of ponchos (bang on trend right now) are new for AW15 and come in the same hand-woven cotton.

Sanchos - Blue Shawl

Speaking about the collection, Kalkidan said:

“We set out to create a line of scarves that are stylish and contemporary, while also being cosy and comfortable for the winter months”. We believe business creates systems of empowerment, education and ownership. We will fight hard to work with marginalised women to show them their capacity to success.”

Sancho’s Dress won Sublime Magazine’s Best Social Enterprise Award 2015. They are offering one lucky reader the chance to have their own scarf from the award-winning workshop in an exclusive giveaway. Just email emma@ethicalhighstreet.co.uk by 30th September 2015 with the subject ‘SANCHOCOMP’ to be in with a chance to win! If you’re on twitter, tweet @Sanchosdresses to get a second entry into the prize draw!

Sanchos - Green and White Scarf

For more of the range see www.sanchosdress.com

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Sweet Cavanagh: Making jewellery to combat eating disorders

making jewellery

Over 725,000 men and women in the UK are affected by eating disorders including anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. Although serious, eating disorders are treatable conditions and full recovery is possible once the sufferer gets help. I don’t think eating disorders are spoken about enough and for a sufferer, one of the hardest steps to recovery is admitting that something is wrong. Even then the cost of inpatient care is staggering and the strain on the NHS means that many people do not get the help they desperately need or leave treatment early.

Free Me is a charity working to bridge the gap between the recovery services offered by the NHS and getting back to everyday life. Based in London, Free Me owns the jewellery brand and social enterprise Sweet Cavanagh. Free Me open their doors to women recovering from eating disorders and additions. Through Sweet Cavanagh they teach the women how to make and design jewellery and then sell it on their website. Not only is the process of making jewellery therapeutic in itself, but the members are given the chance to learn about the business side of the enterprise, boosting their skills and confidence. If an eating disorder has dominated your life for quite some time, perhaps causing you to drop out of school or postpone exams, the creativity and purpose generated by being part of a productive group can be a lifeline at a time of feeling lost and alone.

The therapeutic benefits of jewellery making are enhanced by the weekly support groups and nutrition counseling. All of these services are free of charge. Research has proven that jewellery making can augment one’s wellbeing by increasing self esteem and reducing stress and anxiety; all of which can decrease risk of relapse. Sweet Cavanagh also gives women an opportunity to become self-employed as jewellery designers and creators by paying each woman a living wage for each piece of theirs that sells.

So, what do they create?

Necklaces, bracelets, beads and upcycled vintage pieces. Browse online by type or individual designer.

I love this necklace made with a vintage scarf clip, £34.99
freya_gold_vintage_3
. . . this bracelet, £25. What a beautiful shade of green.
green_and_silver
. . . and all of the Mala beads (prayer beads) which have been used in meditation for centuries.
Mala_jade_1_grande

See more at http://sweetcavanagh.com/

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SWAGS World do Christmas with Sustainable Artisan Crafts

SWAGS World

Christmas is fully upon us. I know this because my weekly Sunday paper has doubled in size under the weight of branded gift guides, the Christmas market has opened in town and television adverts are united in a singular voice – buy our stuff for your best Christmas ever. We don’t have to partake in this commercialised view of Christmas though, should we want to do it differently. When it comes to buying gifts and decorating the home in the lead up to the big day, there are ways to give a gift that goes further than simply that received by the recipient.

Take SWAGS World for example. Buy one of their products – bags, sandals and dolls – and you are helping to empower a woman in South East Asia to earn her own income through her artisan craft. Joanne White founded SWAGS World (Simply Women and Girls Sustainable World) as a social enterprise offering affordable, accessible products for socially responsible shoppers, all handmade by women in South East Asia. The artisan women involved receive a fair price for their products through sustainable employment that will accommodate their family life and other commitments. SWAGS World pay 50% of the price of each item to the producers upfront, and the SWAGS Academy programme helps by providing training and support in creating a long-term artisan trade.

You can check out their products online. Their fabric covered Christmas tree decorations (£6) are absolutely gorgeous and are great stocking fillers. Each one has a special meaning, the globe symbolises celebration with family and friends. The recycled newspaper print shopper is practical, fun and classically designed, but my favourite product has to be the Harmony Dolls. Designed to spark curiosity in children, and an acceptance of diversity in the world, they are made by a co-operative of women on the island of Atauro, East Timor and are totally delightful.

SWAGS World christmas globe
SWAGS world recycled Handbag Newsprint

SWAGS World are based locally to me in Hampshire, so I got to ask the team about their future plans:

1. Where can we buy your stuff?

Our exclusive handmade products are currently available in our online store at swagsworld.com. We share the stories of the artisans we work with, so our customers can connect with the women who have created the products they are buying.

2. What’s the SWAGS Worldwide marketplace?

Our dream has always been to make ethical products desirable, accessible and affordable. With our Marketplace, we hope to offer a global collection of products for socially responsible consumers; an alternative to mass-produced, throwaway fashion, poor working conditions and undervalued labour. We will provide an online platform for consumers to purchase handmade items from artisans all around the world, with the knowledge that they are having a positive impact on people who really need it.

3. What would a real SWAGS world look like?

We believe a true SWAGS World would be positive, honest, educational, supportive and sustainable. We hope that with the continuing growth of ethical, sustainable brands and increasing choice for consumers, we are getting closer to this vision!

SWAGS World Harmony Dolls

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Elephant Branded: Bags to Give School Children the Chance they Deserve

Elephant Branded, run by uni friends James and Tim, is an accessories brand fronting a beautiful story. Put simply, for every ethically made, recycled bag or similar product they give one school bag and kit to a child in Africa or Asia. James set up Elephant Branded when, after working in these continents, he was shocked by the basic lack of school equipment available to children and wanted to make a positive difference.

Elephant Branded joins a new breed of ethical fashion enterprise who strive not just to neutralise the detrimental effects of the fashion industry, but whose existence actually has a positive effect. They pay a fair, competitive wage to local villagers who make the products from locally sourced, recycled materials and then sell them to the likes of us (at a very reasonable price!).

bag

Featured by the BBC, Glamour magazine and The Sunday Times, Elephant Branded currently create covetable bags, laptop cases, iPad cases and wallets. Their big break came when John Lewis started selling their wares. I love the large Clipper bag (£45), a roomy holdall style bag perfect for travelling, the gym or the beach. It is hand-crafted from recycled cement bags by villagers in Cambodia and of course, for every one sold Elephant Branded delivers a school kit to a child in Africa or Asia. Whilst the clutch purse, £18, makes a great gift

Take a look at some of their projects in Cambodia, Uganda and Sierra Leone and meet their suppliers. Buy direct online or from John Lewis.

brandedele1

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Whomadeyourpants? Social Enterprise Starts at Home

Whomadeyourpants? is a fabulous social enterprise based in Southampton. They set up in 2009 and started selling pants at the beginning of 2010. Stated simply, whomadeyourpants? is a social enterprise selling ethical underwear made by local women who might otherwise have struggled to find employment due to lack of confidence, qualifications or language barriers. Most of the workers are refugees and through whomadeyourpants? they can learn English, employment skills and gain an NVQ in Manufacturing of Sewn Products. They are a co-operative so all of the members have a vote towards business decisions.

The social enterprise model has grown significantly over the last few years. As I’ve said before, I think it is particularly interesting when applied within the fashion industry because fashion should be full of joy and beauty but often when you get behind the shiny retail image and product, it is far from that. The social enterprises that have sprung up within the fashion industry prove that more sustainable retail models are possible. In many cases, they are based abroad using local artisan skills and exporting products to the West. Whomadeyourpants? is quite unique in that sense, being based here in the UK.

I think when you look into the whomadeyourpants? story though, it is clear how vital enterprises like this could be. Whomadeyourpants? has become a life line to the workers within the co-op, and for us as the consumers we can be comforted to know exactly where are undies have come from. They produce their products with offcuts from the lingerie trade and manufacture from their base in Southampton. If you buy pants you can even log on online and check to see who was working on the day your pants were made, and thus see who made your pants!

Founder and director, Becky John kindly answered my questions.

1. What is the biggest challenge you have faced since starting the enterprise?

There have been a number! Issues re initial lingerie design not working and us not understanding why until a lingerie designer came in. Cashflow and the balance between wanting to pay our own way and not be grant reliant but realising that we need to support the initial stages of production with grants or else there’s too much pressure on the women and then they panic and we do the opposite of what we wanted to and upset them. Language barriers also meant things got lost in translation.

2. How has wmyp made a difference to the lives of the female employees?

Increasing financial independence, eg. new bank accounts in their own names. They are given hope for the future – a number are planning what jobs they want with us or elsewhere. When we ask what life is like with no wmyp, they say it’s boring! Children see their mums in work which is great.

3. Do you believe the wmyp social enterprise model could be replicated in other areas of the UK?

YES! And we plan to 🙂

4. Do you think more needs to be done to educate consumers to shop with ethics in mind?

Tough one – I personally think so but it’s a hard balance. I don’t think anyone would actually want to buy something made by kids or in bad circumstances, I think more of people than that – but how do you get the message out? You don’t want to be preachy. We encourage people to ask their own questions. We want to be open and honest so people wonder why other people aren’t.

5. What are your plans for the future?

More whomadeyourpants? in the UK and beyond. Make this a nice replicable model so it’s easy to set up. And I personally want to get every restaurant to know that parmesan and pesto are not vegetarian.

Visit them at www.whomadeyourpants.co.uk

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