There’s a good chance that the label in your T-shirt or strappy top says “made in Bangladesh.” The country is a clothing-manufacturing machine, with 80% of its GDP coming from ]the ready-made-garment industry.
But sewing cheap T-shirts doesn’t guarantee a fair wage or good working conditions, as you might guess. So Zandra Rhodes–the punk-inspired British fashion designer who designed for Princess Diana and Freddie Mercury–is doing something about it. She’s collaborating with ethical brand People Tree, a Slow Fashion, Fair Trade garment manufacturer run by another Briton, Safia Minney.
People Tree’s stance is pretty clear. “Slow Fashion means standing up against exploitation, family separation, slum cities, and pollution–all the things that make fast fashion so successful,” explains their website. The clothes are made from organic materials that are managed from field to production to be sustainable.
But the big difference comes in the manufacturing process. Take a look at the “How Our Products Are Made” section of the People Tree site and you’ll see it’s all done by hand. Hand-embroidered, hand-knitted, hand-printed, hand-woven.
Minney favors the hand made for many reasons. One is that hands are a plentiful resource. “If you think the world’s population will soon be seven billion and we know unemployment is a growing issue around the world, it makes sense to use low-carbon-appropriate technology to create great fashion.” she told the Guardian.
Rhodes’s new collection is the second she has produced with People Tree. Her trademark bright patterns are hand-dyed and woven by the women, many of whom were trained at the Bangladeshi Swallows Development Society, a school for Fair Trade garment production.
Handwork also means that the workers–mostly women–don’t need to travel to factories in the city. They can work close to home, in rural areas. There are environmental benefits too. A single hand loom saves a ton of carbon dioxide every year over a powered loom. The clothes aren’t cheap, but neither are they expensive. A men’s T-shirt costs about $40. This is a hand-woven, hand-sewn garment, and the people who made it get paid a fair wage to do so.