Fairtrade Fortnight – what does it mean for fashion?
Happy Fairtrade Fortnight! Running from 22 Feb – 7 March in 2021, this is a celebration of the people who grow our food, as well as the fibres used to make our clothes. As we see the climate crisis continue to affect the world with a snowballing effect, not to mention the global hardship caused by Covid 19, promoting Fairtrade goods are more important than ever.
My first introduction to Fairtrade was in early secondary school, where a Fairtrade fair organised by seniors offered bananas, chocolate, and other food, and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I learned this accreditation applied to clothes too. In fact, certification from the Fairtrade Foundation and World Fair Trade Organisation are both excellent markers that the people making your clothes have been treated fairly, and the materials used were farmed sustainably.
What is fair trade clothing (and is it ‘fairtrade’ or ‘fair trade’)?
Fairtrade is a certification from the Fairtrade Foundation. In short, this charitable organisation works to erradicate poverty from the people we depend on for so many of our goods, such as food and clothing. There is a set ‘Fairtrade minimum price’ for these products, but the role of the Fairtrade Foundation doesn’t end there. The organisation works to provide farmers (and in the case of fashion, factory owners) with education, with companies to encourage them to choose Fairtrade options and to prioritise the rights of those down their supply chains, and with the general public to raise awareness of these issues.
Much of Fairtrade’s work in the fashion industry revolves around cotton. The huge impact of conventional cotton on the planet and the toll on the people who grow it is a big talking point these days, and choosing cotton that is not only organic but Fairtrade helps ensure farmers and workers are treated with the respect they deserve.
Aside from the raw materials that make our clothes, the Fairtrade Foundation’s work also applies to the wide fashion industry supply chain through the Fairtrade Textile Standard. This accreditation for manufacturers works to secure living wages for garment workers, educate workers on their rights and working conditions, to prioritise health and safety, and to engage clothing brands to commit to fairer terms of trade,
While Fairtrade Fortnight is specifically focused on the Fairtrade (one word) Foundation, there is also the equally valuable World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) working to improve the fashion industry. The overarching goal of both is largely the same (to eradicate poverty and secure workers’ and farmers’ rights), and both accreditations on our clothing should be considered a good benchmark of ethics and sustainability. The brands listed below either use Fairtrade certified raw materials, or used WFTO accredited factories for their manufacture.
Where to buy fair trade clothing in the UK
If you’d like to get involved in Fairtrade Fortnight through your wardrobe, then here’s eight brands I recommend for their style and sustainability credentials. Unfortunately, most of these brands come in standard sizing only. Let’s keep our fingers crossed Fairtrade Fortnight 2022 offers even more diversity and inclusion!
(Affiliates are marked with a *, which means I make a small commission if you shop through the links provided)
People Tree* – Possibly the most widely-known ethical fashion brand in the UK, I’ll always point people towards People Tree in the first instance when they’re after affordable, ethical clothing. People Tree as a brand is a jack-of-all-trades, covering pretty dresses, to wardrobe basics, and jewellery. Psst! Save 20% off People Tree until 2 March
Know the Origin* – I love this multi-brand store! Not only will you find stylish, simple clothes from KTO’s own label as well as other big ethical brands, but you can shop sustainable homewares and skincare too. The menswear collection is comprehensive, too. Psst! Free Fairtrade chocolate and love gift box worth £16.99 when you shop Fairtrade clothing at Know the Origin during Fairtrade Fortnight
Arthur and Henry – Another great brand for menswear, Arthur and Henry offers classic, high quality shirts and knitwear, made fairly and from natural materials. The Fairtrade cotton shirts are a wardrobe classic!
Mayamiko – This brand was worn by Meghan Markle during her Royal Africa Tour, and it’s easy to see why. Traditional African prints are key to the collection, Each piece is handcrafted by artisans from around the world from sustainable materials.
Thought Clothing* – Another British ethical fashion mainstay, Thought is a versatile and affordable brand.
Komodo – This is a cool brand for men and women. Founder Mark Bloom loves surfing and Acid House, and this minimal-yet-edgy vibe is prominent in the collections. Organic textiles are as standard, and you’ll find Fairtrade jewellery for sale, too.
Bibico – If you like classic, feminine style with a twist, then Bibico should definitely be on your radar! The brand works with two women’s cooperatives that are certified by the World Fair Trade Organisation.
Nomads – A fun, colourful and practical womenswear company with bohemian flare. Natural fibres and Fair Trade manufacturing are the backbones of each collection.
Brands featured in the cover image are People Tree and Mayamiko.