SAFIA MINNEY – PEOPLE TREE FOUNDER

As the founder of People Tree can you tell us the ethos behind the brand?
I guess I’m the original ‘ethical consumer’. I started People Tree in Japan 25 years ago because I wanted to provide people like me with information and products that are sustainable, Fair Trade and bring about real social change and best business practice. I wanted to prove that a business that puts the people that make its products and the environment first can succeed. That a new kind of transparency, brand loyalty and way of doing business is possible.

Ethical fashion is clearly important to you, what inspired the idea?
Ethical fashion means that the dress or top or jeans you wear can empower and support cotton farmers, craft artisans and tailors’ families and their communities. I really wanted everything I wear to be Fair Trade and sustainable. When I started attending DAVOS (World Economic Forum) as a globally recognised social entrepreneur – I started designing sustainable work wear and evening wear.

Who makes your products? How do they differ to fast fashion?
The People Tree product is 100% Fair Trade and sustainably produced, most of our suppliers are WFTO.com members and follow the 10 Fair Trade Principles. We have transparency and know who makes our products. This guarantees that producers are paid fairly, that there is gender equality, safe working conditions and that workers have a voice. We do not use child labour, sweated labour or slavery and our conditions for work keep families together by providing work in the rural areas in Bangladesh, India and Nepal, Kenya, The Philippines, etc. Many of the Fair Trade groups run projects to support their workers, like schools, day care support, health camps, micro credit support and environmental projects of all kinds. We are slow fashion (see my book ‘Slow Fashion – Aesthetics meets Ethics’).

Your book ‘Slow Fashion’ illustrates the ethical clothing movement – can you tell us more?
Slow Fashion – Aesthetics meets Ethics features two really important topics: – The new campaigning movement for ethical fashion since Rana Plaza, Fashion Revolution, Greenpeace Data Campaign, etc. have built a network of millions of ethical fashion campaigners – these campaigns are inspiring and hopefully will encourage others to become advocates for responsible fashion. The other is the growth of eco-concept stores specialising in ethical, Fair Trade and sustainable products, like the first People Tree store I started nearly 20 years ago in Japan. Slow fashion profiles these new eco-concept stores with video film that are everywhere, from Germany to Japan, to Holland and the US. Entrepreneurs are starting new stores to offer eco products – the products are gorgeous and the stores are too!

Sort out your closet. Detox. Buy second hand. Then, when you buy new make sure it is Fair Trade, sustainable and ethical. Safia Minney

What causes do you feel most passionate about and why?
I’m passionate about Fair Trade and have seen the difference if brings to people and their communities. I know that another way to design and run a business that puts people and environment central to everything it does is possible, so I’m working with other designers and companies to share my experience. Also I want people to understand what slavery in fashion means today, which is why I’m working on my new book ‘Slave to Fashion’. Only with more consumer pressure will business do the right thing and support new legislation for transparency and accountability.
I’m passionate about new economics and closing the gap between the rich and poor throughout the world – those corporate tax havens are a disgrace and are forcing people in this country into poverty and despair.

You were presented with the Public Service Award at the First Women Awards, which was well deserved – What is your key to success?
I love what I do! Every day is an inspiration! People Tree is my life work and is based on love and passion for change – today alongside People Tree, I lead a new team and new generation of change makers.

What does the future hold for you and People Tree?
I’m running a consultancy working to help companies find solutions in ethical business, whilst working on my sixth book ‘Slave to Fashion’ that will campaign against slavery in fashion supply chains. I love working with and helping to inspire a new generation of change makers and business people.
People Tree will go from strength to strength with expansion in Germany, Holland and the US. Hopefully it will continue to inspire new ethical brands too!

Can you give us one top tip for buying ethically?
Sort out your closet. Detox. Buy second hand. Then, when you buy new make sure it is Fair Trade, sustainable and ethical. There are loads of ethical brands on-line as well as People Tree.

Can you give us your top tip for living more environmentally friendly?
Hug a friend or colleague every day – it’s no carbon and makes you feel connected. It is nearly as good as a gourmet organic lunch, sometimes better!

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