When we received an invite to the launch of People Tree’s collaboration with Dame Zandra Rhodes titled ‘Girl Power: Roses, Lipsticks and Bows’, we were sold at the words ’Girl Power’. For a second season running, the ethical label has linked up with flamboyant designer Zandra Rhodes to create their spring summer ’16 collection. Our writer Kayleigh Lavery went along to find out more about the collaboration and the label’s inspiring journey to Bangladesh.
The event was hosted in Zandra Rhodes’ penthouse – visiting Zandra’s studio slash home is an event in itself. Her penthouse is at the top of a four-storey building in Bermondsey, where the Fashion and Textile Museum that she founded is located. The space can only be described as wonderful and colourful; it’s like walking into Zandra’s world and creative mind, where anything is possible.
The evening was hosted by Zandra, Safia Minney – Founder and Director of People Tree – as well as journalist and author of ‘To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out The World’ Lucy Siegle. The trio spoke about the new collection, their trip to Bangladesh to meet the people who produce the collection and about why slow fashion is so important to them and why, well, fast fashion isn’t.
‘Girl Power: Roses, Lipsticks and Bows’ is a range of easy-to-wear pieces adorned in Zara’s prints, which are produced in the most ethical way possible. The lipstick print took inspiration from Zandra’s design in 1963, which was discovered by Safia when flicking through the books in her studio. The blue and white bow print was originally produced in the ‘80s and both designs have been ‘made with love’ and in Zandra’s words, ‘haven’t just been churned out’.
For those who don’t know too much about People Tree, the brand is a pioneer in Fair Trade and sustainable fashion. Their aim is to be 100% Fair Trade throughout their supply chain by supporting producer partners’ efforts towards economic independence and to challenge the power structures that undermine their rights to a livelihood; by protecting the environment by using natural resources; and by supplying customers with good quality products.
The trio spoke a great deal about relationships, including the one they have with their producers. Safia spoke about one in particular: their relationship with Sabina one of the survivors of the Rana Plaza disaster who now works for Swallows, a People Tree long term Fair Trade partner. Swallows, based in a rural, clay-earthed village near the Ganges river in north west Bangladesh, is a women’s project where natural dyed yarns are hand woven into fabrics, then hand embellished with embroidery, providing work for over 200 women. The collapse of the Rana Plaza building in 2013 was a devastating example of how the fashion industry failed to respect workers’ rights to safe conditions and decent pay.
The price tag on fast fashion rarely covers the real social and environmental costs, and instead of being part of the problem, Safia sought to be part of the solution. People Tree pay their farmers and producers 30% more than other brands. Visiting Swallows allowed Zandra, Safia and Lucy to see the hands making the items, weaving the fabrics and printing them with blocks. The result? A stunning collection crafted from 100% organic certified cotton which is adorned with Zandra Rhodes’ original prints. As Lucy put so perfectly, ‘You get so much bang for ethical buck.’ Ker-ching.
The collection ‘Girl Power: Roses, Lipsticks and Bows’ is available next year.
Photos taken by House of Coco photographer Carla Guler