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Saturday, 29 April 2017

Fashion Revolution 2017: Guest Blog from ethical fashion brand 'Where Does It Come From?'

In the final of our Fashion Revolution specials, we have passed the baton to Jo, founder of 'Where Does It Come From?' an ethical kids and adults fashion brand. 

Jo takes us through how fashion trends have changed over the years and why getting to know the people behind the garment is at the heart of her brand.  

‘Who Made My Clothes?’ 
A guest blog post by Jo Salter, Founder of 'Where Does It Come From?'

Do you have a relationship with your clothes?

It’s amazing how much clothes shopping has changed in the last thirty years or so. If you ask your Gran you’ll probably find that she had a lot less clothes than you, and that she kept them for much longer. People used to make their own clothes too – often using patterns that were copied from haute couture design houses! However all that changed when Fast Fashion came along.

Fast Fashion is the term used to describe the clothing industry of the most recent decades. Clothing brands produce many collections per year and garment production has moved to developing countries where people work for low wages, long hours and often in dangerous working conditions. Convoluted supply chains have hidden these concerning facts from customers and often from the brands themselves, with price and profit being the main considerations. Whereas the price of most of our items – houses, fuel, food – has increased in this time period, our clothing has become cheaper and cheaper. It is actually cheaper to buy clothes now than in the 1980s! There are lots more clothes about too - according to ‘The Economist’, clothing production doubled from 2000 to 2014 so it seems that there is an increasing demand for these cheap clothes, despite how they were made, how many exist already and the rapidly filling landfill sites. 

As for customers - well we’ve changed too, we have little or no relationship with our clothes at all. We wear each garment for an average 6 times and then discard it. 

Getting to Know Who Made Your Clothes 

We set up Where Does It Come From? to rebuild the relationship people have with their clothes. We have a strong environmental and ethical ethos but our uniqueness comes from our story telling. Each garment comes with a code on the label so that our customers can explore how their garment was made and get to know the people involved. Our goal is to inspire our customers to love their clothes – so that they keep them longer and choose to shop ethically in the future. 

We only work with production partners with a social goal. Our main partner is Moral Fibre Fabrics based in Gujarat, India and we’ve just started working on a project with producers based in Africa. 
Moral Fibre has very strong links with Mahatma Gandhi – the founder’s Aunt actually worked with him. Gandhi promoted handwoven cotton called Khadi as part of his campaign to free India from British Rule during the first half of the twentieth century. At that time the cotton grown in India was exported to Britain to be woven and then brought back to India again. Indians were not permitted to spin and weave their own cotton but had to buy imported fabric. Gandhi encouraged Indian people to spin and weave for themselves using hand powered spinning chakras and looms. The fabric they produced is called khadi. This became a powerful symbol of the freedom movement – hence there is a spinning wheel on the Indian flag!

Gandhi and his followers set up worker co-operatives to provide employment and skills for rural women. These co-operatives are still in existence and are supported by India’s government. Their governing principles are very much a forerunner for our Fairtrade movements – prescribing fair pay, good working conditions and other benefits such as sick pay. We visited these co-operatives when we visited our supply chain for Fashion Revolution 2016 and we chatted with some of the people who make our clothes. I even had a go at spinning some cotton!
Preserving Skills and Livelihoods

Many of the skills used to produce fabrics by hand are gradually being worn away through cheaper production methods (often involving poor working conditions and pay). Hand block printing is one of the skills that we have used – both on our scarves and our children’s shirts. Each printing block is carved from wood by hand and then used to create the pattern. Some patterns require several printing blocks. We found a workshop who could provide this skill for us and later discovered that if it hadn’t been for our order then they would have been closing down.

Tahirbhai comes from a family with five generations of block printing skill. But orders for this hand printing were dying out so he was strongly considering closing down that part of his business and moving to only screen printing. When our order for block printed fabric for our children’s shirts arrived he was delighted! He said ‘With orders coming in, I opened my hand block-printing unit again. I have a collection of over 5000 blocks and I want to continue with this beautiful craft.’
Helping our Planet 

The production of Khadi has environmental benefits too. Firstly the cotton is grown and picked in local farms – the co-operatives and the farms are all in the same area. Production is totally carbon free with low water usage, and much of the production is carried out in rural co-operatives set up by Gandhi to provide work and skills for rural women. The fabric itself is beautiful - soft and breathable with natural inconsistencies.

Fashion Revolution

At Where Does It Come From? we work with our partners to create beautiful, high quality clothing that you will want to wear for years to come.

Fashion Revolution is all about asking your brands the question ‘Who Made My Clothes?’ to raise awareness of the lack of transparency in many clothing supply chains. Please ask this question of the clothing brands you buy.

For more info or to view Jo's complete collection follow the link HERE

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