Book Review: By Hand - The Fair Trade Fashion Agenda by Safia Minney of People Tree

Cover image of People Tree By Hand book photo

The journey of the UK ethical fashion label People Tree has been a remarkable one. As founder Safia Minney says in the introduction of her new book By Hand the story started in Japan in 1991 "and 14 years later I found myself sitting at the World Economic Forum in Davos." It is an amazing achievement for a grass roots Fair Trade fashion company to have such an influential voice on the world stage.

In the intervening period between Japan 1991 and Davos 2008 Safia Minney and a team of dedicated creatives have placed People Tree at the top of UK ethical fashion tree, catering for a broad range of tastes from organic cotton basics to dramatic designer dresses. By Hand is an overview of People Tree's achievements to date, but is also an informative guide to Fair Trade, a beautiful photography book and a series of interviews with the farmers, artisans and designers. Informative ethical fashion graphics
By Hand cleverly conveys serious information about Fair Trade fashion in a lighted hearted and visually stimulating way, from printing pie charts about organic cotton on T-shirts to measuring global Co2 emissions with different lengths of knitting wool. Along side these graphic images are key statistics such as: "It takes over 2000 litres of water to produce the average t-shirt" and "Organic farming takes 1 tonne of Co2 per acre per year out of the atmosphere."

Beautiful ethical fashion photography
So the book gets down to the basics, even laying out the The Dhaka Declaration for Fair Trade, but it also, as a reflection of the People Tree brand, makes a strong connection with people . The images throughout the book illustrate the variety of skilled workers involved in creating the clothes: from the organic cotton farmer, to the natural dyer, to the weavers, the knitters and the button carvers, to the designers, the models and the magazines.

Insightful personal interviews
The interviews interspersed amongst the images are enjoyable to read and bring home personal points of views to the reader. Safia Minney talks to Syprine Agan who is a jewellery maker at the Bombolulu Workshops in Kenya. Syprine is disabled from contracting polio as a child, but she is a highly skilled metal worker making basket-weave wire beads. Through her work she earns an above average wage and can afford to send both her children to private school. Her eleven year old son Eugene says, "I hope my mum will become famous worldwide for her skill!" Safia also talks to Sailesh Patel Project Manager at Agrocel, an organic farmers network in India, to fashion designer Bora Aksu in London and to People Tree illustrator Chris Haughton.

By Hand launched today
For a timely overview of why Fair Trade is so important and for an insight into the lives that it positively effects By Hand is an ideal read. Congratulations must be given to People Tree for its ongoing pioneering work in the fashion industry. The book is launched today and is available to buy online from the People Tree website for only £5! Who said ethical fashion is expensive?

People Tree
More on People Tree:
Design Boom Interview with People Tree's Graphic Designer - Chris Haughton
People Tree, Ecover + Ecotricity Get It Together
Outerwear Accessories from People Tree
People Tree Goes Designer
London Celebrates World Fair Trade Day
More on Books about Ethical Fashion:
Book Review: Eco-Chic, The Fashion Paradox by Sandy Black
Book review: Sustainable Fashion & Textiles - Design Journeys
Book Review: Eco Chic: a Guide to Ethical Fashion
Book Review: Green is the New Black

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