Shoe fashion is unlike dress fashion.
Shoes take more tools to make.
People buy shoes to wear often.
Fashion on catwalks isn't fashionable.
Fashion on trains is fashionable, and the need for good jobs
and a fall-back is fashionable.
If you go to fashion events like London Fashion Week, you'll
see more interesting shoes on the train on the way home and probably
none of the high heels which show in that high fashion market.
So it's puzzling to see ethical
fashion blog posts about vegan shoes followed by comments
like "Ugh - these are normal shoes!". Maybe
fashionistas haven't seen a normal shoe shop before, with slippers
and wellies and the rest, but more likely they haven't got the
hang of the limits within which footwear is made.
Most of this page is about taxpayer subsidy for imported shoes,
and the extra cost of making shoes in a democratic welfare state
like the UK, followed by a long page of detail,
issue by issue, about what the ethical fashion lobby does.
First of all it's important that shoes are more typical manufactured
goods than dresses. They take more tools to make than catwalk
dresses, and people buy shoes to wear often. The factory, not
the label, is the important bit.
If fashion is about expression within practical limits, then
the limits are different for different fashion items. The limits
are things like factory tooling costs, retail price, insulation,
water resistance, wear resistance, and traditional expectations.
If you wear a funny-coloured shoe, that's quite something. If
you wear a funny-coloured top, it means hardly anything at all.
The same goes for shape and material, because shoes require more
tools to make than tops or bags. A set of tools for making a
shoe cost something to store and set-up; a set of patterns for
a sample dress is cheaper. The technical requirements of something
on your foot are more complex than something around your top
and middle. So that's why fashionistas sometimes have to look
at normal shoes.
The next question is how Nike can do it, if some of the vegan
shoe shops can't, and the answer is that small-scale production,
and production with other good qualities, is not going to happen
in the far east where Nike buys container-loads of shoes. Services
like hospitals, secondary schools, pensions, and such need to
be in place before poverty is reduced rather than after.
1. Feel good if ...
your shoemaker paid taxes for hospitals schools & pensions.
A buyer for a high street chain store, or a wholesaler, or
Nike will typically buy shoes by the container load from China,
Vietnam, Bangladesh, Burma or India. New Balance and DB shoes
make an exception for some styles. Hotter shoes are mainly made
in the UK, and some shoes for some niche markets, but generally
the big brands buy in bulk. Their suppliers are cheap because
they specialise in big container-load orders; there's less set-up
cost per pair. The suppliers are cheaper-still because they have
less useful courts, votes, schools, National Health Service hospitals,
pensions, disability benefits and dole to pay-for than UK shoemakers.
The things that are sometimes called national insurance, social
insurance, or a welfare state (Americans don't get the hang of
the insurance bit and just call them "welfare"). Out-sourcing
production has become just as much a way of avoiding fair tax
as any other, and it is promoted by UK government departments
via Ethical Fashion Forum, just as other government departments
have given grants for setting-up Amazon warehouses or shopping
centres for shops that sell far-eastern products.
The Marie Antoinette school of good working conditions and
of the factories in the far east are better than others, and
bizarre claims can be based on this.
"You are just as likely to have a sweatshop down the
road here in London as you are in China"
- Claire Lissaman, Ethical Fashion Forum director, Nike consultant
the Ethical Fashion Forum office is a hospital, free to use.
There is no equivalent in China.
- There is no equivalent democracy, or
- human rights record, nor
- pensions, nor
- job seekers' allowance, nor
- incapacity benefit, nor
- free secondary schools
- I would have added the social fund and local services to
keep people out of institutions, housing benefit for people on
certain sized housing and more, but these are all services which
have been cut while public spending has gone on Ethical Fashion
All of these are paid for from taxes on workshops or sweatshops
and available to their staff. Only someone like Marie Antoinette
of France or a director of Ethical Fashion Forum would leave
them un-mentioned. Obviously if you are sponsored by Nike that
effects things too, but Ethical Fashion Forum claims not to be
working for far-eastern sponsors, just as Marie Antoinette did
not reply to accusations that she used an office funded by French
taxpayers - the office of god queen - to promote underwear material
made by taxpayers in other countries like Holland and Bengal
where muslin was made at the time.
UK taxes paid for Unltd, a trust fund for social entrepreneurs
that funded Juste.co.uk, a muslin dress business claiming to
help Bengalis if it ever traded after getting the grant.
The real problems of working conditions in cheap countries
- and Marie Antoinette's model farm
China and Vietnam hardly score at all on the Democracy
Index; that's obvious but seldom stated.
Indian states have a working democracy and Bangladesh a new one.
Poverty is a problem in far eastern countries, even if average
wealth per head is high and there is a large new middle class.
Alongside, people can be persuaded to work for long hours on
shanty-town wages. Just as the UK had a great industrial revolution
and huge charitable work done in the nineteenth century, but
still had massive poverty until national insurance and free secondary
schools began to solve the problem. The way to reduce poverty
in the far-east is probably the same. Whether you call these
things social insurance, universal benefits, or accessible services,
they are the kind of thing that help reduce poverty. Condoms
too. They exist in a much reduced form in some far-eastern countries
but Ethical Fashion Forum makes no reference to them at all.
Employers cannot change the system that keeps so many people
poor. Marie Antoinette has a model farm which was probably a
better employer than neighbouring farms, but employers cannot
help staff before the staff are employed, probably not after
employment, and they cannot help the unemployable; only a national
system can do that.
Social insurance is hard for the poor to introduce on their
own initiative, because, as in the UK, it's hard or impossible
to fund savings & insurance from a low wage, so many or most
of us don't, under-cutting workers and employers with higher
costs. The principal is the same for an individual employee deciding
whether to take low-paid work, or an employer bidding for work:
so long as it is legal to work without paying-in to the social
insurance system, whether it's a government system or a private
one, then there will be bad health care, pensions, schools and
there will be poverty.
The Marie Antoinette school of ethical fashion purchasing - her muslin dresses
a country in the far east where hard currency is scarce and life
is physically hard. Visitors from Europe are shocked at bad health
care but admire peoples' communities and work ethic. Imagine
that goods from this country are allowed free access to the wealthier
European market. Imagine that this is a special favour, given
much earlier than to other countries. Imagine that the government
in this country subsidises export production with export subsidies
and charges no tax on goods made in special free trade zones.
How do they do they subsidise things and not charge tax? Aid.
In the Marie Antoinette school of ethical fashion, this country
would rapidly become rich. This country exists. It is called
Bangladesh and has not become rich in terms of opportunity or
safety-net or hard currency for people who do ordinary jobs.
Marie Antoinette was interested in fashion statements, and
used French taxpayers' money to promote the fashion for muslin
dresses woven outside France and so competing against French
it was woven in Bangladesh as many were. The portrait
shows her in one. She probably encouraged
the a fashion and more muslin was probably sold. Despite
the French dress orders, there is still poverty in Bangladesh
230 years later because the place is run like the Ancient
Regime of France in the eighteenth century. Between the year
2000 and 2009 textile exports nearly doubled and the hourly wage
in textiles nearly halved from 43¢ to 22¢, and this
is not a freak event: Bengalis or Bangladeshis have been supplying
textiles from there to Europe for centuries and still not sorted-out
poverty in Bangladesh.
Rana Plaza was an example of a place with a lot of clothing
production but not a lot of factory safety or health-care for
people on low incomes. It proved that Bangladeshis need something
like National Insurance and safer factories. They do not need
another dress order as a way of reducing poverty, while European
public services do need a home-grown economy that pays tax and
provides jobs. Marie Antoinette is not remembered for ending
poverty in Bengal but for causing it in France - she was known
Déficit" for her vanity spending at home
and her supplier Rose Bertin as Minister
of Fashion. and when bread supplies were so low that
associated salt taxes couldn't be raised, the Queen is remembered
as saying "let them eat cake". As in the UK
today, there were large numbers of people with access to court
who did not pay tax and tended to set opinion. As in the UK today,
there was little pressure on the regime to spend tax revenue
on public services in the country where it was raised, with various
wars donations and vanity projects taking precedence.
The real problems of european shoe production and manufacturing
jobs in Europe
A shopkeeper selling to a niche ethical market will want to
sell shoes with other specific ethical adjectives attached, like
"made in a democratic welfare state". There
isn't much choice. If you are buying shoes for a stall or a web
site or a single shop, far-eastern suppliers do not want to sell.
If your niche market is an ethical one, you do not want to buy
either, despite what Ethical Fashion Forum says. You do not want
to receive a sheaf of corporate social responsibility documents
from a consultant in the UK who also works for Nike and has audited
returns about factory procedures. You have no choice but to be
a bit more ethically pure than the buyers at big companies who
have higher costs on the UK side of their operations and need
to get bulk discount on the far-eastern side.
Shopkeepers can buy from wholesalers, but the range and information
about the range it is seldom what a vegan shoe company or someone
in any ethical fashion market would want to sell. For example
if you look for fair trade Bangladeshi fabric, you find muslin.
If you look for European-made footwear you find mainly slippers
Shoe factories exist in democratic welfare states and Europe,
but tend to make for traditional and niche markets like posh,
bowls, fetish, high fashion, and vegan. It's hard to find a firm
selling complex trainers, or skate shoes. So someone asking "where
do I find vegan skate shoes?" or "does this
designer make skate shoes?" is in effect asking "Why
can't a vegan shoe shop find a European manufacturer of skate
shoes?", and the answer is because most of the tools
are in China. If the question is "Why can't a shoe factory
make skate shoes in the UK?", the answer is probably
that no UK chain store or even the Ministry of Defence is geared
to helping UK factories set-up, nor explaining reasons for stocking
British-made shoes to shoppers and voters. Without a big firm
order, it's not likely that a manufacturer would lease some space
or set-up a production line. This may change under consumer pressure
via skate shoe shops, but it hasn't happened yet. If you want
shoes for a particular market to be made in better countries,
ask shops in that make whether they can get it done. Once that's
done, a vegan version will be easy to produce.
2. Feel defiant if ...
your shoemaker pays UK taxes which subsidise imports
You might expect useful courts, votes, pensions, health care,
benefits, and human rights to be important to pundits who make
national economic decisions or who write about ethical fashion.
Economists are highly-paid people with pressure-cooked educations
who do not know much about benefits. They regard national insurance
as a luxury for the poor of rich countries, to be dispensed at
whim in good times and cut-back in bad, rather as the Father
Christmas of a family chooses a budget for presents. They do
not know why it is called "insurance" and prefer the
word "welfare" which is printed in the american text
books they read at college. After all, if they want insurance
they can afford to go private. Here is a quote from the Institute of Manufacturing in Cambridge: " in
the UK, to a fair approximation, everyone who wants a job has
one so adding jobs in clothing production ... is likely
... [to] be harmful to the UK economy "
The institute funded or was funded to write on almost exactly
the same subject as the Riotstopper
T shirt comparison on this site, but their careful work is
not worth reading if based on perceived facts like the one above.
So are ethical fashion pundits any better?
Fashion pundits exist in a world separate from the fashioning
of things, or the selling of fashionable things. A proportion
of them work in state-backed organisations as teachers, as people
claiming grants for obscure projects, or as junior PR officers
for fashion-related public sector organisations. Others work
as journalists. In this strange world a point of view can emerge
that is as strange as the point of view of Marie Antoinette's
household, or of any political party - including the pomp and
sleaze. Journalists tend to ignore the effects of monetary policy
on UK manufacturing and avoid criticism of import promotion schemes
Monetary Policy - tax-subsidised
imports to reduce inflation
[ technical bit: it's called Monetary Policy. Strictly
speaking, they subsidise overseas lenders by paying a tiny fraction
more than necessary to sell government debt. This pulls-in overseas
lenders and the slosh of money helps raise the value of the currency,
making imports cheaper and exports more expensive to sell. The
UK government was an early adopter of this system in 1979, and
for years later there was a special slot on the TV news for factory
closures. Some huge proportion of manufacturing capacity was
lost in the first 5 years, but, surprisingly, the other political
parties thought this was quite a good thing and adopted the same
idea, contracting it out to a body called the Monetary Policy
Committee of the Bank of England. The idea caught in in Germany
too, where the Euro is still controlled to reduce inflation at
the expense of South Europe where shoe factories are closing,
there are riots, and there is a lot of unemployment. The effect
on exchange rates makes all imports from other currency zones
easier - whether or not from countries without useful courts
votes or a welfare state. Longer-term, the effect of monetary
policy is to make manufacturing extinct, because it takes decades
& generations to build-up, but only a few years to close]
Veganline.com tends to buy from UK factories, but other vegan
shoe shops have often bought from South Europe where shoe factory
closures are a problem. A shop can get in touch to make a repeat
order and find that the factory is no longer there. You will
have seen on the news what this kind of monetary policy has done
to the economies of South Europe, where there used to be more
fashionable womens vegan boots made a year or two ago. Now there
is 25% youth unemployment in Spain.
If this sounds odd, there is a flow diagram from the Bank
of England showing the two transmission mechanisms by which their
subsidised rates of interest to lenders can reduce inflation.
The first and familiar one is that mortgages and other borrowing
become more expensive, forcing people to divert money that way
from other spending and so reducing other consumption and increasing
The second transmission mechanism is that subsidised lenders
come-in from other parts of the world, increase the value of
the currency, and cheapen imports. It's the bottom line of arrows
in this Bank of England diagram.
Their explanation of how a government can pay a fraction more
than necessary to sell government debt - the official
rate - effecting the exchange rate
and import prices. Export prices,
and so external demand are effected
too, reducing any opportunity for people to make things in the
UK in ethically reasonable conditions.
"The exchange rate is the relative
price of domestic and foreign money, so it depends on both domestic
and foreign monetary conditions. The precise impact on exchange
rates of an official rate change is uncertain, as it will depend
on expectations about domestic and foreign interest rates and
inflation, which may themselves be affected by a policy change.
However, other things being equal, an unexpected...
...rise in the official rate will
probably lead to an immediate appreciation of the domestic currency
in foreign exchange markets," closing down 25% of
UK manufacturing in 1979-1984 "and
vice versa for a similar rate fall."
"The exchange rate appreciation follows from the fact that
higher domestic interest rates, relative to interest rates on
equivalent foreign-currency assets, make sterling assets more
attractive to international investors. The exchange rate should
move to a level where investors expect a future depreciation
just large enough to make them indifferent between holding sterling
and foreign-currency assets"
Economists have a history of
saying un-true things, which is how so much manufacturing got
closed-down in the UK. There is a long page on another web site
economics in the UK in the 1980s.
Courtiers pundits & sustainable eco-fashion
Ethical fashion pundits are very interested in what shoe will
rot-down in their compost bin, and call this "sustainable
fashion", or "eco fashion" because
they are not paid enough to take a broad view or do a lot of
research and are influenced by what producers' PR departments
give them to write about. Often they can begin a paragraph with the broad word "ethical" and
substitute it for something like "compost-able" a few
Other journalists who want an easier job write anything they
possibly can for the PR office of a big company that probably
doesn't pay tax. If there is nothing else good to write, they
write about whether the shoe will rot-down in a compost bin,
not whether this thing called "ethical fashion" can
produce jobs in a welfare state and reduce poverty.
If pundits' careers go well, journalists and higher education
teachers get to compare the claims of different PR departments
from large firms that import stuff from the far east. That interest
is shared by people from the international aid agencies and consultants
in corporate ethics who audit ethical compliance data for the
likes of Nike. So pundits for ethical fashion forum can have
blind spots. They are a bit like the Ancient Regime of France
with its god king and court fashions, unaware how little they
know about the outside world.
Ethical Fashion Forum - can
fashion be fair while there is subsidy for import promotion via
So this is a second reason why not many shoe factories work
in countries like the UK to make you the shoes you first set-out
to buy; why vegan shoes might not be fashionable in the way you
first expected. Governments subsidise imports to reduce inflation.
Journalists don't report this. Factories close, skills are lost.
If you buy footwear from a country that's doing the right thing,
you should feel good in your shoes.
Next, government paid organisations to to promote goods made
went to Creative Connexions which aimed to earn itself fees
by introducing UK designers and manufacturers to Chinese factories.
It was granted an office by University of the Arts' London College
of Fashion - near photography classes and the students union,
in Holborn. If you wonder what sort of person would be employed
for the job, so did government. They probably used a head hunter.
The successful candidate was an American sales person who had
travelled the far east selling Monsanto products. This agency
is now closed.
Another brand-new agency was funded by a larger number of
small grants directly into its new bank account, and co-ordinated
help from several government departments in the form of fashion
shows and public relations. This was not an organisation of traders,
but of people willing
to pretend. One had a grand but made-up CV with an international
past that mentions travelling round America as a volunteer. She
has a bunch of opinions that are hard to pin-down because of
the fibs. Against UK manufacturing, against
mentioning a welfare state on her web site, and in favour
of leather and cattle ranching. Another collaborator was a sales
person for civil war goods from Sri Lanka.
The new buzzwords were "ethical fashion", both
chosen to avoid definition and beg the question "what
is ethical fashion?", which can be answered any way
the ethical fashion lobbyist likes. For example Ethical Fashion
Forum - an organisation that's had UK government subsidies and
huge government PR support - has a page warning people not to
buy British products on ethical grounds. It's headed with a "made
in Great Britain" tag taken from a shoe factory web
site. The shoe factory made safety boots, niche market riding
boots, and supplied one of the vegan shoe shops. It has since
closed as a separate manufacturer, and isn't likely to buy any
tools for making stylish womens boots or fashionable vegan shoes
any time soon. So Ethical Fashion Forum has had the a direct
documented effect of discouraging vegan fashion and British-made
more about them here."
Ethical Fashion Forum's "Ambassador" in the House
of Lords has given free
training in ethical fashion PR techniques.
Ethical fashion definition
What is Ethical Fashion? A phrase invented by government
marketing campaigns. Like the Ploughman's
Lunch, invented by a coalition including the Milk
Marketing Board called The
Cheese Bureau. The ad agency that invented the Ploughman's
Lunch and managed the Cheese Bureau was J Walter Thompson.
Nowadays, Futerra is the agency of choice and shares a
directorship with Ethical Fashion Forum.
The diagram shows how Ethical Fashion was released as a concept
in September 2005. The phrase was used by multiple public-sector
exhibitions and events. Peaks match public-subsidised fashion
shows. The phrase is a mark of journalism that's influenced by
PR too. If the phrase were not a piece of public relations, it
would be clearer. "Ethical" is an category of adjectives;
it is not a specific adjective. "Fashion" can mean
something fashioned, or the peoples' choice from things that
can be fashioned; it is not a specific noun.
directorship of Ethical Fashion Forum is mainly a group of consultants
and overlaps with the directorship of a government PR agency
. I guess that the purpose of vague words is to beg the question
"what is ethical fashion?", so that it can be answered
in any way the speaker wants. The next stages of the speech have
been to pretend that all fashion is made in third world countries,
and pretend that high street retail and PR are great benefits
to the UK economy. When I googled "ethical fashion"
on an image search I found just that question put back to me
from Ethical Fashion Forum themselves. What is Ethical Fashion?
A PR initiative that UK taxpayers have subsidised in order to
put UK taxpayers out of work.
The phrase which began as civil service shorthand for "everything
that isn't fair trade" was used for selling african goods
by Simone Cipriani, who used aid-trade techniques for selling
something other than the usual famine relief and social services.
He sold leather handbags and luxury goods, and when that
failed, he sold grant proposals to a part of the UN funded by
Danish and Canadian taxpayers, called the International Trade
Commission. Soon he had an office called the "ITC
Ethical Fashion Initiative" and did well, still using
his catch phrase "not charity just work" and success
stories about increasing womens employment in co-operatively
owned workshops based in Ghana, Kenya, and Haiti. Just as an
aid charity might use a picture of a baby to raise funds for
a school, and avoid all questions about why the local government
doesn't fund education. this name is designed to avoid questions
like whether leather helps, and why there isn't a health service
or free secondary schools in the areas that have leather consultants
parachuted-in at danish and canadian taxpayers' expense. The
name "Ethical Fashion", like a picture of a baby on
a fund-raising leaflet, is designed to avoid answering obvious
questions about badly-run countries, and beg questions that can
be answered in positive ways alongside high quality pictures
of people smiling in third world countries.
Simone Cipriani is now US-based, like other directors of
Ethical Fashion Forum.
where did the UK "ethical fashion" label come from
Ethical Trading Initiative is a more worthy trade association
of large clothing importers founded in 1998 to co-ordinate their
public statements and supplier codes in a way that shares costs
for the common good. The Department for International Development
give them a grant. They have never promoted anything called "Ethical
Fashion" and have criticised members for claiming membership
as badge in itself. The title of the organisation seems chosen
to be vague.
Ethical Fashion Forum's director states "the use of the
term ethical trade in this specific way was very recent."
referring to people who drew a contrast between fair-trade certified
products and vaguer ethical claims.
She also states "the forum is not looking for publicity
or press coverage until a major event proposed in 2005. This
allows for the organisation to become better established within
industry circles and with key industry players prior to moving
into the public sector. - Tamsin Lejeune, Can Fashion be Fair?
The industry was the public grant industry and key
industry players were listed on the forum's web site by 2009:
London Development Agency, Department for International Development,
ITC Ethical Fashion (The Africa Inspires project), Unltd, City
Fringe Partnership, Black Emerald Group, Awards For All, Business
Link, The Hub, Rich Mix. All but Black Emerald Group are public-founded
or public-funded organisations. Black Emerald is the current
employer of Simone Capriani from the ITC Ethical Fashion initiative.
You can see how well her publicity and press coverage worked
with public sector support. It shows on the google graph below.
Government promotion and small grants
- often intended for the opposite purpose of creating UK employment
Before EFF was
founded, advice & training are acknowledged from The East
London Small Business Centre, The Portobello Business
Centre, The Creative Industry Development Association
(CIDA), and London Apparel Resource Centre as well
as a subsidised fashion business consultant, David Jones. The landlord at 35-47 Bethnal Green Road
E1 6LA is a charitable trust set-up by the London Development
Agency. It isn't clear which of these services were cheaper to
use because they were public funded, but presumably most were
- for example the landlord is thanked for use of lecture space
and has been known to give cheap rent to charities. Use of the
cutting machines at London Apparel Resource Centre were
particularly useful for samples. At the same time Tamsin Lejeune
was working with a five year EU
project "Fashioning an Ethical Industry" paid
to Labour Behind the Label.
new group, this time an internet forum, called Ethical Fashion
Forum, brought huge publicity to the ethical fashion buzzwords
in September 2005, six months after their web site was first
put online, working with a PR agency called Futerra that did
a lot of government work, the Crafts Council, the British
Council, the British Broadcasting Corporation's Ethical
Threads Magazine, BBC
support to a Northern Ireland Exam board, the British
Fashion Council's London Fashion Week, the Victoria and
Albert Museum, and international organisations The Commonwealth
Foundation and The International Trade Commission.
Each organisation has a public relations contact and probably
full time public relations staff. London Fashion Week is entirely
a public relations event, so a great deal of public money was
spent promoting Ethical Fashion Forum to fame so quickly that
nobody reported on their fake backgrounds like the "Juste"
muslin dress business, their fake claim to be an industry body,
and their ignorance of any advantages to a welfare state in poverty
reduction. This seems to have been the intention. UK Aid paid
for a ISUU publication with an implausible story that Tamsin Lejeune
had set-up an "industry body" after a running a successful
dress import business called Juste while another EFF director
had run another clothing company
A postal address and more government work
One thing the organisation needed was a postal address and
somewhere to put the interns. EFF started at The Hub,
a place with some connection to Futerra Communications
that I don't understand, then rented space from a landlord established
by London Development Agency, Rich Mix, who are
thanked for public lecture and seminar space along with The
Hospital Club which has also been used by a major political
party for meetings. The mock-up of a fashion show for Juste was
held at Hampstead Town Hall.
The International Trade Commission worked with the
Department for International Development, and Dfid's UK Aid
budget paid for some higher education salaries for teacher
training at fashion colleges. ITC paid for some work on "Africa
Inspires". A charity called Unltd paid for startup
"funding and support", while the "New
Entrepreneurs" project - supposedly an employment scheme
was funded by City Fringe Partnership as well as London
Development Agency. Business Link funded an EFF
collaborative project with the Eco Design Fair to "showcase
pioneering ethical brands" "as part of its support
for sustainable fashion".
Tamsin Lejeune states that she "led Ethical Fashion Consultancy
projects with clients ranging from the BBC to the ITC and the
Commonwealth Foundation." "Over the last 2-3
years, Tamsin has raised over £300,000 for the launch of
a raft of initiatives in the ethical fashion sector, succeeding
with grant funding, corporate sponsorship, social investment
and other forms of funding. She has secured partnerships with
leading multinationals, fashion bodies and global institutions
such as the UN."
Since foundation, a House of Lords group has emerged with a treasurer
and a "secretariat" in the form of Centre for Sustainable
Fashion at London College of Fashion which itself has a range
of public grants. The group has no role, but justifies £300
daily attendance fees for lordships, staging two Westminster
Hall debates and a "Round Table Discussion" with an
Ethical Fashion Forum director as chair.
All this activity distracts from a question: why would someone
pretend not to know about UK manufacturing, or the benefits of
the welfare state it supports? And who were the corporate clients
who would benefit from this ignorance?
James Bond villains
This might sound like a fight from a James Bond film. An international
trade conspiracy of bad people (ITCB).
Governments that avoid the costs of helping their own citizens
with a welfare state, preferring to keep them poor, and opposing
tariffs needed to protect good government in Europe. The bad
peoples' web site "what we do" section states
they "develop programmes" to "Inform
public opinion , and collaborate with organisations and associations
of consumers, importers and retailers engaged in the fight against
protectionism in the sector". Unlike fictional bond
villains, they did not trade from a dormant volcano with monorail
trains and a private army, but a shared office block in suburban
Geneva, convenient for lobbying UN organisations. There is no
sign of killing in Piranha pools either. All the torturing and
execution is done on the home soil of member states, by different
Tamsin Lejeune, the managing director of Ethical Fashion Forum,
sourced funding from "a portfolio of corporate clients"
, according to her blurb, without stating which ones She has
mentioned the ITCB
in her unqualified thesis and carefully notes lists of their
members' arguments, even in competition to each other, and with
no attempt at criticism. I don't know if she asked the ITCB
Another candidate for the role of Bond villain is ITCB's neighbour,
the International Trade Commission. ITC
funded Ethical Fashion Forum on "Africa Inspires"
and funded Tamsin Lejeune on a previous Ghana project. With Dfid
if funded Development
Partnerships for Higher Education, managed by the British
Council to fund Centre for Sustainability in Fashion at London
College of Fashion and the book claiming that Tamsin Lejeune
is a model for future students.
Two leading members of Ethical Fashion Forum have done work
for the International Trade Commission, which is funded by donor
governments of Denmark and Canada, but follows a development
agenda set bad governments. What might this be? Composting? Intermediate
technology? Solar power? National Insurance?
Cattle-ranching and production of leather and luxury goods
are ITC priorities,
despite other UN agency's report - Livestock's
Long Shadow - which states that livestock make the land worse
and the poor poorer in developing countries. Their involvement
might explain how a group uses the "Ethical Fashion"
words to promote silk and leather.
Readers of this site know that animal welfare is a big ethical
issue around the world, with surveys on the UK Vegetarian Society
and Vegan Society web pages showing large numbers of vegetarians
and vegans; cattle ranching to make luxury goods in tax havens
are the stuff of Bond villains.
UK Aid budget at Dfid with the Industrial Development Organisation's
Other funders sponsored an ISUU publication claiming that she had run a successful business
called Juste.. They are UK Aid, (managed by the
British Council and funded by UK Aid) and the United
Nations Industrial Development Organisation. Monsoon would
have been worth asking, as they donate to the Conservative Party
and to the Estethica room at London Fashion Week, and have mysteriously
got backing from the British Embassy in Indonesia for a fashion
show of Indian dresses alongside funding
from Dfid. They got a guest speaker onto one of Ethical Fashion
Forum's "source summit" events as well.
Development Awareness Grant from Dfid
The Department for International Development also paid a "Development
Awareness Fund Mini-Grant" of £10,000 a year for
3 years 2008-11 direct to Ethical Fashion Forum so that Ethical
Fashion Forum could spread their opinions and reduce the chance
of any kind of welfare state in third world countries, I think,
and encourage the run-down of services in European countries.
The application states that Tamsin Lejeune has already had "Dfid
for her role in the "Fashioning an ethical industry"
project for poverty reduction; she uses her name to help secure
funding. Ethical Fashion Forum's "Ethical Fashion Pioneers"
is stated to have had funding from another Dfid grant called
"Responsible and Accountable Garment Sector Challenge Fund
", although the final report doesn't list among the lead
contractors which include political party donors Monsoon
Internship qualifies for London College of Fashion sandwich
Free labour as part of a qualification is one of the few exemptions
to minimum wage regulations. London College of Fashion chooses
not to promote local employment with a knowledge transfer partnership,
but it does charges students £1500 for a sandwich course
which requires them to work un-paid, and Ethical Fashion Forum
structures its internships to match requirements with neat "learning
outcomes". A review of the process by an ex-student
why she paid £1500 to work unpaid. Particularly as
there is a Higher
Education Funding Council grant. Unfortunately, a lot of
that grant went on a scheme based at London College of Fashion
to send designers to Chinese factories.
Talking of interns, there is a disconnect between the quoted
number of staff and "current liabilities £5091"
on the accounts. The organisation does not account for turnover,
but if it has a few thousand pounds in the bank and liabilities
of £5091 that looks low for an employer "Managing
a core team of 12 and a wider team of 35". So, either
the staff figures are a fib, or there are lots and lots of interns,
or there are paid staff who aren't on the Ethical Fashion Forum's
books, maybe seconded from another organisation.
Ethical Fashion information and sources:
Are they different to lobbying by Nike?
Here are some characteristics that turn-out quite similar
to lobbying by Nike.
- Human rights agencies are not mentioned on sites that write
about "ethical fashion". They will mention aid
but not Amnesty International or Human Rights
Watch, or bad government causing poverty.[this has changed -
they've hired Amnesty's meeting room for a video seminar and
left the candle logo at the back of the stage while on video]
- Social insurance schemes in the far east or Africa are not
mentioned, nor failures to improve them or to build-up some universal
- Conversely, the lost jobs and taxes caused by imports promoted
from unfairly cheap countries are seldom mentioned. The ethical
fashion forum site does mention them, but mentions them next
to fake facts and fake quotation and an underlined caution not
to buy British goods on ethical grounds. It lies. But the usual
tactic is just to talk about something else.
It's hard to argue against gaps and blind-spots, because they
are not there to argue against. They are a vacuity. It's a little
bit like Nike's advertising which quotes some obscure technical
detail and endorsement by a celebrity, rather than talking about
who made the shoes so cheaply that there's money to pay for the
Ethical Fashion Forum seminars that I've attended concentrate
on good examples of sewing or weaving jobs, relative to neighbouring
jobs in fashion, and suggest expensive consultancy or tracking
services that show which sewing and weaving workshop in Bangladesh
your stock comes from. So EFF
are different to Nike but still don't mention trainers made in
a democratic welfare state and where to get them.
Nike has stated that it does not support "american democratic
values" and warned far-eastern governments against raising
prices. It was a big customer in Burma. Ethical Fashion Forum
tends to talk about conditions in countries where there is a
little more freedom to obtain facts, so that's another difference.
Ethical Fashion Forum won't advocate sanctions-busting but will
talk about consultancy and answer Inquiries about China, and
they invited guest speakers from large companies like Monsoon
to give talks about the good things being done, without criticism
of any bad things.
Nike is ahead on one point. I have not seen it write anything
about events at Rana Plaza. Ethical Fashion Forum's statements
about how trade works suggest that trade helps people in Bangladesh,
preferably with consumer pressure to buy from good employers;
there are no statements about good government of factory inspections
or hospitals. But when a factory building squashes a lot of Bangladeshi
workers who then have no NHS hospital to go to, Ethical Fashion
is quick to write about the subject. Which seems shameless.
It may help to guess who funds this stuff, rather than trying
to argue against un-stated things.
This started as an account of why there are not many UK shoes
that can be made to order for vegan shoe shops, and why people
ask for a greater range. The other reason why vegan shoe shops
aren't good at everything could be lack of talent, but I hope
you have a look at some of these pages before you checking the
other vegan shoe shops.
more about subsidised import-promotion for fashion from badly