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The email below was sent via Witetothem.com on 23rd of April. It was sent in plain text; the two requests did not stand out, my explanation was garbled. I missed a paragraph to explain that London Fashion Week and British Fashion Council are more or less the same thing - London Fashion Week is a heavily subsidised trade show choosing wholesale stalls from firms who get free publicity as well as visitors to their stall in a prefab outside the Natural History Museum. British Fashion Council is the organisation with three permanent members of staff which organises London Fashion Week.

The email below also forgets to state that I've been to a couple of London Fashion Weeks as a trade buyer at the Estethica bit, and been offered various tat from Chinese leather shoes to boots I retail myself for double my retail price and wholesale-only.

Anyone reading this may be better able to write a clear request to members or Parliament or the London Assembly. Please do.


Thursday 23 April 2009

Dear Tony Arbour,

I write to you as my London Assembly member.
I write to suggest changed conditions of funding for the British Fashion Council. I have copied this email to my party list members.

The British Fashion Council has received £4.2 million over three years from the London Development Agency & other London money via the V&A. It gets national taxpayer funding from UK Trade & Investment.

I am no expert in its main business of promoting clothes designers in the hope of helping those they employ.

I do have some experience of shoe design and write to suggest the British Fashion Council makes a different use of its taxpayer money to support the UK shoe factories and UK shoe designers, because the two are inseparable.

From experience, I have found that nearly all shoe designs require expensive equipment to make, with the most expensive tool costing around £20,000 and the others as much again. The tools take a lot of skill to use and for a factory to make a short production-run of shoes for a designer is an unusual thing. There may be designers who can email a picture of a shoe to China with "make this" written next to it, but these designers must be working with very long production-runs and are probably in less need of taxpayer funding.

The smaller, the more specialised, or the newer shoe designers who are likely to be backed by the British Fashion Council are people who know what tools, techniques and materials are available to factories and suggest a different combination for a niche market, such as a punk design to sell at Camden Market or an design that uses recycled materials.

In return, a factory backs a designer by investing the time to make a short production-run. The process of changing a shoe design works best if the designer speaks the same language as the shoe factory, and its materials suppliers, and if the materials can be found close to the factory.

If designers do not work closely with shoe factories, the system doesn't work. The last London Fashion Week had exhibitors showing nearly identical boots to ones in other shops under different labels, when really the credit should go to Fantasy Shoes of Barking who make the things. One exhibitor quoted a wholesale price of over £184+VAT for a boot that I sell retail for £80. Neither of us probably wants to sell the boot but it is one of the few available. I very much doubt any international buyers bought for £184. Another designer found that the heels fell off their boots on the catwalk - an event I haven't seen but is apparently on You-tube. [...]. Other designers took taxpayer money to exhibit shoes from everywhere but the UK, but at such a distance from the factories it is hard for them to make good design decisions or back-up the ethical claims they might make. I was offered vegan slippers or ballerina shoes from India at £24 wholesale which were said to be fair trade but then turned-out not to be. Rosebank slippers from the UK are not fashionable but sell for just over £5 wholesale.

At the same time, Equity Shoes in Leicester, an upmarket womens shoe factory that makes boots with heels that don't fall off, closed in January for lack of a buyer and machinery is being cleared now. Sanders and Sanders in Rushden, a military welted footwear manufacturer, closed last year. There may soon be no factories able to help UK shoe designers.

I have two requests which you might want to pass-on to London Fashion Council.

  1. Firstly, to stop subsidising the competition to UK shoe factories out of UK taxes.
  2. Secondly, to start promoting UK designers that use UK shoe factories, if any can be found, and if not to make tools available for would-be shoe designers rather than fashion MAs as they presently do.

Today I got an email from a part of London Fashion Council that selects candidates for subsidised promotion in their ethical niche section, called "Estethica". They select "designers [who] adhere to at least one of the principles of fair-trade, organic and recycled and are selected for both their ethical credentials and design excellence." I think they should only select designers who work with
UK shoe factories.

Yours sincerely,

John Robertson, http://veganline.com/


/lobby#1

All that follows below is my transcription of what I can find of existing practice

references:
European web site on political import duties:
http://Europa.eu/pol/comm/overview_en.htm

Paragraph on trade and development:
The EU’s trade policy is closely linked to its development policy. The Union has granted duty-free or cut-rate access to its market for most of the imports from developing countries under its generalised system of preferences (GSP). It goes even further for the world’s 49 poorest countries, all of whose exports – with the sole exception of arms – enter the EU duty-free.

The EU has developed a new trade and development strategy with its 78 partners in the Africa-Pacific-Caribbean (ACP) group aimed at integrating them into the world economy. It also has a trade agreement with South Africa that will lead to free trade, and it is negotiating a free trade deal with the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman,
Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The EU has agreements with Mexico and Chile and has been trying to negotiate a deal to liberalise trade with the Mercosur group – Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Paragraph from t he booklet linked on the page above, p20-21 http://ec.europa.eu/publications/booklets/move/37/en.pdf

Promoting trade and social development:
There will be more cooperation between the WTO and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) so as to ensure progress on the social aspects of globalisation, including labour standards.

The EU will encourage the world community to pursue this issue via the ILO, and it will work to make sure that the WTO contributes constructively to this process.

[...]
The EU already includes social and environmental incentives in its trade relations with developing countries (the generalised system of preferences). It grants extra tariff reductions to countries that implement ILO conventions.

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