Ethical Fashion Forum and sponsors v. "Made in Britain"

From 2005-2016, a government-backed body posed as a trade association promoting "ethical fashion". The idea was that it should become self-supporting with membership fees from supporters like Nike and Monsoon, adding their vetos to the opinions of development agencies and civil servants. played a part in replying to their statements which, luckily, went out of fashion.

shoes and footwear made in BritainEthical Fashion Forum write a lot about UK manufacturing - cut and paste the link to have a look

For their "Issues: made in Britain" page  they pinched a logo from a UK shoe factory site to illustrate their point.

The web site has pictures of the factory, before low sales forced it to close and move production to another UK firm. If the UK civil service promoted UK manufactuers, things could be direrent and there could be a broader range of good jobs available to people in the UK. Maybe ministers and the political process could have helped. You can see the names of the people who lost their jobs if you search for "Lynn and Judy manage the sewing room". Maybe the Department for International Development should loose one job for each job they can be shown to have helped end in the UK.

Ethical Fashion Forum's Tamsin Lejeune writes an information site with a grants from UK taxpayers, promotion at London Fashion Week, and a list of other public sector exhibitions. She's still taken seriously as a pundit to talk about the fashion industry, particularly among fashion college tutors. Hence this page to reply to her points and her big bold bits

#1 Clothing made in Britain - title & introduction
#2 Employment in UK clothes & footwear manufacturing
#3 And a message from their sponsors: big bold bit
#4 Fairtrade applied to Europe

#5 Clothing materials made in Britain
#6 Transport of clothing to Britain 
#7 Opportunities [sic]
#8 Big Bold Bit

#1 Clothing made in Britain - title & introduction

"MADE IN BRITAIN labelling is more and more being associated with high sustainability standards by fashion designers and brands based in the UK."

For this read contribution to a welfare state that all staff can use for their lifetime, regardless of employment, and production under EU environmental laws. See and pages for Portugal, SpainAlbania (non EU) or France.

#2 Employment in UK clothes & footwear manufacturing

"Many of the brands using MADE IN BRITAIN labelling are actively supporting communities, offering opportunities for employment and skills development in a sector of the UK economy which has declined rapidly in recent years."

Reasons for decline: -

For example the Department for International Development promoted the idea of an EU zero tariff on goods from Bangladesh, in order to make both Bangladesh and the UK poorer.

"There is a pioneering recycled fashion movement which is looking at innovative ways of addressing issues of landfill and over consumption in the UK & beyond."

"A number of brands are leading the way in supporting traditional culture, skills, and ethical production of woollen clothing in the UK from field to final product."

Odd assumption that the only non-cotton fibre is wool, as though fashionistas aren't allow to wear synthetics. The other odd thing is the buzzwords; these people don't like specifics. 

"By manufacturing in the UK, fashion brands can reduce the amount of shipping and transport involved in the supply chains for their products, reducing the carbon footprint of this part of their work."

Ethical Fashion Forum shared a taxpayer-subsidised office with Pants to Poverty, who did just exactly that.

#3 big bold bit like a message from their sponsors

"However it is important to note that MADE IN BRITAIN labelling alone does not equate to ethical practices."

Simply untrue in the vague terms used. UK factory workers have lifetime access to the NHS, and if they're legal they have the use of dole, sickness benefit, a little housing benefit still, and pensions beyond anything available to workers in - just for example - a fair trade factory. Veganline now publishes links to the social security systems of each country where our products are made.

The  other odd thing is the type size. It looks as though the sponsors have sent-back a draft with a note to emphasise the big bold bit.

#4 Fairtrade applied to Europe

"MADE IN BRITAIN labelling does not mean that a product is “Fairtrade” , which by definition does not include products made in the UK."

This is misleading, and there's no other reason to write it than to mislead
"The geographical scope policy details the countries and territories where producers are ... disadvantaged"
, says Fairtrade International by "such factors as income per capita, wealth disparity, other economic and social indicators",so producers in Europe are advantaged and don't need "Fairtrade's ... ability to support producers"  

""Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. Fairtrade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers. It enables them to improve their lot and have more control over their lives. (Definition by The Fairtrade Foundation)"

Fairtrade International has a map of countrie s where the term can be used, and if anyone wants to do the work of looking up each one on a list like , I guess they'd find that these are countries with no welfare state to speak of. Nothing that allows girls to stay-on at school for example. This is a problem that can't be fixed by buying more goods from badly-run countries. If you are going to buy goods from a badly run country, such as bananas, it's good to buy fairtrade, but a tariff against sweatshop goods would help too.

#5 Clothing materials made in Britain

"Many key raw materials for fashion products cannot [be] or are not produced in the UK."

Early global trade lead to a decline of UK plant stalk fibre production, even for sack cloth which came to be made from jute and linen which tends to be made from imported flax. Flax hemp and nettle fibres are all technically possible to weave with enough consumer demand to justify investment according to
Bid-to-Restore-Fibre-to-UK-Flax-Industry - from The Independent, 1995 . Tamsin Lejeune would know this. She invited one or two hemp traders to her first ever Ethical Fashion Forum meeting in 2004. 
You can see from this bar chart that the fibre industry didn't take-off, presumably for lack of free publicity from people like Ethical Fashion Forum and the new Defra ministry that had taken-over from the Ministry of Agriculture. UK government outlawed the growing of hemp by mistake, for example, and then allowed it again with a licence. It spends money on London Fashion Week that could better be spent on research and development for fibre production.

"This includes cotton..."

Lejeune is interested in the world shortage of organic or fair trade cotton, the water cost of growing it, and later of bad conditions for growers in Uzbekistan. It came-up in her subsidised seminars during 2008 and on her web site. So it follows that she ought to be interested in UK alternatives.

 " well as many synthetic and eco-fabrics primarily produced in Asia."

Synthetics are also produced in the UK. Courtoulds Tencel plant in Grimsby produces huge quantities of wood-based microfibre. Current owners Lenzing use the fibre as a raw material, rather than for a specific UK finished product. The reason for decline in manufacturing is unfair exchange rates, a lack of tariffs on countries with no welfare state, and other neglect and worse from UK ministries such as trouble getting planning permission or lists of UK suppliers or a good course for students to learn what they want to learn and be self-employed manufacturers or work in UK manufacturing.

"The majority of fashion components from zips to buttons, inter-facings and fixings are also produced in Asia, primarily China."

Zips and buttons are also produced in the UK, but there is no trade directory to find them so people tend to assume that they have to be bought from a wholesaler, who in turn seeks a cheap bulk deal.


"Therefore .... any .... will" simply doesn't follow; it's untrue.
Part of the problem is that government PR work was done to promote this person as expert. For example she was promoted as an award-winning architect, author of a book called "Can Fashion be Fair?", and someone with a masters degree in something relevant. The book turns-out to be her degree thesis, about a fictional clothing start-up with elements of truth, quoting some obiously untrue facts such as a faked linkto an economic historian's mis-represented opinion, or the statement that people made their own clothes, at least for fashion statements, before globalisation allowed the variety which we enjoy now. So the industrial revolution doesn't count for this "therefore".

"...apart from clothing made entirely from recycled product or wool, any fashion collection Made in Britain will include components grown and assembled elsewhere. Made in Britain labelling is not relevant to sustainability standards for these components"

This says "fashion collection" but seems to be about fabrics, not other clothing like shoes. Sustainability is too vague a word to apply. It's a vague word vaguely attributed to those who "increasingly use" it.

#6 Transport of clothing to Britain: carbon footprint and transport

"To put things in context, a recent study by the University of Cambridge on the sustainability footprint of a range of fashion supply models found that the carbon footprint of the transport component of products is a small fraction of the overall carbon footprint of fashion products.

By far the largest carbon contribution is derived from the use phase, and therefore a consumer issue (washing and drying clothes , which are very energy intensive)"

A good report is from University of Nottingham for David Niaper clothing.

The Nottingham Uni study includes the cost of an empty return trip by boat.

Fast fashion from the far east increases air cargo, according to IATA, which is a major producer of CO2. 

Natural fibres are typically harder to wash than synthetics which can be made close to home.

#7 Opportunities [sic]

"Production of clothing or components of clothing in different parts of the world has been a part of the garment industry for centuries. In fact the garment industry cannot exist without being global, thanks to some environments being more suited to growing crops such as cotton."

It is true that Indian cotton priced most UK stalk-based fibres - flax hemp and nettle - out of the market leaving only synthetics and wood-based Tencel microfibre, which is spun in Hull, Austria and probably China. Acrylic and nylon are common for clothing and nonwovens for building. There's no government-backed research and development of stalk-based fibres in the UK, or even publishing lists of UK suppliers, which is an opportunity.

"This trade in garments and textiles has created a springboard for industrial development all over the world- with Britain and America being amongst the first to benefit followed by the “Asian Tiger” economies of Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea, and more recently, China and India. Producing garments or components of garments outside of the UK to sustainable standards can assist development in some of the poorest communities in the world, create sustainable livelihoods and reduce poverty for thousands of people."

Trade can assist people, or not. Chance, culture, and of course things like access to affordable pensions, schools, condoms and health care are all ways that people in any countries can benefit. Unemployment insurance and disability insurance are vital too. Without them, there is a greater chance of population explosion and poverty among people without skills or education. During the 20-teens, garment production in Bangladesh went up a lot, but factory wages went down, which isn't spring-board-like.

#8 Big Bold Bit looks like a message from sponsors

"It is only by raising standards and wages outside of the UK that the UK garment production sector will again be in a position to compete on equal terms with production in what are currently low wage economies."

This reads like a second message from sponsors - as though smeone had read a draft and asked for this to be added.

The main way that someone in the UK can improve standards in Bangladesh is by boycotting and voting for conditional tariffs. The result might be change in the government and laws of Bangladesh. Without laws to make national insurance compulsory, it is possible that Bangladesh will get richer but this stragegy has been tried since the UK government took-over the East India Company in 1853 and not worked yet. Wages per hour have fallen recently in Bangladeshi textile factories.

Talking of history, the Bismark government started National Insurance in Prussia in 1866, so if people from the Department for International Development and their funded organisations, or Development Studies departments in higher education, pretend not to have heard of it then maybe taxpayers should stop funding their jobs and students should stop applying for their courses.

There was a footnote here, linking to a careful economic analysis of re-shoring production of cotton T shirts and viscous tops. The study stated that there was "to a good approximation" full employment in the UK, so that re-shoring would harm the economy by taking people away from more useful jobs. This re-shoring has since happened and not done any harm. Here is something about the economics academics who write these things, headed "bad economics teaching".



    There are too many to list on this page so they have their own page of juicy reading which is easy to skim read. You have to imagine an organisation launched into the media with regular interviews and shows all-over the place, putting UK firms out of business, and then discovering that they are government-backed and bogus. A scheme to help the electorate understand the thinking of trade and development officials, while appearing to be a real trade association. It was underhand, so we don't know the names of the ministers and officials who promoted it.


    Fashion Forum set-aside a page to discourage people from buying goods made in Britain, or buying them on ethical grounds. This was a kind of government consumer education page, answered here point-by-point

    About shoe fashion, against a background of fashionista's comments from the likes of Ethical Fashion Forum. Hard to sum-up but worth a glance.

    One of the ways the previous governments have closed a lot of UK industry, leaving the remainder fragile. There are others going back years. That's why "robbing in a hospital" came to mind as a way of describing the kind of PR stunt that Ethical Fashion Forum was. Another short economcis page:>

    The phrase people reach-for when justifying imports from badly-run countries. When you google it, you see a gap. What happens if a country with a welfare state trades with a country without a welfare state? It doesn't say.

    Making it Ethically in China - a tax-funded seminar, similar to the Creative Connexions project