ethical fashion forum: goods from badly-run countries

What is Ethical Fashion?

Ethical Fashion Forum promoted imports from badly-run countries with lower costs for lack of a welfare state. That doesn't reduce poverty. They urged people not to buy from producers in a democratic welfare state like the UK who have extra costs like national insurance. UK taxpayers paid them to do it via a "raft of measures", favours, grants, and even an office from public sector organisations. 

Ethical Fashion Forum: Jobs and Poverty

How to Reduce Poverty

  1. National insurance

     is needed, public or private, but compulsory so that everyone has the same costs when competing for work. That's why it's called "national".
  2. A welfare state

     is the same thing with a subsidy from taxes so that everyone in a country gets the benefits, whether or not they do enough formal work with paid contributions.
  3. Sell the expensive goods & services made in a welfare state

    , maybe because customers feel good seeking-out these products, or maybe because conditional tariffs make competition fair with some kind of social clause to say that goods from other welfare states get-in free. 

There are a couple of bonuses

  1. The birth rate among the poorest families may fall, which is more sustainable.

    as public services like secondary schools for girls, health services & pensions improve. That's a subject to search in itself for anyone who thinks that more trade always leads to more wages per worker in the slums - factory wages fell while production rose in Bangladesh during the 20-tens. The population growth does not look sustainable. North European countries have much more modest populations and much greater wealth per head, as well as leading the world in social security systems, so the North European system looks more sustainable than the Ex-Pat-Talks-About-Asia model.

  2. The administration cost of the system may fall, which is more sustainable.

    as everyone becomes eligible, more-or-less, so it becomes a cheap deal on social insurance for mainstream taxpayers. That's a subject in itself for anyone who thinks that universal benefits have to be more wasteful or bureaucratic than the American system. There's also a saving in taxpayer and charity donations to other health services: everyone can use the same hospital.

There is a problem that the ex-pats and economics lecturers who claim expertise are also the people who don't like to talk about social security systems. If you're an ex-pat, you go private; you fit-in with the system around you. If you are an economics lecturer, you use a kind of international text=book syllabus which has avoided annoying governments over the years. Economics textbooks don't mention social security. They to find something more boring and safe, so there isn't a common objective among well-meaning people. 

Ethical Fashion Forum and taxpayers

  • Ethical Fashion Forum was subsidised to promote goods from badly run countries, taking market share from companies with more specific ethical claims than "ethical", such as selling goods from well-run countries.

  • Criticism of Ethical Fashion Forum is due; it's useful

    This seems obvious now they've packed-up, but needed spelling-out when they got a lot of PR for a while, with regular newspaper quotes and invitations to speak. They even charged people to turn-up to their speeches sometimes; membership could cost £250. The founder described their launch on "a raft of measures", or help and money from public-controlled organisations.
  • Poverty reduction costs money.

    Goods from well-run countries are more expensive than goods from badly run countries, because of the cost of a welfare state: secondary schools, health services, pensions, and more, free, even for those who don't work or work for the worst employer.
  • Ethical Ethics grants to groups like Ethical Fashion Forum could have done good if used properly.

    EFF's founder states that it was launched on "a raft" of public-funded favours and publicity, as well as small grants.
  • Business Link

    This was a public-funded chain of organisations to help people employ each other or become self-employed.
    Some of the money was diverted to Ethical Fashion Forum for them to run training schemes, which were not repeated.

  • School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), grants to promote internships of new graduates, sponsored by Santander

    A postgraduate with a long working CV was seconded to Ethical Fashion Forum on this funding. SOAS claim no longer to have precise details. The secondment could have been to Pants to Poverty who worked from the same office. SOAS also helped launder a money request to UK government for Chinese factories. London College of Fashion lead a grant bid to the Higher Education Funding Council, with LSE and SOAS, for something that was nothing to do with higher education or even jobs for graduates; it was to introduce anyone from the UK including "the creative economy" to Chinese and perhaps Indian factories. That was it. One minister responsible was more interested in his work at the BBC that benefited; another described himself as a "Cab for Hire" and was in prison for corruption soon after. This may be getting off the point of SOAS using a sponsor of internships to promote a scheme to put graduates out of work, but there we are. Details are on
  • Department for Business Development at London College of Fashion

    The Centre for Sustainable Fashion at London College of Fashion used to be called the Department for Business Development. A separate but allied group to Ethical Fashion Forum, who could do the job of helping fashion graduates get the tools to make things, but don't. London College of Fashion graduates have relatively bad prospects, according to Unistats on Discover Uni, which could be because they don't have careers in mind when they start, and there isn't a big London manufacturing industry, so they need a bit of help. If you search online for business help at London College of Fashion, some of what you find is funded by the European Union via the Greater London Authority, and is some kind of expensive package of workshop space subsidised for a select few. Centre for Fashion Enterprise is the title, familiar from forensic reports by Price Waterhouse and Deloitte on the old London Development Agency. The gist is that this expensive and exclusive service uses money that could use more Londoners find a sewing machine or a shoe lasting service; it's a bit daft and we pay for it.

    Staff members of Centre for Sustainable Fashion at London College of Fashion, overlap with previous staff of Ethical Fashion Forum; they shared buildings and funders with a large-scale project called "Creative Connexions" paying UK designers to find factories in China. Nowadays it is the Centre for Sustainable Fashion who get a seat at "round table talks" about the rag trade at the House of Lords in order to say what I think; Ethical Fashion Forum is consulted less.

  • Department for International Development, now part of the Foreign Office

    About £10,000 a year for three years came from this source after previous funding to the same person in another job - Fashioning an Ethical Industry managed by Labour Behind the Label. EU taxpayers paid this project to "support university, college and high school educators of fashion-related courses in incorporating social responsibility issues into their teaching", but, if the project was honest, it forgot to mention a welfare state or human rights as something worth encouraging. 

  • The British Council

    Managed a project for the Department for International Development called Project Delphe, promoting teaching materials that do not mention the welfare state to fashion colleges and universities, including low budget universities in places like Sudan where teaching materials are hard to pay for. This did not help  Ethical Fashion Forum financially but quoted their fictional members as "case studies" in free course materials.

  • London College of Fashion's Centre for Sustainable Fashion

    Procured some teaching materials from consultants hired to write-up Ethical Fashion Forum founder members as "case studies"

  • Greater London Authority funding to Rich Mix Arts Centre who provided a cheap office

    Ethical Fashion Forum's director claims to have raised over £300,000 altogether in a few years, with a high proportion of it in public funding. It would be good if she published a break-down. Her organisation came to exist in a world where payment depended on political backing rather than proven benefit of an insurance-like kind. For example her landlord - an arts centre called Rich Mix - has a web page suggesting that 14p per person per week is spent by government on the arts, or £2.38 from the possible weekly pension of everyone over 65. They don't mention cost to pensioners. They came to exist in a world of courtiers and ghosts. Like their tenants, Rich Mix are not easily embarrassed.

  • Greater London Authority's London Fashion Week

    Ethical Fashion Forum got a stall one year.

  • The Crafts Council

    Free exhibition of goods by Terra Plana - now Vivo Barefoot - and fictional organisations like Juste to promote Ethical Fashion Forum

  • The Arts Council

    Funding for Rich Mix Arts Centre, which would have been nearer self-supporting if it had let-out offices at the going rate rather than giving nearly free leases to Ethical Fashion Forum and Pants to Poverty.

  • The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A)

    Free exhibition of goods imported by fictional organisations like Juste to promote Ethical Fashion Forum

  • The BBC

    Consultancy work on a magazine to be called "Ethical Threads"
    Consultancy work writing lesson plans for teachers of 11-14 year olds about Ethical Fashion

Similar amounts could be properly spent.

Ethical Fashion Forum repaid UK taxpayers' subsidy by making UK taxpayers' problems worse, diverting attention away from the benefits of buying goods that are vegan, or buying goods made by UK taxpayers themselves in a welfare state. I'm no expert but think they have made ordinary Bangladeshis worse-off too, and that this was a covert operation by ministers to promote something by asking for favours without having to justify it to taxpayers.

Bangladesh bad government

Bangladesh background: fashion events at Rana Plaza demonstrated...

  • no pressure from EU tariffs for a national insurance system;
    market pressure to stay cheap, so lack of a conditional tariff = pressure not to change
  • under-funded factory inspections,
  • un-solved accountability of who owns which factory,
  • un-accountable pressure on workers to work as cracks in the walls grew
  • un-paid volunteers treating survivors at a teaching hospital for lack of any NHS in Bangladesh.
  • no benefits for cripples widows & orphans.
  • badly run countries in the area are a source of misery and war.

If people in Bangladesh need lobbying, they need opposite lobbying to the sort that Ethical Fashion Forum can provide; Bangladeshi trade associations should stop funding it. People there don't need Bangladeshi taxes to go on export subsidies either. They need the same kind of services as people in the UK: accessible pensions hospitals and courts, unemployment pay & disability benefits.

A report on the latest Dfid scheme (Responsible and Accountable Garment Sector Challenge Fund - RAGS) to boost good textile importers draws a similar conclusion, quoting Bangladeshi textile wages as about 43 cents an hour in 2000 reducing to 22 cents in 2009, a fall of 43% at a time that exports rose 94%. In some countries, wages have risen, but more fast fashion isn't the only factor, and there is a limit to how much a buyer can do by trying to buy something vaguely "sustainable". For example, if child labour is not allowed, someone has to police this and take out court orders, and the local education system has to have places for children taken out of factories. That was the conclusion of the Dfid report.

Criticism of any organisation is a good thing. I think that criticism of Ethical Fashion Forum also helps people in the UK and people in countries like Bangladesh. There are much better ways to help people in cheap countries than to buy more fast fashion on a zero tariff, subsidised by Bangladeshi export subsidies. Better to have a more conditional tariff system around the EU, pressuring and allowing Bangladesh to have National Insurance system. Lastly, there is a bonus. Europeans buy subsidised clothes at the moment - subsidised by export promotions and unfairly bad services in China. If tariffs balanced-out these subsidies, and Europeans paid a higher price for clothing, maybe we'd sell less second-hand to countries like Ghana where second hand clothing as wiped-out local factories.


UK background up to 2014: job losses and fast fashion

UK manufacturing is in a condition that hospitals would label "critical" after a few decades of monetary policy - 1979-2009 - and more to come. My trade of footwear doesn't have a trade directory any more. People assume that more of it has closed than is the case. The same course of events has taken place in South Europe much more recently. It is a course of factory closures so rapid that they have a special slot on the news before cricket & weather. The reasons for such rapid change are obviously not a shifting advantage of wages and automation around the world. Recent effects:

  • 25% youth unemployment & riots in South Europe.
  • governments borrowing money to pay dole.
  • large cuts in public services and benefits
  • questions about how ex-manufacturing areas like Northern Ireland can be subsidised by the rest of the UK.
  • badly run countries a source of misery that can affect the UK and cost wars, money, and more misery
  • imports so cheap that shops compete in how fast fashion changes can be made, rather than on price and quality.

These issues don't appear on ethical fashion blogs and definitions.

Ethical fashion jobs or any other jobs in the UK are rare because government has subsidised imports with its monetary policy, while countries like Bangladesh had subsidised exports with their export subsidies. Anybody doing internship or volunteer work or issuing student placement credits for work at Ethical Fashion Forum should remember that the organisation reduces UK employment. |


Bangladesh bad government.
Imagine you want work or public services in Bangladesh

If you work on an ordinary job in Bangladesh, like fishing or sewing or ship-scrapping, it's not likely that you pay for private medical insurance from the going wage for the job, nor a pension, n fees. You'd probably like a compulsory system by which everyone has to have social insurance, and better still to have cover for those who have not worked as well for those who have contributed.


Bangladesh has no law requiring social insurance. The government there would be frightened to risk raising costs in that way without the help of some kind of conditional tariff from the European Union, taxing goods from other countries that don't change. Others in Bangladesh want to start now, with national insurance based in existing micro finance institutions. Does Ethical Fashion Forum have anything to say about the important issues? To ask is a bit like asking Queen Victoria about lesbians. Try it.

search for "girls schools"
search for "secondary school"
search for "social insurance"
search for "national insurance"
search for "welfare state"
search for "NHS"
search for "social clause"

Click on any of these links and change the text that shows in quotes in a search box to find out what else Ethical Fashion Forum do or don't mention. For example a search for "hospitals" in August 2014 found two examples of hospitals for employees of certain companies - one a "mobile hospital" and the other an aspiration - and no examples of compulsory health insurance or more general provision as exists in the UK.

So, if you need a hospital in Bangladesh, nobody in the EU is helping to get health care funded in a long-term way, nor other services like pensions and education which together tend to reduce population growth and to reduce poverty.

So does the UK government do all it can to provide emergency funding?


UK Aid from Dfid has gone in part on Ethical Fashion Forum, including a reference to a travel expense - London to Bangladesh return - for a non-existent dress importer called Juste. A long string of favours and unfair promotion tried to support Pants to Poverty promote fairtrade organic cotton, rather than promote fairtrade organic cotton in British-made pants which would have been easier and more profitable. The projects were presented as spontaneous; un-subsidised. Pants to Poverty was fronted by someone who seems unable to hold-down an ebay account.


UK bad government.
This is what needs to be done to provide work, tax revenue, and so public services in the UK. It is not being done.

Maybe you are looking for ethical fashion jobs and find that Ethical Fashion Forum reduces the number of ethical fashion jobs rather than promotes jobs.

You would expect governments to be good at reducing unemployment, spotting ways to reduce market failures, and in doing so to help UK manufacturing when it can. Doing the sorts of things that European governments do, like making sure that there's

  • access to workshop space now empty so that people can provide jobs
  • access to machines by the hour or by the day - specially the ones too heavy to find at home or at a typical adult education college, so that people can create jobs
  • affordable training in how to use the machines and make things, providing jobs - a wider range of jobs including good ones and ones that some people prefer. There has been some training available by a group of sixth form colleges to promote Pants to Poverty, but that was another variation on Ethical Fashion Forum.
  • full directories of all existing UK factories and suppliers based on government information, and embellished with details like minimum orders, whether the prices are up-market, equipment available, specialisations within a trade. Not an opt-in directory, like, but an opt-out directory that shows every manufacturer in the UK unless they opt out. With a directory, people can find UK suppliers and create jobs whether or not the supplier advertises.
  • connection between public sector procurement requests sent directly to the factories that can make the order, as well as published online. That's a fifth way of creating jobs.

    These things are not much available in the UK. For example the careful trade directories which used to be in main reference libraries are no longer published. Government has piles of free information about what factory makes what product, but doesn't release it. That's why Ethical Fashion Forum is able to charge subscriptions in advance to readers of the "source network" by which you pay for Ethical Fashion Forum to edit your details and sell them to members, while avoiding public criticism from members who want to be given mentions and invited to be guest-speakers.


Grant proposal to the Department for International Development:
Ethical Print Forum @
University of the Arts' London College of Communication
Supported by multiple government departments

Imagine that a government department set-up an organisation to suggest that printing and publishing should move to Bangladesh, or Sri Lanka, on ethical grounds.


The organisation would avoid talk of UK publishing, claiming that people used to write newspapers with quill pens until the 1960s and that printing, publishing and broadcast media "reduced to almost nothing" a couple of decades later because of "global trends".

They would pretend not to realise that there is a welfare state in the UK that adds to the cost of UK print. "You can't compare countries" would be the quote. They would pretend not to realise that a welfare state or some kind of social insurance helps reduce poverty, and not just printing alone or a grant to some kind of development agency.

They would keep quiet about bad government in Sri Lanka, that sends soldiers to break-up newspaper printing presses, preferring to maintain relations with key stake holders.

They would argue that the only good printers are those in Sri Lanka who are slightly better than the ones next door in Sri Lanka, according to the forum's own expert and paid-for opinion. Whenever a disaster strikes like the Sri Lankan government smashing and burning printing presses, the organisation would claim that it proves their point: they are helping the better printers and paper-makers cope with difficult situations. Maybe they'd publish a picture of someone looking sad in a traditional modest building, no modern objects in-shot, and write an emotive line attributed by their first name only:

It's very difficult and times are hard.
-Ganesh, journalist, Sri Lanka
(photographed in a tourist-board way with no cars guns or modern-looking things in shot)

It's hard to imagine because journalists remember information about printing publishing & broadcasting, even though the trade works freelance at home or from nondescript office buildings just as the rag trade cobbling and online sellers do. Journalists have a nose for media work. When they travel, they catch remembered scents of publishers and broadcasters and the printers that publishers use, often with memories of freelance work or ex colleagues who have worked there. Journalists would spot a lobby to move journalism to Bangladesh & Sri Lanka on ethical grounds, obviously.

How about sugar beat? Some journalists set-up a trap to find out whether Patrick Mercer MP for a sugar-beat constituency would lobby for Fiji sugar & ignore bad government in Fiji, but if something called an "Ethical Sugar Forum" promoted Fiji sugar as a way of stabilising the country and reducing the poverty that leads to bad government, maybe the Fiji sugar forum would exist and get reported.

Nobody suggests that journalism should be moved to Sri Lanka or Bangladesh.

Could anyone lobby for print to be moved to Sri Lanka?
The politics pages of newspapers report human rights failures & bad government in Sri Lanka where newspaper presses broken-up by plain-clothes police or party activists. The fashion pages of the same newspapers report Ethical Fashion Forum's founding member "The Sari Dress Project" as though it existed for long or on any scale or was independent of lobby-group and taxpayer funding.

There are major un-met needs that newspaper could report, like care for the elderly, but they also report government spending on a group of courtiers using public money to display Chinese dresses at London Fashion Week or promote wrong facts about something they call "Ethical Fashion".


Newspapers have reported bad government at the London Development Agency, in which things like made-up CVs, ghost dress businesses called Juste, and crass statements were all possible. Interviews with London Development Agency staff, who also managed large projects like the Thames Barrier, note frustration at being asked to manage pet projects for politicians with their advisors allowed to sit in meetings. Many were employment schemes, but those which got most bad press were cultural schemes as well as employment schemes: "between 2001/2 and 2005/06 the LDA funded 61 separate cultural projects at a total cost of £70 million. Six of these projects were high profile and received a relatively large amount of funding from the LDA", according to the report, which doesn't make any mention of damage to other business caused by competition from taxpayer-funded "fashion" or "ethical fashion". The report doesn't detail previous funding from other organisations either: each of these groups approached anyone who might give a grant and some had already had millions.

  1. The Rich Mix Centre in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets - the LDA provided nearly £8 million knock down a big building and build a similar one in its place, just for a cultural and arts centre called Rich Mix. There were also meant to be workshops to let in the building, but a large floorspace went to Ethical Fashion Forum and Pants to Poverty for next to nothing.
  2. The Bernie Grant Centre in the London Borough of Haringey - the LDA provided around £4 million to help create a performing arts centre;
  3. The Laban Dance Centre in the London Borough of Lewisham - the LDA provided around £4 million to help redevelop a former waste depot into an arts dance centre;
  4. The Centre for Fashion Enterprise - the LDA provided around £2 million to help provide business support and advice for new fashion companies across London;
  5. The London Fashion Forum - the LDA provided around £500,000 towards the development of a website and forum to increase business awareness amongst fashion industry people across London
  6. The West End theatre audience development project - the LDA provided around £200,000 to make West End theatres more accessible to disabled visitors, families with young children and youth.
  7. Leonard Cheshire Disability was later found to have charged double-hours when accounting for a business advice service for disabled people, provided in an inflexible opaque way via certain nominated advisors, so it probably obtained half the benefit per hour than if run properly

None of these reports mentioned Ethical Fashion Forum, possibly because it seemed to be trying to help very poor people in Bangladesh. None mentioned Leonard Cheshire Disability either. Likewise, when the Department for International Development was criticised for funding a girl band in Ethiopia - which could be quite sensible - they weren't criticised for funding Ethical Fashion Forum. It slipped through the net. Maybe no journalist was interested in other clothing manufacturers. Or maybe I just don't know how to monitor news: the Daily Express ran a series of articles about the Department for International Development's ghost agency in Palastine, which closed but Dfid still paid the staff. Maybe I missed loads of other stories like that.

The journalist Andrew Gilligan wrote a series of pieces, particularly about cultural projects that appeared without proper accounts after backing by mayoral advisors. Another good journalist from Centre for Investigative Journalism did too. Newspaper accounts were followed by Greater London Authority investigations into Centre for Fashion Enterprise, London Fashion Forum, and the Rich Mix building, all of them doing business with Ethical Fashion Forum. For some reason investigations stopped short of Ethical Fashion Forum, London Fashion Week, and Creative Connexions, a London College of Fashion project to export jobs to China. Maybe if you are a journalist and a lot of people claim to be expert about clothing and footwear, you take them at face value more than you would if they talked about printing and publishing.


Robbing in a hospital: money to reduce unemployment used to increase unemployment

"impossible to judge why projects were funded and what the London Development Agency got for its money"
all party report on London Development Agency's funding of cultural projects, November 2007

"The London Development Agency commenced operations in 2000 and since then has spent in excess of £3 billion of public funds. It currently has 649 established posts and last year its budget, including Olympic related expenditure, was approximately £740 million. Yet workl ess-ness remains a major problem in London with 30% of working age residents not in employment, more than elsewhere in the UK".
forensic audit report, 2008 [archived]

"Since 2011, we have had no external funding, we are entirely funded through membership fees."
- Ethical Fashion Forum managing director, 2014

By the time of the forensic report, voters had chosen another majority party and a different mayor. Deloitte accounts' report was repeated by Price Waterhouse report. It would have been good if the new lot had identified ways that public spending did more harm than good. But different accountants and politicians still believed that a new shopping centre would "create jobs" on no logic or evidence (why would a chain store branch with a high rent make more jobs than the rival shop that it puts out of business?). The London Development Agency was still knocking down factories and calling it job creation, particularly on the Olympic site. One of the politicians on the panel nearly knocked-down all fabric shops in a street that sells cheap fabric in order to build them up again at a higher rent to shopkeepers. The Greater London Assembly continued with the Olympic project and continues with London Fashion Week.

This was and is the culture in which Ethical Fashion Forum secured extra-ordinary access to favours like free publicity from exhibitions by public sector organisations, and funding for the Juste project that barely existed. The workshop where Juste samples were made was subsidised "to assist young designers with small production runs and to sample either individual garments or small collections, enabling designers to work with CMTs here in the UK instead of offshore", but the funding was used for the opposite purpose. It's a fair bet that every single one of the pieces of sponsorship and grant-funding that Ethical Fashion Forum and Juste received was intended to reduce poverty and boost employment. It's impossible to know without asking and pestering for a lot of information whether any of it was used for its intended purpose or whether most, like most funding from London Development Agency, did more harm than good. A great deal of related information, like records of the "New Entrepreneurs" scheme, has been thrown away.

Courtiers and God Kings are very polite and careful to maintain relations with key stake holders, a modern job descriptions put it; their colleagues and bosses down the funding chain. London Fashion Week was very polite about better training for dry cleaners, specially in the West Midlands, when a training quango for dry cleaning was merged with one for fashion. The same courtiers have zero embarrassment when they confront taxpayers with obvious waste. The joke was that Marie Antoinette said "let them eat cake" when bread ran-out. King Lois was once confronted by an angry widow of someone killed at his dangerous vanity building project. He was puzzled. "Is she talking to me?", he asked an aid. Courtiers also share a certain taste. No synthetics. Exotic, but all natural.

So it is with the courtiers who awarded grants to Ethical Fashion Forum or London Fashion Week. They appear to have zero embarrassment, even though they are robbing in a hospital because they mis-treat an injured UK manufacturing industry, using money pinched from a welfare state.



    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