fair-fashion and PR from fashionistas and lobbyists
Shoe fashion is unlike dress fashion.
Shoes take more tools to make.
Shoes have to last for longer than dresses, if they justify the cost.
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, 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 shoe 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 funny-coloured shoes, that's quite something. If you wear a funny-coloured top, that 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. That's why fashionistas sometimes have to look at normal shoes.
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 like Dfid 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 ethical fashion
Some 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
Veganline.com/info/why-made-in ... links to some figures for
- Free NHS services "down the road here in London". Chinese health spending is about half that in the UK
- Social Security
- Democracy (although Vivo Barefoot's website once said that China is "arguably more democratic than the UK", a few years ago when they were called Terra Plana)
- Human Rights
All of these are paid for from taxes and available to staff of the worst factory, or people who don't work, as well as staff of the best factory.
Only someone like Marie Antoinette of France or a director of Ethical Fashion Forum would leave these five points un-mentioned. When I first wrote this in the late 20-teens, the UK had a Department for International Development spending 0.6% of GDP in the most efficient way, they thought, even if it involved covert operations, pretended ignorance of a welfare state or human rights as forms of development, and competing against the neglected UK industry. They were people who had been through college at places like SOAS or my own old college, Keele, and believed what they were taught in heavily censored courses. That's probably why they got high marks and a suggestion to take the civil service exam.
In the 2020s. the Dfid is merged-in to the Foreign Office and funds cut, with oversight by another body for aid efficiency. The schemes suggested by the International Trade Organisation have been dropped, alongside very ordinary and useful schemes like vaccination. It's odd. You'd think that an elected government in the UK would put-up tariffs against countries that can't be arsed to vaccinate, but this is not how it works.
Obviously if you are sponsored by Nike that affects 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. You can see it in her picture.
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. Up in Scotland, someone didn't realise the background to Pants to Poverty and thought it a good name to quote to primary school pupils. Which was sensible. But wrong in hindsight.
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 the 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 doesn't mention them 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 principle 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.
Madame Defecit and ethical fashion purchasing - Marie Antoinette's muslin dress
Take 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 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 textiles. Imagine it was woven in Bangladesh as many were. The portrait shows her in one. She probably encouraged 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 as "Madame 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 a bulk discount on the far-eastern side. Some traders like Pants to Poverty have made great efforts to work with artisan suppliers in India - poor people in rich countries. That project particular project has failed, but it was a fashionable idea for a while.
Shopkeepers can buy from wholesalers, but the range and information about the range 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 and wellies.
Shoe factories exist in democratic welfare states and Europe, but tend to make for traditional and niche markets like ballroom dancing, bowls, fetish, high fashion, posh, and vegan. It's hard to find a firm selling complex trainers, football boots 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.
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 textbooks 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 ... likely ... harmful to the UK economy "
The institute funded or was funded to write on 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. Some 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 like London Fashion Week
Monetary Policy - tax-subsidised imports to reduce inflation
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 sentences later.
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 Office of the God-Queen, unaware of their own ignorance.
Ethical Fashion Forum - can fashion be fair while there is a subsidy for import promotion via this lot - or even London Fashion Week?
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 promote goods made abroad, using money from the Higher Education Funding Council, laundered through a grant to London College of Fashion with Kings College and SOAS named on the same grant proposal.
The scheme was to put UK designers in the same room as Chinese manufacturers.
Was this ever identified as corruption? No. The scheme continued for a few years.
Is it reasonable to ask? Yes. Stephen Byers was minister for trade, overseeing the Higher Education Funding Council's funds for universities.
Who did it? Other than Stephen Byers?
● University of the Arts London (the lead partner) ● London Business School
● School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) ● Kings College London
They were willing grant-applicants. University of the Arts manages London College of Fashion. Each of these organisations does business in China that overlaps with the process of lobbying for China or laundering other peoples' lobby requests and making them look respectable. A couple of anglo-chinese trade associations benefited. Some IP Lawyers were keen to take part in related projects like Own-it, an off-shoot of London College of Fashion which also got a grant. It's unlikely that lawyers who spoke for Own-it got grants directly but the question is worth asking: one of them has a pre-election meeting with clients. I have no idea what that implies.
Who in government promoted imports at taxpayers' expense?
I don't know.
Stephen Byers was a minister for trade, controlling the Higher Eduction Funding Council, and described himself as a "cab for hire" after office, boasting of work while in-office of getting food labelling requirements relaxed by phoning a colleage.
James Parnell is a BBC grandee and was a minister. He was often seen at events promoting UK IP and creative industries, alongside the Government Office for London which took-over from the Greater London Council and was replaced by the Greater London Authority, so it was a healthy place to plant a government idea among civil servants controlled by government for a while. The Greater London Council and Greater London Authority were also so keen on promoting UK IP abroad that a couple of forensic accountants' reports were commissioned in hindsight.
A scheme was promoted that would replace the Olympic buildings in Straford with new buildings for London College of Fashion, and then BBC, under the pretext of job creation.
David Frost was working at the Department for Business' UK Trade organisation at about that time, but I don't know dates or detail. There are always people who have a bizarre view of comparative advantage, often taught at colleges like SOAS, which leaves out any mention of human rights, or different social security costs in different countries, and assumes that imports are good at all costs. The process of promoting these people to jobs they're un-fit for is more murkey.
London College of Fashion, SOAS, and Kings College London are organisations that claim a lot of UK government grants and benefit from tax-funded promotion overseas, but also benefit from the Chinese economy and were keen to promote imports from China at a cost to their own graduates looking for work in the UK.
UK taxpayers, out of money ear-marked for business and higher education. At the time, there were not enough psychiatry, medical, or engineering graduates.
£6,275,000 went to Creative Connexions which aimed to earn itself fees by introducing UK designers and manufacturers to Chinese factories. That figure looks big:
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 rep 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 around 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 rep for civil war goods from Sri Lanka.
The new buzzwords were "ethical fashion", chosen to avoid definition and beg the question "what is ethical fashion?", which a lobbyis can answer any way they like. For example Ethical Fashion Forum - an organisation that's had UK government subsidies and huge government PR support - had 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 a direct documented effect of discouraging vegan fashion and British-made footwear. There's 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 promoting the "founding members", fictional or not:
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 a 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.
The directorship of Ethical Fashion Forum is mainly a group of consultants and overlaps with the directorship of a government PR agency - Futerra - that has some of the brands as clients. 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 catchphrase "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 some other Ethical Fashion Forum directors.
where did the UK "ethical fashion" label come from so fast?
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 gives them a grant. They have never promoted anything called "Ethical Fashion" and have criticised members for claiming membership as a 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? September 2004.
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),
- City Fringe Partnership,
- Awards For All,
- Business Link,
- The Hub,
- Rich Mix, and Black Emerald Group.
All but Black Emerald Group are public 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.
Ethical fashion jobs labels brands & companies:
Who paid to promote the "Ethical Fashion Forum" brand so fast in the UK? You did.
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 publicly 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 was particularly useful for samples. At the same time, Tamsin Lejeune was working with a five year EU and Dfid-funded project "Fashioning an Ethical Industry" paid to Labour Behind the Label.
A 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 the Futerra PR agency 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 an ISUU publication with an implausible story that Tamsin Lejeune had set-up an "industry body" after running a successful dress import business called Juste while another EFF director had run another clothing company. The publication was most likely offered as coursework material for the new development courses subsidised by the Department for International Development in African and Asian universities, under a scheme called Delphi that was managed by the British Council.
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 room that offers desk space in Torrens Street and shares 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 organisations.
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 for money.
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 by 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 makes 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 ITC
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 DAF funding" 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 and Tesco.
Internship qualifies for London College of Fashion sandwich courses
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 questions 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 agencies,
but not Amnesty Internationalor 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 benefits.
- 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 big advert.
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.
Conclusion and more about ethical fashion forum
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.
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 economics 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
Just in case Ethical Fashion Forum change, most of the links to it from this site are to live searches, so you can check for yourself what they write now, today, rather than a few years ago.