Winter is coming and if it's anything like last winter you'll need to wrap up warm! Here is our selection of the best kids knitwear to keep your little wonders toasty.
#knitwear #kidsknits #scandiknits
Ever since I started out as a teenager doing a summer job in a designer lingerie factory in my home town, I have wanted to manufacture in the UK. Local production boosts home industry and creates a much lower carbon footprint. However, as I have looked at manufacturers to produce my launch collection this year, I have become aware that not all UK garment factories adhere to the ethical standards that I would want.
British sweatshops in the press
In January 2017 the Channel 4 Dispatches programme ‘Undercover: Britain's Cheap Clothes’[i] exposed extremely low pay and unsafe conditions in factories in Leicester. In August these problems were highlighted again in an interview with the CEO of New Look which unhelpfully the Times turned into sweeping statements:
‘Many of Britain’s clothing factories have worse ethical standards than manufacturers in China, Bangladesh and Burma, the boss of one the UK’s biggest fashion retailers has claimed.’[ii]
As I have worked at a fashion company in Leicester which is just down the road from me this feels very personal. It is unfortunately true that Leicester does have it problems:
‘Typically, the workers being exploited are women from different countries who speak little English. Some come to UK on a six-month visa and work every hour they can before returning home…women who were being paid as little as £1 per hour.’[iii]
A widescale problem?
The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) investigated the area and found that 26 businesses were issued with a Notice of Potential Liability or a Referral notice between February 2008 and August 2014[iv]. This can be put into perspective with regional industry figures:
‘Leicester has the largest amount of garment workers in the UK – there are 1500 garment manufacturing businesses in Leicester employing over 10,000 people.’[v]
It seems to me that this is a small minority who have aroused press interest, which tars others in the industry. Kate Hills, founder of Make It British feels passionately that such generalizations about ethical standards in the UK are damaging. “I've been to hundreds of garment manufacturers in the UK and contrary to what The Times has reported, the MAJORITY are ethical and above board.”[vi]
The claims were also rebutted by Nigel Lugg, Chairman of UKFT, the sector skills body for the fashion & textiles industry. “Whilst it is true and deeply regrettable that there are companies in the UK that break the law, there are hundreds and hundreds of factories who offer a safe working environment, pay their staff well and value their staff as their most valuable asset.’ [vii]
Who is involved?
Many UK retailers now use on-shore manufacturing units to support their global production operations and that number is growing rapidly. M&S employ 317 workers in 4 clothing factories in the UK, including 2 in Leicester. Arcadia Group has 54 factories in the UK[viii] and ASOS source their products from 28 factories employing 1015 people.
Jenni Holloway is Director of Fashion-Enter, a social enterprise making garments for high street retailers including ASOS, M&S and John Lewis and who are SEDEX Members Ethical Trade Audit (SMETA) approved which means its factory is fully compliant. She says: ‘Producing ethically and transparently in the UK is possible and cost effective now. Our factory based in Haringey, North London is proof[ix]
What is being done?
Ethical issues are being addressed by retailers, the home office and other bodies including the ETI who called for a collaborative approach[x] and coordination of all those involved. A tough new audit for domestic garment manufacturing called Fast Forward was created in 2015 by a group of retailers including ASOS, House of Frazer, River Island and Debenhams.
‘The Fast Forward Programme is an industry initiative to look at social risks in UK manufacturing. The in-depth audit assessments through this programme cover key areas such as right to work, national minimum wage, contracts of employment, tax, mistreatment and health & safety in line with the UK labour law requirements.’ [xi]
In March 2015 the UK government legislated the Modern Slavery Act that requires large companies to produce statements identifying risks and showing what steps they are taking to prevent slavery and exploitation within their supply chains.
Furthermore, the British Fashion Council launched the High-End and Designer Manufacturers Database in March 2017 ‘which aims to make it easier for designers to gain ethical supply chain certificates and facilitate successful relationships between designers and production units.’[xii]
Is enough being done?
In my opinion much more needs to be done by all those involved. Some of the legislation and initiatives don’t go far enough as there are clearly still serious ethical issues throughout the industry. But rather than apportioning blame, maybe we all need to take some responsibility?
As a designer I will be using Fashion Enter for my manufacturing as I trust them to be an ethical factory and will continue to scrutinize ethics throughout my supply chain. And as consumers we all have a big role to play. Don’t assume something is ethical just because it is made in Britain. Check whether your favourite retailer is part of ethical initiatives like ETI and Fast Forward. Ask them if their factories are audited to SMETA standards. And most importantly, question why a garment is cheap, because there is no doubt that somebody, somewhere is paying the price for it.
This article featured last year on the Ethical Brand Directory Blog here.
Who made my Jeans Pt1
Who made my Jeans Pt2
Save the Children
#ethicalfashion #madeinbritain #transparentfashion
[i] Sweatshop Britain: Factory workers on £3 an hour 'making clothes for River Island and New Look' by Laura Lambert 23/01/2017 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4146648/Workers-make-clothes-major-brands-3-hour.html#ixzz4zFXQEX2i
[ii] British factory standards ‘worse than Asia’ by Philip Aldrick 09/08/2017 https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/british-factory-standards-worse-than-asia-6txnv7bl8
[iii] Did You Know Sweatshops Exist In The UK? By Tamsin Blanchard 23/08/2017 https://www.vogue.co.uk/article/sweatshops-exist-in-the-uk-leicester
[iv] A New Industry on a Skewed Playing Field: Supply Chain Relations and Working Conditions in UK Garment Manufacturing by University of Leicester 2014 https://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/press/for-journalists/media-resources/Leicester%20Report%20-%20Final%20-to%20publish.pdf/
[v] Can Leicester get back to it’s garment manufacturing heyday? October 2017 https://makeitbritish.co.uk/made-in-britain-news/leicester-garment-manufacturing/
[vi] THIS ARTICLE IN THE TIMES IS MISLEADING AND MAKES ME SO MAD! By Kate Hills https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article-times-misleading-makes-me-so-mad-kate-hills/
[vii] Fashion and Textile Manufacturing in the UK 07/09/2017 http://www.ukft.org/newsletter-details.php?page=news&psub=newsletter&nlid=269&perpage=10&nlyear=&nltype=1
[viii] Returning fashion manufacturing to the UK - opportunities and challenges by Hannah Gould 10/06/2104 https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/sustainable-fashion-blog/returning-fashion-manufacturing-uk-opportunities-challenges
[ix] The Times Business Clinic with Jenni Holloway 01/08/2017 http://www.fashioncapital.co.uk/services/press-cuttings/15985-the-times-business-clinic-with-jenny-holloway
[x] A New Industry on a Skewed Playing Field: Supply Chain Relations and Working Conditions in UK Garment Manufacturing by University of Leicester December 2014 https://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/press/for-journalists/media-resources/Leicester%20Report%20-%20Final%20-to%20publish.pdf/
[xii] Positive Fashion http://www.britishfashioncouncil.co.uk/About/Positive-Fashion
As the news that we have lost over 50% of our biodiversity hits me, I know it’s the next generation that will be most affected by this and climate change. So how can we make sure our kids are equipped with the necessary tools to become guardians of the planet?
Where to start?
We have a tradition of watching a nature programme together on a Friday Night. There are so many awe inspiring programmes to choose from but we really love the David Attenborough ones best. The behind the scenes part at the end often has an environmental message and serves as a good basis for discussion afterwards. Another easy starting point is reading story books or watching films with your kids that feature different environmental issues. There are a wide range out there and I have put together some of these on my Pinterest boards here and here. Try to relate these issues to real life though so that they are not just fantasy and fairy tale for them.
Set an example
Young children model themselves on their parents and so being green yourself will influence them greatly. Encouraging them to get involved with reusing, reducing and recycling, and even composting, can be fun and they will engage more if they are part of the process. Using tools such as shower timers and smart meters can help instil good water & energy conservation habits such as switching off lights and stand-by gadgets.
My son is very aware of trying to use less plastic, but is still drawn to all the plastic toys in the shops. Consuming less with children is a difficult task as all kids want what their friends have, but the better option is to go for second hand. Young children are far more adaptable to this as the item is new to them anyway. Toy libraries are also a great option for this as are second-hand shops, school and car boot fairs or even swap with friends. In this way, making them aware of the earth’s finite resources and reducing waste from an early age will stick with them into adulthood.
Living without a car if you have kids is pretty impossible for most people unless you live in a big city. So although that’s not a practical option we could all use our cars less or even go electric. Walking to school is especially important not just for the environment but also for exercise and to cut pollution. I asked my son’s school to get involved with the Living Streets charity who challenged the pupils to walk to school and guess what? They did! https://www.livingstreets.org.uk/what-we-do/walk-to-school
Connect with nature
When my brother and I were little, my dad took us out at night to go badger and fox watching. It was so exciting to be out after dark and after a long tense wait, when we had to be very still, we got to see these amazing creatures in their own habitats, playing with their young. This has stayed with me and I believe is part of the reason for my passion for wildlife and the environment.
“Children who have an immersive experience in nature between the ages of 5 and 10 foster a deep love of the environment that they carry with them their entire lives”[i]
Visiting animal sanctuaries, farms, zoos and wildlife parks allows kids to see animals they otherwise wouldn’t up close. However, I always stress to my son that it’s far better for animals to be out in the wild than captive for our entertainment. Even interaction with a pet can help foster love, respect and empathy for animals.
Some kids can be reticent about being drawn away from their screens and games consoles, but fun outdoor adventures such as rock climbing, canoeing and camping can be a great way to entice them out. Even less adrenaline filled pastimes such as gardening, foraging for blackberries or strawberry picking at your local farm is a good excuse to get them outside. There are lots of amazing green spaces in the UK that you and your kids can access such as nature reserves, national parks or even your local park will have an abundance of flora and fauna to explore. Many areas such as these will have birdwatching, forest schools or nature clubs that will offer kids activities such as making bird feeders or pond dipping.
My son and I do something every year to raise money for the World Wildlife Fund for Nature. We adopt an endangered species and the pack of information, newsletters and the soft toy help to connect him to these animals and understand the hard work that is being done to protect them.
Volunteering for beach cleans, litter picks and tree planting can also show kids how we can all help, just as events such as Earth Day raise awareness that community and global efforts can make a difference.
How do you try instill a love and respect of nature in your children? We would love to hear from you x
#ecokids #greenparenting #sustainableliving
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