Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Both cheap and ethical

You can't see it very well in this picture but above is a cuff in tiny checks. A larger photo which came to my email inbox shows it better but won't copy.

The cuff is from People Tree, the ethical fashion company. This is who made it:

There is a dark side to the jewellery industry: The cheap, spangled jewellery that is all over the high street is often made using child labour in India because it's cheaper and children's small hands are more suited to creating intricate jewellery. However a Delhi child labourer will be routinely forced to work 12 hour days, working, eating and sleeping in the same cramped, poorly lit and ill ventilated workshop.

Even though jewellery is major business in India it is difficult to form labour unions because it's usually created by small producer groups. This means that the producers are rarely able to bargain for a fair price and are at the mercy of a long chain of middlemen.

Tara (Trade Alternative Reform Action) defends the rights of the poor, employing only adults, offering them advance payments so they can buy materials, and giving them the security of long term contracts.

They run campaigns against child labour and have established sixteen schools and vocational training centres for children from poor families, which over 700 child labourers have attended to date.

Mosim, a jewellery maker from one of TARA's beading groups said she puts her money in a savings account, which she is saving to put towards her dowry. The project allows her to learn a professional skill, earn an income and spend time with people her own age in a country that rarely allows women to leave the home. Mosim even made her first visit to Delhi recently to participate in Tara's annual producer meeting.

You can support Tara's work by buying the unique jewellery created by Mosim and the other TARA artisans.

It is reduced from £10 to £7 in the People Tree sale, about the price of lunch at Pret a Manger.

When I said wear a scarf, this isn't what I meant

Not tied round the head, for godsake.

Celia Walden in the Telegraph tries one on and does not like it.

According to Dennis Nothdruft, curator of London's Fashion and Textile Museum, this headscarf resurgence is about a new sense of chastity in fashion. "Before peasants used them to keep their heads cool, women wore headscarves in medieval times to maintain their modesty," he explains. "But it is also symptomatic of the economic downturn. If you can't afford to have your roots done, wear a headscarf to cover them up. Sociologically, it's about escapism."

Given that the fashion world likes nothing better than provocation, isn't it also a nod to Islam? "There's no doubt that we have a huge Muslim clientèle," agrees Alexander. "But this is more about a return to that elegant Grace Kelly era than anything else."

So, will this strange amalgam of royal homeliness, Muslim chic and proletarian pretence ever take off? Come autumn, will we be seeing women ambling down high streets or queueing at the cold meat counter in Waitrose, looking like Russian peasants?

"I do think we will be seeing a fair amount of headscarves around over the next few months," says Gaia Geddes, executive fashion editor of Harper's Bazaar. "But the fashion may be better suited to young girls, who will be able to pull it off with the right tongue-in-cheek manner."