Our history

Once upon a time – well, 30 years ago – a couple had a simple desire: to make sure the clothes they bought were made ethically and fairly. While these days we might all point to a few brands that could meet the brief, at the time Safia and James Minney launched People Tree in Japan, this was a most unusual proposition.

Since the start, People Tree has made fashion with uncompromising respect for both people and the environment, and challenged other companies to do better. So we’ve been genuinely delighted to see other brands follow in our wake to the point where the use of organic cotton is becoming more widespread, more sustainable fabrics like Tencel™ have been developed, and other companies are at least paying lip service to producing more ethically.

Why our mission matters more than ever

As customers have demanded better ethics from companies, especially after the wake-up call of the Rana Plaza disaster, we have seen two things happen. The first is good: as the message of Fashion Revolution has spread (see our post about this year’s #FashRev) ethical start-ups have sprung up to meet the demand. Because they don’t have entrenched supply chains, they have been able to create brands whose strong principles are part of their DNA, just as People Tree did in 1991. We love welcoming new ethical brands to the marketplace.

The second is less desirable: some well-known brands have seen the demand for ethical fashion and sustainability and, instead of seeing it as an opportunity, they have treated it as a threat. Where they could and should have embraced the opportunity to lead and make fashion fairer and cleaner, they have instead made vague promises and weak claims, and shifted the goalposts so that their intentions are always good, even if they haven’t quite managed to deliver. And while they’re making promises they aren’t keeping, brands like People Tree are already out there showing that it’s possible to do the right thing today. Now. Has been for the last thirty years. To coin a phrase, there is no Planet B, and it is now that we need to see brands taking action, not in five years or ten.

Why we are celebrating

People Tree has led by example over the last three decades, and we will continue to pursue our mission. Over our birthday weekend we’ll be sharing stories and memories, and the words of people who have contributed not only to making the company what it is today, but who are part of a future where we will continue to show that there is no need to compromise on ethics to make beautiful fashion. In an age of greenwashing, with broken promises and a thin veneer of respectability the norm, we are proud of our past and our present.

We celebrate the talent of our artisan producers, and the contribution Fair Trade makes to their communities. We celebrate and support the traditional skills and handicrafts that are kept alive with each collection. We celebrate the commitment of our producers and of our teams in the UK and Japan, who are all working to ensure every People Tree product is the best it can be for people and planet. We celebrate our customers making the choice to buy from a company whose values they share.

We celebrate because we are People Tree, and everything that stands for, and we make truly conscious clothing.