People Tree Customer Services frequently receive emails from customers asking why we do not stock petite or plus 16 sizes.

“When I first bought People Tree, I was a size 14 – 16, which meant your clothes fit.  My commitment to fair trade, etc., hasn’t changed, but my dress size has.  I now fit size 20 – 22.  Since People Tree seems to think people my size don’t care about fair trade issues, I’ve decided not to buy anything at all from People Tree.

In fact, I never buy anything at all — not an accessory, not a bag, not a scarf, not gloves — from companies that don’t stock my dress size.  Why spend my money with companies that ignore me?

We absolutely do not want any of our customers to feel ignored. So we thought it would be helpful to explain why we presently stock sizes 8-16.

As a Fair Trade company we face a number of challenges that are unique to ensuring that we operate in a sustainable and ethical way. For example, we pay  many of our producers in advance when needed, unlike fast fashion companies who do not pay their producers until they receive the goods, or up to 60 days later. Doing this is part of our Fair Trade agreement, to help producers with their production costs. Due to working with small producer partners rather than large factories, and the handmade nature of many of our garments, we also need to buy much earlier in advance compared to other retail brands, to give enough time for production. This means we cannot react to our sales figures as quickly as other companies can. Even if we added size 18 (or size 6, or any new size) now, it would not appear in our range for another year because of our lead times.

We have produced larger sizes in the past (as well as kids’ wear and a youth collection) but unfortunately they had very low sales; which made it impossible for us to continue producing them due to the costs involved. We have to order a minimum number of each garments for each size to justify the costs of making them and we are not (yet) a large enough business to absorb these costs. If our turnover was 10 times larger then we could afford to put 4-5% of our buy into the larger sizes but while our business is still so small it is not viable.

However, we are also very proud of our items that are not size specific: such as our beautiful, hand crafted gifts and fabulous accessories. We love this playful hand knitted hats, perfect for the cold winter months. This was made by our wonderful producer partners KTS in Nepal, using mulesing-free New Zealand wool.

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We also have a stunning, handcrafted jewellery collection that showcases the skills of our artisan partners at Bombolulu workshops in Kenya.

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As more people are choosing to buy Fair Trade clothing, whether it’s because they want to be assured that their clothes have been made ethically, or because they love wearing 100% organic cotton, or because they love our shapes and prints; we hope to be in a position to re-evaluate our sell-throughs and to broaden our size range. In order for us to reach that stage,  we appreciate all of our customers’ support for Fair Trade which continues to make a positive difference.

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