Slow Fashion | People Tree and Lee Japan talk about how the fashion industry needs to change

Safia Minney, People Tree Founder and CEO, continues her activities all around the world as an authentic globe trotter representing our fashion revolution in Japan!

This week, People Tree hosted a Slow Fashion seminar with 50 guests at Shibaura House in Tokyo. Safia and Mr. Hosokawa, who is the Director of Lee Japan, shared about their experiences in Asia and Africa to improve practice in the fashion industry. Sueyoshi Rika was a great MC and helped facilitate the session with really thoughtful questions asked by the audience.

Read the notes from Safia’s Journal about the remarkable event…

I spoke in Japanese and there was also sign language – so the gathering felt very international and barrier free!

The sign language also reminded me of working with the women at Assisi Garments – many of whom are deaf and mute – where we communicate through sign language.

Mr. Hosokawa of Lee Japan has been working in organic cotton in Uganda since 2007. They have a range of denim with about 30% organic cotton + GMO free cotton for just over 12,000 JPY! It got me thinking just how much I’d love to do a People Tree collaboration with Lee using our farmers’ organic cotton.

Denim production is very polluting, and only recently have some frighteningly unhealthy and unsustainable practices begun to change.

Mr. Hosokawa talked about how when he first started in denim manufacture, he saw shocking things. Stone-wash uses bleaches, and Japanese workers suffered terribly with sore throats from the fumes. Despite wearing gloves, the skin on their hands became red and raw: production has now shifted out of Japan, mostly to developing countries where the Health and Safety of factory workers is largely ignored.

I presented the main differences between conventional and Fair Trade fashion from my 20 years of working in the industry.

Safia's slide shows the difference between Fair Trade and conventional fashion
Safia’s slide shows the difference between Fair Trade and conventional fashion

We both agreed that fashion has moved on from a period when fashion designers like Issei Miyake, COMME des GARÇONS took great pride and pleasure working alongside producers in the production process themselves. Then there was the ‘Kitchen Side’ of fashion, where technical know-how and craftsmanship came first. Today there is little interest in the ‘making’ of fashion. Some retailers lie about what they do and where they produce, factories sub-contract and employ children, and exploitative practices are widespread.

We have become a global village, but fashion companies are not obliged to give the transparency and accountability that we as consumers want – so we have to demand it!!!

Thank you to an amazing audience who really participated so actively – it was the most remarkable gathering I have ever been a part of!

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