Safia Minney is the woman who changed the fashion game.
When the founder of ethical brand People Tree set up the company (first in Japan in 1996, then in the UK in 2001), no one else was crafting fairly made clothes that melded style with sustainability.
Selected as one of the world's most 'Outstanding Social Entrepreneurs' by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, decorated with an MBE and now MD at Po-Zu sustainable footwear, she's effectively the doyenne of the scene.
For her, the roots of her energy in this area run deep. "I've always loved textiles," she says. "I adore print, I adore natural fabric and embroidery. After I set up People Tree, I found out that my grandmother, before starting up a social project, had been an embroidery designer – so maybe it's a DNA thing. My father's family were originally from India and were probably weavers, too."
In terms of the ethical stuff, there's lineage there, too. "My maternal grandparents were involved in working with disadvantaged young people in France and Switzerland and my mother was a voluntary social worker. I was involved as a small child when she was helping to re-house Ugandan refugees in the seventies." For Safia, there was never a divide between her family and other families: "we had a sense of belonging to a global community."
When People Tree was launched, creating and selling ethically-made clothing was not the done thing. "At the time, Fairtrade fashion did exist, but it was a few oddly-shaped, ugly-looking bits of clothing," Safia says. "But it felt exciting. We worked closely with Fairtrade producers, looking at sustainable materials and environmentally-friendly techniques."
Naturally, this wasn't pain-free. "The big challenge we faced was minimal order quantities. It's extremely hard for a small brand, as you'll want this fabric in this quality and want it to drape like this and buying a tiny quantity of that is tricky, as there isn't the demand for it to get run often."
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For Safia, working in sustainable style is "fantastic. Seeing people in the street wearing People Tree or Po-Zu and really making it their own; meeting organic cotton farmers and weavers and seeing the pride that they have in the quality of their products, as well as the fact that they are being paid decently meaning that their communities are being empowered and developed."
Change, she believes, is something that needs to happen on both an individual and community level. We've all got to take responsibility for what we buy and where we shop, but we need to share this with the people around us, too.
"We need to support emerging ethical fashion companies by buying their clothes and spreading the word about them. We can share articles and campaigns on our social networks. Most of all, we can use what we spend as a vote for responsible fashion."
We can't say fairer than that.
Photo: Akio Nakamura