Fair-Trade Fashion In Europe –

Too Much Hype?


Kojo Jumah


The creator and driving force behind Gentleman's Division. Kojo is ...

Going green, eco-friendliness and sustainability are all the rage these days. Veganism is becoming more fashionable and being environmentally friendly has gone mainstream. In terms of fashion, the term “Fair Trade” is being bandied around on a regular basis, however what does this really mean if you’re manufacturing garments in Europe? After all, surely fair trade is standard practice?

Fashion and Fair Trade – What Does It Mean?

The whole point of Fair Trade is to create fairer working conditions for people who work in the manufacturing industry, guaranteeing fairer, higher prices for goods and bringing benefits to deprived communities, helping them to thrive and grow. The ten principles of Fair Trade include:

Accountability and transparency

Fair trade practices (including concern for the economic, environmental and social wellbeing of small, marginalised producers)

Paying fair prices

Guaranteeing no forced or child labour

Committing to the economic empowerment of women, freedom of association, gender equality and non-discrimination

Ensuring high quality working conditions

Promotion of fair trade

Provision of capacity building

Respecting the environment

Fair Trade is, in essence, trading which is carried out under these regulations to guarantee economic growth and fairness to producers and their communities.

There has been a huge growth in fast fashion in the last ten years, however the increase of interest in Fair Trade has led to a move towards the very opposite – slow fashion – with long lead times, high quality, and longer lasting, more costly fashion.

Almost £400 million is spent by UK consumers every year on eco-friendly fashion, and increasing numbers of retailers and fashion producers are now choosing to adhere to the Fair-Trade standard. However, many buyers are unaware that brands are able to source Fair Trade fabrics but then carry out their manufacturing in unregulated factories which may well not have ethical certification. Therefore, any consumers who wish to buy Fair Trade should do more investigation into the brand than it might appear.

The Regulation of Fair Trade

Around the world there are several organisations which work to standardise Fair Trade. The WFTO (World Fair Trade Organisation) is a worldwide network of many organisations, while in Europe there is the European Fair Trade Association (EFTA), and the British Association for Fair Trade Shops (UK BAFTS). Although all these organisations use their own methods to keep an eye on their members’ standards, each has to be checked individually to see their own execution without a single Fair Trade standardisation across the board.

The Focus On Europe

Consumers are in general agreement that the Fair-Trade initiative is vital and a positive way of ensuring that disadvantaged workers are treated fairly and receive fair pay. However, in Europe there are already regulations and standards for safety and fairness in terms of fashion manufacturing, so are buyers and manufacturers in Europe adopting a Fair-Trade stamp purely as a gimmick to cash in on the current trend? There are now more options now such as an innovative online clothing production platform Sewport, that helps brands and start-ups find fair trade or European clothing manufacturers and other garments production companies under one roof. Sewport serves as a one stop shop to find, source and produce garments using an online solution instead of going thought countless directories or going far east where the risk of non fair trade garment production is higher.

While change and growth is vital across every industry, including fashion, we shouldn’t be using key economic standards as keywords or catch phrases – it’s essential to keep in mind the real meaning of Fair Trade in the fashion industry.