Ethical Clothes – Part 2

Dolly & Dotty – another UK based vintage repro brand, with design based in Brighton, and again nothing on the website about manufacturing or ethical policy. And like Collectif, I couldn’t find anything else online and the clothing labels state “Made in China”. I contacted the brand on 22nd September and although I received acknowledgement I have yet to receive an actual answer to my questions.
Rating: 0/10 With zero information on their website, “Made in China” on the clothing labels and a very poor lack of response to a customer enquiry, it can only be nul points.

Wallis – this brand is part of the Arcadia Group and as such follows their “Fashion Footprint” programme. There’s a lot of structure to this programme, with “pillars” and “stakeholders”, but I’m not sure there’s as much substance to it. Reading the ethical trading pages I get the impression they’re saying all the rights things but the level of what is being achieved is perhaps underwhelming. CleanClothes.org in a recent report rated Arcadia Group as “Dragging their Feet” – scant effort to tackle worker’s rights and have not participated in collaborative efforts to develop best practice, in particular the Ethical Trading Initiative.
Rating: 4/10 Arcadia Group don’t have a great reputation overall, and in this regard they don’t come across as working hard to change that. At least they have some information on their site and have responded to campaign surveys.

Roman Originals – Another brand with nothing on their website about their policy. A google search threw up this Independent article from 2015 (among others) alleging child labour in some factories with Roman Originals contracts. The brand’s reaction was to denounce the practice and sever their contracts with the factories in question, but beyond that they don’t seem to have done much to clean up their image or their practices. Neither CleanClothes.org or RankABrand.org has any up to date info, and neither does EthicalConsumer.org.
Rating: 0/10 No up to date information and investigative journalism from a year ago suggesting highly dubious ethical practices.

Camaïeu – A French brand that I often shop at when abroad, as it’s in most of Europe now. It seems that a French organisation “l’Ethique sur l’Etiquette” (Ethics on the Label) did a lot of campaigning and staged protests against the brand in 2013 following the Rana Plaza disaster, since the brand had had a large order in place with one of the factories, but after the disaster blamed a supplier for unauthorised subcontracting. As a result of the protests, the brand acknowledged responsibility by saying that they would contribute to the compensation fund for victims. If you can read French, this Libération article has a good report. They also mention an “Accord Sécurité” being drafted by some of the big labels, designed to make brand carry responsibility for ensuring the structural security of the factories they use and instill fire prevention measures. Camaïeu was supposed to be signing this but I can’t find any more recent reports than 2013.
Rating: 4/10 Although they did seemingly engage in 2013, given they were involved in such a high profile disaster in the clothing sector, it surprises me that there aren’t more recent press statements or anything on their website shouting about their latest ethical endeavors.

Promod – Another French/European brand I make a beeline for when on holiday. Although they have a lot about their ethos and style in the About section, once again a total lack of ethical policy information available to the customer. RankABrand.org gives them an E for lack of information. They responded to a CleanClothes.org survey, but very briefly and answered “no” to several points. In other instances they appeared to be setting a low bar on what they considered reasonable/possible for them to achieve based on their market share and avoiding increased cost to the consumer.
Rating: 5/10 A mediocre score for what seems to be a mediocre response and attitude to the problem at hand.


I have to say that doing this research into the labels in my wardrobe has been really depressing. With the exception of Seasalt, which is a relatively small and still family owned-and-run business, the majority of the brands have little or no information readily available to consumers and have had minimal response to NGO campaigns and surveys. Even when they are seemingly making the right noises, there’s the sense that consumers really have to take their word for it.

This has all led to me feel even more strongly that I should be making as much as possible and otherwise buying in vintage or charity shops. I’m even going so far as to ask my family (my mum especially) to stop buying me clothes as presents unless it’s a brand like Seasalt which I can trust.

Travelogue: Tuscany Pt. 2 (Florence & Chianti)

Second and final installment on my Italy holiday now; after a day and a bit in Pisa we hopped on the train to the fair city of Florence.

Florence is my favourite sort of European city; modern enough to have my much-missed Euro-high street shops (Promod here I come), but with a compact old heart rich with history and cultural stuff. I booked the hotel for this way back in February on one of the many comparison sites, it was a decent looking 3-star in a central location, which is usually top of my priority list. The ‘Hotel Centrale‘ didn’t disappoint – 5 minutes walk from the main train station and a stone’s throw from the Piazza del Duomo. It was clean with some nice details, like all the rooms named after the subject of a painting inside, and a frescoed ceiling in the breakfast room. The lift had to be seen to be believed though – supposedly limited to 4, could be mistaken for a broom cupboard and was cosy with 2 occupants!

San Lorenzo MarketThe hotel was also on the edge of the San Lorenzo district, famous for its huge leather market. This seemed to be on every day and meanders through street after street around the main food market hall. Most of the stalls are selling very similar leather goods; bags and belts mainly but there are some other things to be found, such as gadget cases which I did muse over. Don’t expect the prices to be market cheap – not at first in any case. Most vendors we asked started at anywhere from €50 to €200 – but they do haggle down, and it seems that cash in hand will reduce your price further. Some of the stalls are just frontages for bigger warehouse-like shops behind, but we found it was almost a case of too much choice and in the end came away without any purchases.

Florence

During our time in Florence we walked over the Ponte Vecchio, strolled the Boboli Gardens, admired the painted ceiling in the Duomo and reeled at the self-important style of the Medici family in the Palazzo Vecchio. On one of the days we went on a tour excursion which was a full day, leaving Florence at 8.30am and returning at 7.30pm. The first stop was the very picturesque medieval mountaintop town of San Gimignano, which is very touristy but also quite charming. Then lunch at a local vineyard, tasting of 3 of their wines including a Chianti Classico alongside a delicious Tuscan lunch, followed by a dessert wine with the local after-dinner speciality of almond biscotti. We all got a bit of time to sleep off the wine whilst driving to Siena, another lovely medieval city which was much smaller than we thought. There are many fascinating things about Siena, not least the fact that there are 17 districts or contrade, each represented by an animal and delineated throughout the city with plaques high up on the walls and statues on pillars. The rivalries between the districts are apparently quite real even today, and most vociferous during the Palio horse race. The last stop after Siena was the fortress of Monterriggioni, but by this point we were flagging somewhat so probably didn’t take this brief photo-stop in as much as we could have.

Chianti countryside

So, to fashion. There were plenty of shoe shops in Florence with a wide range of styles, but clothes were strangely quite absent. The designers are clustered along with the big department stores around the Piazza della Repubblica, and Via Panzano which runs from the train station to the Piazza del Duomo had some high street names; in fact there’s a shopping centre under the train station itself. However, we both found that many of the fashion shops felt cheap and tacky, and neither of us bought anything other than at Promod.

Below is my lookbook for the holiday – although the jacket (Desigual) and jeans (Next) only came out on the first and last day! The cardigan (New Look) was also rarely seen in the middle part of the holiday, with temperatures averaging 35-36C! The shorts and the blue print dress were both bought from Promod in Florence; the turquoise greek print dress is also Promod, but was bought in Barcelona last year, along with the floral print one from a boutique called MOS. The striped dress is a current summer favourite, bought from East last season. The pink t-shirt was dirt cheap from a Quba Sails pop-up outlet last year, as was the loose beige blouse from H&M’s sale earlier this year. The peach sandals (New Look) rubbed me while travelling on the first day so they didn’t come out again until the last day, and I spent the rest of the time in the Hush Puppies flats, which in any case made sense with all the walking we did!