People Tree Founder Safia Minney On What We Can All Do To End Modern Slavery In The Fashion Industry

'You are the voice for the voiceless.'

08/09/2016 16:21
sustainable fashion

The founder of People Tree is urging the public to take steps to end ‘modern slavery’ in the fashion industry.

Ethical clothing pioneer Safia Minney, who launched the brand 25 years ago, is set to reveal the full devastating effects of fast fashion in her new book project, ‘Slave To Fashion’, which covers forced and bonded labour in Bangladesh and child workers in India, among other things.

“Fashion typifies just how unsustainable our capitalistic system is today,” Minney told The Huffington Post UK.

“Hot air, arrogance and profit, at the cost of workers, planetary resources and future generations.”

Many of us are unaware we’re fuelling the problem. To combat this, Minney stresses we need “complete transparency” from brands about their supply chains.

People Tree
Safia Minney with cotton farmers in India.

Safia Minney spoke to The Huffington Post UK about her views on sustainable fashion:

How can people help put an end to modern slavery?

When you need new clothes, buy from sustainable, Fair Trade and organic cotton labels.

Or from big companies - if they offer them. The British Modern Slavery act will make all businesses report on slavery in their supply chains if they have a turn over more than £38m.

Ask your favourite brands what they are doing to find and stop slavery in their supply chains. Tell them you care. Check their websites and commend the companies that are beginning the journey and publishing reports on slavery, like John Lewis and M&S.

It’s a process of improvement, but slavery and exploitation of the worst kind has been ignored for too long. You are the voice for the voiceless. 

What tips do you have for those who want to start shopping sustainably, but don’t have a big budget?

Start by sorting through your wardrobe and rebuilding new looks for the season and how you’re feeling at the moment.

Next, shop second hand in TRAID, charity shops and eBay. Then, buy Fair Trade and ethical fashion. Swapping clothes with friends is fun too.

People Tree
People Tree Abby Flared Dress (£95) and May Turtleneck Top (£25)

Why do you think more people don’t shop sustainably when it comes to their clothes?

Even though eco concept stores and ethical fashion labels have grown, it’s still early days.

The ethical fashion market needs tax breaks to really make it mainstream as the innovation required is expensive.

What are the best ways for brands to empower workers?

Fair Trade can bring real social impact. The World Fair Trade Organisation sets out standards and I would like to see more fashion companies adopt them through their business design, planning and operations, and customer engagement.

There is a lot going on in helping companies manage their supply chains. I am working on this too with the new agency I set up this year.

People Tree
Minney with Bangladeshi garment makers.

What first sparked your interest in sustainable fashion?

I found out about sweat shops behind the jeans and trainers we buy and thought I didn’t want to be part of that exploitation of workers.

I wanted to buy fashion that respected people and the environment. I wanted to spend all my money on products and with companies that do the right thing.

For me, fast fashion was always little uninspiring - and it’s often synthetic, which I don’t like to wear. I love craft skills and natural textile, it feels better on your skin; the largest organ of your body.

What’s next for People Tree?

We have lots of great things in the pipeline. I love this season’s collaboration with Peter Jensen.

Both my customers and I love conversational prints on 100% organic cotton tops and dresses.

People Tree
People Tree Cable Jumper (£185) and Lara Pencil Skirt (£48)

This September The Huffington Post UK Style is focusing on all things sustainable, for the second year running. Our thirst for fast fashion is dramatically impacting the environment and the lives of thousands of workers in a negative way. Our aim is to raise awareness of this zeitgeist issue and champion brands and people working to make the fashion industry a more ethical place.

We’ll be sharing stories and blogs with the hashtag #SustainableFashion and we’d like you to do the same. If you’d like to use our blogging platform to share your story, email



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