Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Scouting the Highstreet: Monsoon

We are back with another Scouting the Highstreet, the series where I go in search for fairtrade, ethically made and sustainable clothes in our Highstreet shops. This week we are investigating Monsoon, the emporium of flowy garments and hippie-chic, and it isn't looking bad, not bad at all. 
Inspired by the traditional craft and colourful block-printed fabrics he saw on his travels through India, Peter Simon launched Monsoon and struck a chord with shoppers. There was nothing similar available in Britain at the time, Simon informs the Sunday Times. The first Monsoon shop opened as a small boutique in London in 1973. It and its sister store Accessorize are now a global chain to be found in almost every city with 400 stores in the UK and more than 600 world-wide. The model in the very first Monsoon campaign was none other than Jane Seymour, Bond actress and Simon's girlfriend at the time.

Jane Seymour modelling for Monsoon in the 1970s, Sunday Times
Monsoon has started taking steps towards more ethical fashion very early on. In 1994 the company launched the Monsoon Accessorize Trust, which helps disadvantaged communities in Asia by providing education, health services and income generating projects. Watch the video here if you want to find out more!

Monsoon was also one of the founding members of the Ethical Trading Initiative, signing the coalition in 1999. The ETI is an alliance of companies, trade unions and voluntary organisations who work together to improve the conditions of the poor and vulnerable across the globe. In 2010, Monsoon was awarded 'Leader' status by the ETI.
The company also funds the Esthetica ethical fashion section at London Fashion Week.

Monsoon is certainly proud of its ethical stance. In 2011 it launched the LOVE collection, an acronym that stands for the company motto: Living Our Values and Ethics since 1973.
Simon believes in trade rather than aid as a means to decrease poverty; by providing trade in small consistent and fair forms, women can be enabled to have steady incomes and plan for the future.
"Fashion can be beautiful and desirable and still be sustainable. Everyone has a conscience and consumers will appreciate knowing what their clothes stand for."
Shailina Parti, design director at Monsoon

Monsoon still uses a lot of natural fabrics along-side polyester and other synthetics, but to compete in the Highstreet, the company does not invest fully in organic fabrics. Although Monsoon is not strictly speaking fairtrade and  mainline garments are still mass-produced, the company has launched a fairtrade and sustainable range. The Boutique Range was developed with SEWA, a women's support group and trade union for home workers in India, and provides customers with colourful hand-crafted gifts and home wares. Most of the Boutique producers are members of the World Fairtrade Organisation and the Boutique range aims to be more sustainable by up-cycling and re-using fabric cut-offs.

You can find a Monsoon in Belfast in the cool out-door Victoria Square Shopping Centre and in Dublin on red-brick Grafton Street.

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