How and when did you first hear about People Tree?
I’ve been interested in Fair Trade for about three or four years now and one day I met a friend who was wearing a nice t-shirt and I asked him where it was from and he told me People Tree. I had never heard of People Tree before and he started telling me about the brand and he was also a friend of Safia’s and so he introduced me. I was just really interested in it. I thought it was a really cool idea and when I met Safia we really clicked. And a couple of weeks later she asked me whether I would be interested in putting together a range for the people my age as a lot of the People Tree clothes were for 20 years and up. And I thought this was a really great idea as I don’t think there is a huge amount out that which is Fair Trade or organic. I thought it was a pretty cool idea and I got to work straight away and we put together this range.
What were your initial thoughts on the company and its aims?
As someone who is very interested in fashion and has been doing a lot with the fashion world recently, I thought it was a really amazing idea to try to alleviate poverty through such a strong industry and it’s something fun as well. Rather than giving to charity, this gives people the means to fight their way out of poverty themselves with dignity. It gives them the chance to work. It gives them their pride.
Are Fair Trade and organic clothing something you have been interested in for a while i.e. before you met Safia?
I first started learning about Fair Trade fashion simply because I did a piece of geography course work on it. I thought why isn’t everything Fair Trade? From that point I started to look for labels that were Fair Trade and started researching it. When I thought of Fair Trade I thought of bananas and coffee and I thought this was as far as it went. But, of course pretty much anything can be Fair Trade. My collection is very much based on cotton and jersey which all can be made Fair Trade and organic. It’s so great to work with something that hasn’t been made with chemicals and is helping someone abroad who isn’t earning a lot of money. The great thing about these clothes is that they are comparable to high street prices so affordable but go towards a really good cause. You win all round.
Why is it important to you and why do you think it matters to other young people?
It sounds like a cliché, but we are the future. The earth is ours and will be our children’s and I think that more than any other generation we are more aware of the environment and humanitarian issues and of course global warming. We are aware of the need to be kinder to our planet and to take care of the people al over the world. I think people my age are aware of it, but for some reason organic and Fair Trade fashion is still hard to find. I was just excited that People Tree wanted to do something for young people.
So, when you first met Safia, what were your thoughts? How did you see yourself getting involved with People Tree?
People Tree currently aims at 20-30 year olds and above and is also doing baby clothes. But, they weren’t doing anything for people my age. So Safia approached me to do something for teenagers, to fill that gap. We put a collection together which are mainly clothes but there is also a bedspread and some jewellery including this recycled sweet wrapper necklace which I thought was amazing. It comes in a box made of sweet wrappers. We’ve also done hats and scarves.
You’ve taken the role of creative consultant with this range, why did you opt for that rather than ‘designer’?
I have been very heavily involved in the design side, but I don’t want to take credit for being a designer as I haven’t trained as a designer, I haven’t been to art college and I didn’t want this collection to be about me, and this is not an Emma Watson clothing line. This is not a celebrity endorsement, this is something I thought was a really great idea and I wanted to help with. I just thought fashion was a great way to help people.
Do you have any desires or plans to design for anyone in the future?
I don’t have any plans to become a designer. I am doing this because I really care about the cause and it was so much fun to be involved with.
What was the ethos behind it? Did u have an overall vision for the range?
I went through my wardrobe and thought that if I filtered out my clothes and took it down to the absolute basics, what would I want in my wardrobe? It was cotton vests, really easy t-shirt dresses, nice scarves and maybe an easy summer linen shirt. And with the boys it’s just the basics such as a comfortable hoody. I’ve done a couple of art designs for t-shirts too including, ‘I’m not toxic’ for the boys and for the girls I’ve done, ‘please don’t panic I’m organic’. I was aware that I didn’t want to preach, you don’t want to be too serious or too heavy. I also came up with a daisy chain print which I’m proud of, it’s fun and messy. I just wanted t o make something wearable and cool and easy.
You have spent a long time working with Safia and been heavily involved in the creation of this range, you are definitely not just a name, and can you tell me more about what this involvement entailed?
It was a really long process putting all this together. I had no idea all the work involved. You really have to start at the basics. Safia and I had an initial meeting and we went through and chose the fabrics we wanted to use. Then choosing the styles took a long time. Again a lot of inspiration came from my wardrobe and friends’ wardrobes and I added my own style to it. Then going through the pantone books and choosing colours, but this don’t necessarily look the same once you’ve dyed something. You learn these things as you go along. It’s massively time consuming. We did a first set of samples and some looked good and some needed altering a lot.
You are also very much involved in this catalogues shoot in fact you are driving force behind it in every sense – has this been an exciting process?
It’s been really nice to be on the other side of the camera for once. I’ve really enjoyed the styling, planning where we were going to have the shoot, choosing the models, hair and make-up.
You also contacted friends and models who are friends how did you go about choosing these people and persuading them to take part?
Everyone here on the shoot is working for free so I’ve had to call in a lot of favours from friends. The models are nearly all my friends, all the crew are my friends, all very talented hard working people who are helping out. Everyone was really excited to come and help and so I was really lucky in that sense.
You also found and persuaded Andrea Carter-Bowman to take the photographs what did you like about her work in particular?
I saw her photographs and I was just really inspired by her work. It’s beautiful and a bit different. And she’s young. This is a young collection for young people put together by young people. It’s nice to work with people who really care about what they are doing.
So now you are well into the shoot itself, is it all going to plan or quite stressful?
I’m pretty pleased with the shoot, although the weather isn’t brilliant. We are on schedule and I think it’s looking good. Everyone has worked really hard. I am really proud of it as it looks how I intended it to look.
Could you talk about your thoughts for the direction of the shoot and your artistic vision?
I chose the location as it had so much within it. There is an orchard, there is a place to have a tea party, there’s a swing, beautiful scenery, a lake, plants and flowers everything really even a vegetable garden. It is the perfect idyllic British summer house which is what I wanted. I wanted it to be outside and fresh and not too contrived. And the clothes are very British. It’s very strawberries and cream and tennis.
It is exciting seeing your range brought to life in this shoot? Is there anything you wish you could have done different?
I’ve looked at it for so long that I’m almost numb to it in that sense that I couldn’t tell you whether it’s going to be good or bad anymore. It’s so nice to hear the positive comments today and to see it the clothes worn by the models. And it’s so rewarding to see your clothes on other people. And one of the nice things is people here coming up to me to tell me they want to buy a top or a pair of tracksuit bottoms which I guess is the biggest compliment.
What have you learnt through this whole process? Has it whetted your appetite to do more?
I think I’ve been so lucky; it’s been such an amazing experience. I’ve learnt about designing, I’ve learn about the process of making clothes, I’ve learnt about Fair Trade and organics and what goes into those produces and what goes into products that aren’t organic. I’ve just seen what goes into all of it. And vie learnt about the amount of time it takes to get a photo shoot together. It’s been a real experience.
You’ve often talking about giving young people choice in the clothes they buy and wear- could you expand on this?
I don’t feel that there is a huge amount of clothes out there that are Fair Trade and organic and it’s so great to give people the choice to wear something that makes the world a better place, to wear clothing that something good. Clothes are fabulous and can transform the way someone feels about themselves and you can transform someone’s life at the same time, which is a pretty amazing thing to do.
Do you think it’s possible to enjoy high and designer fashion and also support Fair Trade?
It’s important to differentiate between fast fashion which is made very quickly for a very small price and Fair Trade fashion. Which means that if you buy a t-shirt which costs £2-3, you just have to do the maths and work out how much the person who made it is being paid? So, Fair Trade fashion is still reasonably priced but allows the person who made it to earn a decent living and to be able to feed and take care of their families. It gives them enough money to live with dignity. I’m not saying that everything I were will be Fair Trade from now on or that I’m an organic purist, it’s just a great option and one I always try to make if available. I just try to ask more questions about where the garment comes from. I want to make good choices. I just think it’s good to have Fair Trade fashion in the high street.
And finally, if you could turn to the camera and give a message to young people everyone as to why they should buy your clothes – what would it be?
You should buy it because it’s fabulous, colourful, comfy, and summery and everything you could want in your summer wardrobe. And it’s not made using nasty chemicals, it’s not going to damage the environment and it’s not going to make anyone sick or ill. And it’s Fair Trade so you are actively helping someone who is living in poor conditions; by buying these clothes you are changing someone’s life. It’s a really feel good thing to wear. You can feel good about yourself when you wear it as you will look great and be changing lives.