From all the staff at Bishopston Trading Company and from our partners in K.V.Kuppam, we wish you a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
Thursday, 24 December 2009
Sunday, 20 December 2009
Nowadays as well as running art and craft activities with children in Bristol, Ros makes bags, brooches, collages and prints that she sells on Gloucester Road, just up from our shop, in a little gallery called Fig. Recently she approached us with a very attractive design for a tea towel. These are now being produced for her in K.V.Kuppam and sold in the Fig shop.
Bishopston Trading Company grew out of a twinning link between the area of Bishopston in Bristol and the village of K.V.Kuppam in South India. Almost 25 years later, we are still an organisation happily embedded in the local communities at both ends. We thought the story of Ros' Tea Towels illustrated this nicely.
Ros' organic Fairtrade cotton Tea Towels available at Fig, 206 Gloucester Road, Bristol.
Thursday, 17 December 2009
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Letting People Know about the Environmental Impact of their Clothing.
I've heard it said that the majority of a garment's environmental impact is produced by our care for it once we've bought it. I can't find an exact figure, but certainly the washing, spin/tumble drying, and ironing of garments over their lifetime can be energy intensive (tumble drying's a big no-no). We recommend using an eco-detergent, washing at 30 degrees, hanging our clothes on a line to dry, and then steam ironing them.
Turning Off our Computer Monitors at the End of the Day
Sometimes in our rush to leave the office at 5:30, we don't wait to turn off our monitors. I come in in the morning and see an array of little flashing green lights. We need to improve on this.
Reboiling the Kettle
I have to admit its quite common for me to boil a kettle of water to make everyone in the office and in the shop downstairs a cuppa, then answer the phone or start typing an email, forget about the kettle and have to reboil it 15 minutes later.... Definitely losing points on that one.
Lighting in our Shops
Our shops have to be well lit to show off the distinctive colours of our clothing range, its one of the main reasons given by our customers for why they shop with us. We're currently looking into the best low-wattage option for all these spotlights.
We like to think we're doing well, but as with everything we can always do better...
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
Like several thousand other climate-change warriors/worriers, I spent my Saturday marching across London calling on the British government to take a tough stance on greenhouse gas emissions at the Copenhagen Summit this week.
Despite the severity of our planet's situation, it has to be said that Saturday's march was a very sociable affair. Amongst others, I met Katie who was proudly marching in a Bishopston Trading classic embroidered jacket.
This got me thinking about what we already do as a company to reduce our ecological footprint and also what else we could do....
Here's are 4 things we're good at:
Starting right at the beginning, the cotton we use is 100% organic, sourced from Agrocel Pure & Fair Cotton Growers in Gujurat. Conventionally grown cotton is enormously chemically intensive: some people estimate 25% of the world's insecticides are used on cotton alone, and 10% of the world's pesticides too. Most of these chemicals are derived from oil. Organic cotton farming cuts this out of the picture straight away.
Next comes the cotton weaving. As I've mentioned at least once before here, Bishopston Trading Company works with local based handloom weavers in K.V.Kuppam, who produce the handloom cloth which we use in the majority of our products. Handloom weaving is a traditional craft that relies on no energy source other than the pulling and pedalling action of the weaver. Our felllow Fair-Traders People Tree claim that fabric woven on a handloom produces 1 tonne less CO2 per year than the equivalent cloth from a powerloom.
Now to production. Since the earliest days, Bishopston Trading Company and our partners in K.V.Kuppam, have produced all sorts of bags, accessories, toys and gifts. Not only do our customers love them, especially at this time of year, but they ensure that every last scap of cloth is used up after our clothing collections have been produced. The K.V.Kuppam Tailoring Societies are waste-free producers!
Finally, in terms of the business at the UK end. There's several things that would be worth mentioning, for example the electricity company we use, where we buy our supplies of tea bags, toilet cleaner, soap etc. But probably the most interesting thing we do, concerns how we dispose of some of our packaging waste. Our goods arrive in cardboard boxes (of course these are then recycled) which are wrapped in cotton cloth to ensure the contents are safe and the boxes last the long voyage to Britain. We then donate this cloth to various local organisations who use it in their various projects: our friend Kath uses it to make rag-rugs which she sells locally to generate funds for her charity work in Gambia, local ethical-entrepreneur Rachel uses it in her reusable sanitary towels, and finally the local scrap-store offers it as craft material to local youth groups.
Next time: where we need to improve...
Thursday, 3 December 2009
Why not choose to hang up an organic Fairtrade cotton stocking this Christmas Eve. Or fill a Fair Trade Christmas sack with goodies for your loved one. Decorate your tree with Fair Trade biodegradable garlands and stars, and sit down to your Christmas lunch at a table covered with an organic Fairtrade cotton table-cloth, decorated with hand-appliquéd holly leaves.
Christmas is a time for giving. Buying Fairtrade Christmas gifts ensures your purchases make a positive difference to the lives of the skilled farmers and artisans who cultivated the crops and spun, wove and crafted the final product. Make it a Fairtrade Christmas.
Monday, 30 November 2009
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
130 delegates; speakers ranging from Lucy Siegle of The Observer to representatives from Monsoon, the Fairtrade Foundation, Pesticide Action Network, Labour Behind the Label, Traidcraft, Ethical Fashion Forum; workshops on Organics, Fairtrade, Supply Chains, and Sustainable Design. And the day was finished off with a huge Open Space discussion between all delegates focusing on the key issues of the day and facilitated by William Lana of Green Fibres.
After a brief recovery period we got back together as the Cotton On team and after looking through all the feedback forms decided there was a big demand for a sequel to take what had been learnt from this one and move forward. Interestingly some of the most compelling feedback came from students who'd attended the event because they were interested in the issues and found their fashion/textiles/design tutors unable to teach them anything about it.
With this in mind we got Fashioning an Ethical Industry on board and decided to organise a sequel aimed specifically at young people with more interactive sessions and with a broader scope - textiles/fashion rather than just cotton.
And here it is: Fashion Victims, hosted by UWE on Friday 26th February, open to all 14-18 year olds and their tutors. Workshop sessions will encompass: Textile Waste, Recycling and Climate Change; Fairtrade Cotton; Garment Workers' Rights; Sustainable Design; Organic Supply Chains. The day will be opened by Tara Starlet of BBC3's Blood Sweat and Tshirts fame, and is sure to be as informative and inspiring as this year's event.
Book your place online here.
Sunday, 15 November 2009
Here are four of my favourites that I wanted to share with you: together they give a nice picture of the diversity of the Fair Trade movement and the interactions between producers and buyers.
Laden with awards and rightly so, Pachacuti are the real-deal. Carry's blog offers a window into the Fair Trade fashion-house, with fascinating stories from her producer-partners in the mountainous areas of Ecudor.
Shared Interest are the UK's Fair Trade bank, they finance Fair Trade producer groups all over the world. Don't let the recent crisis tarnish your view of all banks, Shared Interest is exemplary and their blog reports on their work with producers and with the Fair Trade campaigning movement here in the UK.
The soft-drinks industry has become emblematic of our globalised world and its inequalities. But Ubuntu Cola proves that it can be part of the solution. This blog by Elod Kafaukoma is a very personal account of life and Fair Trade from the producers' end.
Second only to arch-rival Wales in the stakes for the world's first Fairtrade Countries. The Scottish Fairtrade Forum contains a wealth of information on the campaign for fairer terms of trade.
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
Saturday, 17 October 2009
Whilst many retailers are closing stores or even leaving the high street altogether, we are proud to announce the opening of our fifth store today!
To the delight of green fashionistas and ethical consumers across the west-country, our range of organic Fairtrade cotton clothing is now available at 11 High Street, Malmesbury, Wiltshire.
For 24 years we have worked in partnership with the village of K.V.Kuppam in South India, providing long-term, stable employment to hundreds of local villagers. The original inspiration for the company was the simple assertion made by one of the villagers, that as skilled craftspeople they need work not charity. This has remained the founding principle of the business.
The recent collapse of an economic system based on short-term profits and disregard for the welfare of communities, has only served to further motivate the members of our workers' cooperative to extend our business model that is based on partnership, transparency and fairness. Opening a fifth shop enables us to maintain (or fingers crossed, perhaps even increase) our level of orders with our partners in K.V.Kuppam, ensuring they can continue to offer full-time employment to all their members.
The fifth shop is the latest addition to our modest chain that includes, Bishopston Bristol, Bradford on Avon, Glastonbury and Totnes, as well as our thriving Mail Order and Wholesale departments.With concern for the environmental and social effects of our shopping habits increasing every day, Fair Trade makes sense, and is becoming the first choice for discerning shoppers. We are proud to be expanding during these challenging economic times.
Monday, 28 September 2009
Premlatha is 34 years old. She has worked at the tailoring units since 2003, before which she was a housewife. She began her career at the tailoring units as a tailor, and then in 2006 was promoted to the position of Mahathmagandhi Society Clerk. [Mahathmagandhi is one of the Tailoring Societies who work in the units, the societies are self-governing, democratically organised groups - like workers' co-operatives. Each society has a clerk who is responsible for the administrative work of the society and quality control.] She lives in KVKuppam with her 75 year old father and her two sons, Gokul who’s 12 and Parthasarathy who’s 8. Her husband died several years ago. Like many of the workers at the tailoring units, she cycles in to work each day.
Chitra is 31 years old; she married her husband Ganesh in 1998. They have a son Saivishnu who’s 10, and a daughter, Bravinsha who’s 8. She joined the tailoring societies as a tailor in 2003, was promoted to clerk in 2005 and since 2008 has been both the clerk and the supervisor for Kamachiyamman Pettai Society. Before working at the tailoring units she was a housewife. Like Premlatha, she is the sole bread-winner in her household: her husband previously worked as a market trader but his business failed a few years ago and he has been unable to find other employment since then.
The K.V.Kuppam Tailoring Units have 2 key employment policies:
1, Members should not only show the capacity to learn the necessary skills for job, they must also be from economically disadvantaged families.
2, Only one member of each family is allowed to work at the units.
These two policies ensure that the opportunity to have a stable, well-remunerated job within the K.V.Kuppam area, reaches those most in need of work, but also that the work is spread to as many households in the area as possible. Like many of the members of the tailoring societies, both Chitra and Premlatha are the sole wage-earners in their families - they support their families with the wages they earn at the tailoring units.
Friday, 25 September 2009
Thanks to Tom for modelling!
Thursday, 24 September 2009
A few weeks later Aunt Heather came back to say Katrina loved the items but unfortunately the jacket was too big due to the weight she had lost ..........so in the post the jacket returns and several weeks later Aunt Heather is back in the shop and the item is changed and off goes the smaller jacket in the post over the seas again.
Aunt Heather comes in several weeks later to say the jacket has arrived and all is well, also to say that Katrina is out of hospital and comming over to England.
Several weeks pass and the summer season is nearly over, the children are back at school, and I am standing by the desk looking at the door when, although I have never seen her before nor a picture, I immediately recognised Katrina. She was wearing her Bishopston green patchwork jacket and she has a hat on covering her head. Katrina was in remission and over to visit her aunt in Totnes with her friend Mary. Both loved the shop and walked away with bags full of unique Bishopston Trading clothes taking our shop's story and clothes back to the states.
Karen - Manager of our Totnes Branch
Friday, 11 September 2009
Thursday, 10 September 2009
Unloading, unpacking, repacking, reloading, dispatching.
A couple of hundred boxes, dozens of wholesale orders, hundreds of mini animals in pouches, what feels like thousands of Christmas stockings.
Plenty of rooibush tea and generous helpings of biscuits.
Roll on the new season!
Monday, 7 September 2009
Of the many things he said, what most hit home to me as a manager of one of the Bishopston Trading shops is that there are 200 dedicated workers solely dependant upon our efforts to sell their goods. It is great there are no middle men but if sales fall then people are laid off and there is no social security in India.
This has not happened yet and there has been a steady increase in the workforce. What is so great, is working for a small company and knowing the beginning and the end of the garments are just that, the beginning and the end, with no unknown outsourcing in between.
Having worked at Marks and Spencer where the chain from the cotton grower to us as sales assistants was so impersonal, my father bringing back pictures of his visit to KV Kuppum reminded me that we rely on the garment cutters and sewers to do a good job in making the clothes and they in turn rely on us to sell the clothes. We keep each other in work, it is as simple and as fragile as that. It is almost a personal relationship, and it makes me want to think of other ways to sell the garments and move ahead both for the people in India and for us.
Sunday, 6 September 2009
1. Ardalanish Isle of Mull Weavers
Located on the beautiful Scottish Island of Mull, Ardalanish weave their own tweed cloth from Native Hebridean Sheep's wool. They tailor the cloth into stunning jackets and line them with our Fairtrade organic cotton cloth.
2. Jumina Designs, Norway
Elisabeth Rognmo designs and makes enchanting children's and adults' clothes - modelled online by her children in the Norwegian forest near her home. Probably the cutest checked trousers we've ever seen!
3. Mumu, Greece
On the sun-soaked island of Syros, Mumu stocks a range of Fair Trade and Eco-Fashion from around the world, inlcuding Eleni Bendila's range of summer dresses made from our Fairtrade organic cotton.
4. Las Otras Hermanas, Mexico
Based in a Mexican village close to the US border, Las Otras Hermanas is a community project which involves, amongst many other things, teaching tailoring skills to local women. Using our cotton cloth they produce breathable cotton shirts - perfect for the mexican heat.
5. Mamma Mia, Portugal
Mamma Mia use our Fairtrade organic cotton handloom cloth to make practical baby slings and carriers. Lightweight, colourful and strong.
Tuesday, 1 September 2009
Despite the so-called summer weather not being quite the ideal cotton-wearing kind we had all hoped for, our temporary summer sale shop in Westbury on Trym, has been a run-away success. Women's, men's and children's clothes have all sold well. The ever-popular 830 Knot Button Top, retained its title as the best-selling summer item.
Sadly the lease was only temporary and short-term, so last Friday the team was back to pack up the remaining items and fittings. Luckily for the residents of Westbury on Trym, our Gloucester Road shop in Bristol is only a short bus journey away.
Watch this space for news on a new permanent Bishopston Trading Company shop opening very soon...
Monday, 31 August 2009
Recently overheard: Two Quaker women talking,
Snapped on site during the week were more than forty Bishopston items ranging from women's clothing to men's shirts and jewellery worn by a Young Friend. This is hardly surprising given that the pioneering Fairtrade company has been run on Quaker business principles since it was formed 25 years ago.
The new Quaker Centre cafe and shop, which will open on 3 October at Friends House in Euston, will be stocking a selection of Bishopston Trading Company items, to take away in specially branded Quaker Centre bags - supplied by Bishopston Trading Company, of course!
Tuesday, 25 August 2009
Finally, here's an image of the handloom cloth in production. At the weaver's feet are two pedals which she presses alternately to raise and lower consecutive warp threads. The cords attached to the top of the frame are pulled in time with the pedal-pushes, this sends the shuttle shooting back and forth between the warp threads, creating the weft. The weavers who produce the handloom cloth for Bishopston Trading Co and our partners are organised into Self-Help Groups, these operate like small co-operatives: they are democratically run and the profits are shared amongst the members.
For more information visit these pages of our website:
Wednesday, 5 August 2009
The Powerloom Weaving Society will be democratically organised as the other weaving and tailoring groups are. Not only will it enable us to offer a greater range of powerloom cloth and have greater control over the quality of the finished product, it will also allow us to offer this cloth by the metre to other designers, craftworkers and businesses, just as we currently do with our handloom. As Fair Trade goes from strength to strength, we are looking forward to supplying furnishing quality fabric to haberdasheries and department stores: Fairtrade organic cotton will no longer only be something we wear and sleep between, we will also be relaxing on it, drawing and opening it, sitting on it and lounging over it.