Monday, 28 September 2009

Meet a Tailor

Now that our new range is available online and thousands of Autumn catalogues are winging their way to our loyal customers, I thought I'd take this opportunity to introduce some of our partners in K.V.Kuppam who work in the tailoring units. In the photo below are best-friends, Premlatha (in the blue sari) and Chitra (in the yellow).

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

Fairtrade Fellas

For almost 25 years we've been producing, in partnership with K.V.Kuppam, Fair Trade cotton clothes for women and young children. Several of our most popular styles are unisex, like the well-known 939 reversible trousers and the 550 patchwork trousers; in addition we've always had a small selection of shirts for men, but to be honest the range for men has been far from extensive.

Ultimately I suppose this has been due to limited demand. However, in the last couple of years we've noticed an increase in interest from blokes - both in our high street shops and online. So this Autumn, we're proud to present an extended selection of garments for Fairtrade-friendly-fellas!

So for example our classic Clean Jeans can now be complemented with our first Fairtrade cotton man's Teeshirt, or with our new look slimfit shirt - tailored for a less baggy fit than the ever popular 684 shirt.

A new cotton denim shirt is also available with an informal looking grandad collar. Our 1006 formal white shirt is perfect for more serious occasions. And finally, because every man needs a rest now and again: Fairtrade cotton men's pyjamas.

All at affordable prices and all now available from our online shop....

Fairtrade Fellas Rejoice!

Thanks to Tom for modelling!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

From Totnes to California and back...and back again : Travels of a Fairtrade Cotton Jacket

Earlier this year I had a lady in the shop who spent some time choosing what to buy her neice, who lives in California to lift her spirits whilst she was in hospital with cancer. After some time she bought Bishopston's famous patchwork trousers and patchwork jacket in greens.........both were mailed off to California and both Aunt and I awaited news of how the gifts were recieved.

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 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

Autumn 2009 at Bishopston Trading Company

Our Autumn collection is arriving: the catalogues are at the printers, boxes are being unpacked, and a preview of the collection can be seen online.

This season's colour-scheme is inspired by the colours of South India: the riot of pinks, purples and deep ochres found in the gardens at our producer partners' campus in K.V.Kuppam, and the dazzling array of blues seen at the textile stalls at the weekly market in the village.

Our range of Fairtrade certified organic cotton clothing includes garments in handloom, calico, denim, velvet and babycord; items for women, men, babies and children. Alongside a selection of our classic styles, you will find many new styles available for the first time. Enjoy!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Autumn has arrived

Here at BTC we know that Autumn's here (and Christmas is hot on its heels) when we've spent two days in the warehouse.

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

Visit to K.V.Kuppam

My father visited K.V. Kuppum a couple of weeks ago, he says it was a very rewarding trip. After a bit of difficulty in finding it he was greeted by the manager and cashier with open arms. And whilst my father went around the factory with the manager the cashier made a tasty lunch.

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

Far Flung Fairtrade Cotton

Bishopston Trading's Fairtrade cotton cloth finds it way to some far flung destinations. It is used by designers and crafts-people around the world. Here are some of our favourites:

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

Farewell Fairtrade Summer in Westbury on Trym

During the months of July and August, an unexpected change could be witnessed on the Westbury on Trym high street: a sudden deluge of shoppers carrying attractive and practical natural cotton shopping bags. The contents of these bags were also creating a bit of a stir: they were full of beautiful Fairtrade organic cotton clothes, fresh from the Bishopston Trading Company sale shop.

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...