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People Tree

Ethical fashion label People Tree was launched in 1991 by Safia Minney

Categories

Fashion and Textiles  
Retail and Consumer Goods  
Summary

In 1991, Safia Minney created an environmental campaigning voluntary group in Japan to focus on sustainable living. The team designed and sold Fair Trade products at festivals and it inspired her to launch ethical fashion label, People Tree.


History

In 1991, British social entrepreneur and author Safia Minney created an environmental campaigning voluntary group called Global Village in Japan which focused on all aspects of sustainable living. The team designed and sold Fair Trade products at festivals in Japan and soon started to get requests from stockists.

The start-up was tough as Sophia invested in labour-intensive processes, dealt with disadvantaged artisans in remote corners of Bangladesh, business costs were huge and the apparel was dyed using low-impact dyes, free of azo chemicals and toxic substances. She had a two-pronged vision — the handcrafted apparel made with ethical production procedures was sustainable and provided rural artisans with a steady source of income. Her debut collection, designed using eco-textiles including organic cotton, met Global Organic Textile Standard- certified by Soil Association.

In 1995 Fair Trade Company was formed as a limited company by transferring the fair trading activity to a new company named People Tree. The company began as a catalogue of handwoven natural dyed handbags, footwear and apparel made with cotton, Tencel Lyocell and responsible wool, using hand weaving, hand knitting, hand embroidery and hand block printing by women in remote corners of Bangladesh. Shortly a store opened in Jiyugaoka and in 1996 the ethical fashion brand became a member of World Fair Trade Organization. In 1998, the first flagship store opened in Tokyo. The following year, People Tree expanded to England through a collaboration with Co-operative Group.

Sophia initiated World Fair Trade Day in 1999 endorsed by World Fair Trade Organization and celebrated on the second Saturday of May each year. She also co-wrote the books “Naked Fashion,” “The Sustainable Fashion Revolution”, “Slow Fashion”, “Aesthetics Meets Ethics” and “Slave to Fashion”. In 2000, People Tree was registered as the trading name for Fair Trade Company in London. By 2004, the company expanded into twenty countries and reportedly had a turnover of over $1.79 million. The following year, People Tree Japan launched its first “prototype franchise” store in Tokyo. In 2006, CEO Safia Minney persuaded Top Shop to take People Tree into Topshop as a concession.

Safia and the team worked with several designers, celebrities and influencers such as Emma Watson, Dame Zandra Rhodes and Bora Aksu to mainstream the concept of sustainable and fair fashion. Today People Tree is an active member of Fair Trade, social justice and environmental networks. It has World Fair Trade Organisation guaranteed status, is GOTS certified and a licensee of Fairtrade foundation. Sold in five hundred stores across the world, the fashion brand also has an e-commerce and mail-order business. The core vision has stayed the same since its debut — stylish affordable fashion that respects people and the planet.

People Tree's collaboration with Emma Watson led to stunning capsule collections. "I designed the collection last year after I'd started university in the US" Watson told Vogue. “Safia, People Tree's founder, and Misato, People Tree's designer, came out to work with me in Rhode Island. Together we decided on all the colours, fabrics, shapes and craft skills. Most of all, we took care to design a really wearable collection that truly celebrates the traditional skills of People Tree's fair trade groups around the world.”

By 2004, the company had expanded into about twenty different countries and turned over a reported $1.79 million. In 2015, founder, co-owner and CEO Safia Minney left the business after separating from her husband James Minney who was Chief Financial officer. In 2021 an e-commerce website was launched as ‘the new home of People Tree in Europe’ in keeping with evolving consumer needs. And, as of 2021, James Minney is CEO of People Tree.


Mission

To support producer partners’ efforts towards economic independence and to protect the environment. The company also endeavours to supply customers with high quality products, with friendly efficient service and build awareness to empower customers and producers to participate in Fair Trade and environmentally sustainable solutions. With this implemented People Tree hopes to set an example of a Fair Trade model of business based on partnership, people-centered values and sustainability.


Vision

The ethical fashion brand's core vision is stylish affordable fashion that has deep respect for people and planet. Committed to offering fashionable garments and accessories, People Tree recognises the importance of accessibility and affordability and ensures their products are within reach of a wide range of consumers. Simultaneously, the brand places a strong emphasis on ethical and sustainable practices- acknowledging the significance of preserving our environment and promoting responsible manufacturing processes.


Key Team

Sophia Minney (Founder)

James Minney (CEO)


Recognition and Awards
People Tree won the CSR award by Drapers. The ethical fashion brand is recognised for their producers using traditional skills and combining them with new innovative technologies to support and grow their businesses. Using skills such as hand weaving, hand knitting or hand embroidery creates employment in rural areas where work is scarce. All clothes are dyed using low impact dyes, free from harmful chemicals. The team uses natural materials where possible, avoiding plastic and toxic substances.

Products and Services

People Tree offers sustainable apparel and accessories. Their product range includes a diverse selection of stylish and contemporary dresses- trousers- knitwear- jumpsuits- tops- skirts- nightwear- activewear- underwear- and essentials. The brand is known for using organic cotton, fair trade fabrics and natural dyes in their production process, ensuring minimal environmental impact and fair treatment of workers throughout the supply chain. In addition to apparel, People Tree provides a selection of accessories and jewellery that complements their sustainable fashion ethos.

Furthermore, People Tree offers services beyond just retail. They actively engage in promoting sustainable fashion and raising awareness about ethical consumer choices. The brand collaborates with artisans and small-scale producers in developing countries, providing them with opportunities for fair wages and economic empowerment and also work with social and environmental organizations to support initiatives focused on creating a positive impact within the fashion industry.


References
People Tree
Leadership team

Sophia Minney (Founder)

James Minney (CEO)

Industries

Fashion and Textiles

Retail and Consumer Goods

Products/ Services
Womenswear, essentials and lingerie
Number of Employees
0 - 50
Headquarters
26 Camden High Street, Kings Cross, NW1 0JH
Established
1991
Company Type
Private company limited by shares or Ltd
Company Registration
GB 766 791 083
Social Media

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