Five positive clothing brands

As the Christmas period has begun and everyone’s thinking about presents, I thought I’d recommend some ethical clothing brands. Each one in the list is either selling clothes or shoes made from ethical materials or in an ethical way or prioritises good working conditions and rights or possibly all three. Here they are:

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think-shoes

Think! are an Austrian company. They make very good shoes, really lovely shoes. I’m starting to worry that I’m behaving like a character from ’Sex and the City’, a female one, as I keep admiring my Think! pair of men’s shoes as though they’re a pair of Jimmy Choos or Mahnolo Blahnick (I think I put all the ‘h’s’ in the right place). Fortunately, Think! shoes are also manufactured in a good way, as they use vegetal dyes, taken from the ground bark of plantation trees, rather than toxic chemical dyes. They also manufacture their shoes in Europe, from what I’ve read, although it’s hard to dig out a lot of this info. From what I can tell, they’re doing good stuff.

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Howies! They’re based in Cardigan Bay (in Wales) and they sell organic cotton ’T’ shirts with very funny designs. I haven’t bought the ‘Labrador’ top shown above, but I’m sorely tempted. Organic cotton is easier on the environment than normal cotton, wears better and contains less chemicals. As in many other areas (food, transport, housing), it’s worth noting that a person can go down the environmental route for entirely selfish reasons, as I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog article.
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They don’t even need to care about the planet, as they’ll benefit personally from those choices with improved physical and mental health. I haven’t seen this view pushed by environmental charities yet, but it might work quite well. On the manufacturing front, Howies ’T’ shirts are made in Portugal, as far as I know, and their UK staff go surfing regularly and draw silly pictures of themselves, which sounds like a great way to work.

I’ve owned several Howies ’T’ shirts for many years now and they are very well made. None of the ones I’ve bought have worn out at all (so far). They show no signs of fading, don’t come apart at the seams, have a great texture, don’t shrink and are easily the best cotton tops I’ve ever bought. Howies did have a shop in Carnaby Street but their rents shot up so they had to close it down. They also do merino wool tops, which is also a great material, although I’d recommend the New Zealand merino as the Australian merino has been associated with less than friendly husbandry practices on the sheep. Hopefully, the Ozzies have stopped that now.

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Next up, Sativa bags. This company sells bags and clothing made from hemp. Hemp is an excellent alternative to cotton for heavy fabrics, as it requires far less pesticides, is naturally antibacterial, ‘breathes’, blocks 95% of UV light and is very strong. I’ve been using a sativa bag and a hat for five years or so, and they’ve done a great job. The bag is wearing a bit at the corners, which is natural I guess for a fabric bag, but it is otherwise fine. I know that a bag made from leather would have lasted longer, but leather is a heavier material and has a bigger environmental impact, so I’m very happy with the Sativa choice.

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Rohan is a UK company that makes outdoor clothing. When I looked into ethical practices in clothing manufacturing, I thought that most of the companies would be making a lot of effort, since their customers are actually out and about in that environment and would probably care a lot about what happens to it. This has been sort of true. Ayacucho clothing supports schemes to help the Ayacucho region of South America. I haven’t bought any of their clothing yet, so I can’t review it. I was hoping to say good things about Craghopper gear, as I’ve really enjoyed using their Kiwi trousers, but their ethical statement seems thin on actually commitments. To be honest, I found it to be an exercise in saying a lot but not actually doing much. The only thing they seem to make a serious effort in is complying with REACH legislation, but REACH is mainly a chemical code of practice for European manufacturers and Craghoppers use factories in China and Bangladesh. Hey ho. Perhaps they do more but haven’t put it on their website? I don’t know.

Fortunately, Rohan does actually commit to something on their website. They’re members of the Ethical Trading Initiative, set up partly by Clare Short, among others, a UK politician that I’ve admired for doing positive work during the Blair government. As with many influential and positive people in this country, you can usually tell how much good effort a person is making by the amount of stick they get from the popular press; it’s a sort of inverse-acclaim rule.

I’ve used Rohan clothing and it’s very good stuff; well made, cleverly designed and enjoyable to wear. They also have a returns policy whereby if you find a fault in an item of theirs that you bought, you can take it back and they’ll fix or replace it. Check on their site for the exact terms.

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Last but not least, BAM! Or more helpfully, bamboo clothing uk. Bamboo is a brilliant material for soft clothing, like socks, underwear, base-layers etc. It’s a superior alternative to cotton in that it wicks sweat away (like merino wool), is soft to the touch, flexible and relatively hard-wearing. It is also a material that grows easily. I’m wearing a bamboo top, bamboo underwear and bamboo socks while typing this very article and they feel great on my skin. I know I’m drifting into girly comments here - it’s like the Think! shoes all over again - but in this modern, urban world, I can say these things with impunity. I even use moisturiser! There, I’ve said it! I’m a wimpy urbanite softie and proud of it! Moving on… Bamboo clothing is more expensive than the mainstream cotton versions, but as it’s naturally anti-bacterial and wicks away sweat, you can wear it for longer before it gets smelly. You therefore need less of them and the costs kind of even out. I can’t go into more detail because I’d be revealing my laundry habits and I have been criticised by members of the fairer sex in the past for such habits so I think I’ll leave it be.

There we go; five ethical clothing brands (relatively speaking). They don’t know me and certainly haven’t paid me to say these things, but I’m saying them anyway. I think they make great stuff and they’re going in the right direction too.

Mmmm…. soft to the touch…. :-)

The power of 'up to'

The biggest advertising strategy of the last twelve months (or more) has, I think, been the use of the phrase ‘up to’. It’s everywhere now in sales signs and adverts. ‘Up to 50% off!’, ‘Up to 70% off!’. You’d think that most people on seeing these signs must say to themselves ‘well, that doesn’t mean very much’ but retailers clearly don’t regard that as a problem. Based on how much it’s being used, companies in the U.K. seem to think it’s a sure winner for improving their sales. They’re confident that telling people that at least one of their five thousand items in stock will be 70% off in the upcoming sale, even though that single item has probably all the desirability and functionality of owning a deranged skunk, is an actual winning formula.

Are we missing something here? Are these companies, with their skilled and experienced staff, pointing us in a new direction? If using ‘up to’ is such a gold mine, should we be trying to use it in aspects of our own lives? Maybe the power of ‘up to’ can be used in our emotional relationships?

Read More...

The Utter horror of the 'three for two' offer

I was in Waterstones today to buy a present for a relative. I had a rough idea what I was after and went straight to the appropriate section. There, stacked neatly on the shelf, were two books by John Lindqvist, the writer behind the hit Scandinavian film ‘Let the Right One In’, which I think is currently being remade in America on the grounds that the original is full of foreigners who talk funny. They’ve also shortened the title to ‘Let Me In’. I guess this is because a) no movie about Vampires should ever refer to them as ‘The Right One’ or b) Five words in a title is too long. Since ‘Twilight’ and ‘True Blood’ are incredibly popular and are stuffed full of blood sucking creatures of the night who somehow retain tender romantic feelings while their souls sit writhing in the nethermost depths of hell, I’m guessing it’s mostly about the title length.


Film tie-ins aside, I picked up the two books by Lindqvist that I wanted. Sorted! I could go home and have a cup of tea. Then I spotted something. Sitting prominently on the front cover of both books was a sticker marked ‘3 for 2’. Oh. That’s good, I thought. I have two books I want. I can pick up a third for nothing. I looked around casually. There were lots of ‘3 for 2’ books on the tables around. I’ll definitely want one of those.


The only thing was, each one I spotted I didn’t want.

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How owning a DVD ruined my evening

About five years ago, I was sitting in my flat, glancing through the television guide when I noticed that 'Indiana Jones and the last crusade' was on television, wednesday 8:30pm to be precise. What was even better was that it was on the BBC so there wouldn't be any adverts. Brilliant! I thought. I made a note of it and planned to get some snacks in, get back from London in good time, settle down and enjoy the movie.

Then a grim truth hit me. I already owned an 'Indiana Jones and the last crusade' DVD. There was no need to wait until wednesday evening. I could watch it whenever I liked.

I was completely deflated. Weird, isn't it? Read More...