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Telling tales in fashion

Next time you check a clothes label, look for more than just the care instructions
Where do your clothes come from?

This article first appeared in our summer ’18 issue of MyGreenPod Magazine, The Natural Revolution, distributed with the Guardian on 03 Aug 2018. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

Jo Salter founded ethical clothes and accessories brand Where Does it Come From? in 2013 – just as the Rana Plaza factory collapsed in Bangladesh. ‘It felt to me as though we had swung too far away from ethics in fashion’, she tells us.

Each accessory and item of clothing from Where Does it Come From? carries a story about how it was made and who was involved. A code printed on the label lets shoppers trace it all the way back to the farm that grew the cotton. After entering the code online, the customer is shown a page with photos, videos and personal stories from the people who made their garment. ‘Some of the insights are fascinating’, Jo tells us, ‘from young women who use their wages to top up their mobiles to parents who fund their children’s education.’

After researching supply chains Jo selected khadi, an Indian cotton fabric popularised by Gandhi as part of Indian independence, for Where Does it Come From?’s large range of children’s clothing, unisex adults’ shirts and unique, versatile scarves.

Jo recently set up a second supply chain in Africa, in partnership with the charity Proudly Made in Africa. ‘Fabric and garment production has a rich social history in many cultures, such as khadi in India and kikoi and kitenge in Africa’, Jo says. ‘In many areas skills and livelihoods have been lost because mass-produced imports have undercut local industry.’

The benefits of traceability work both ways: workers know their stories are being heard and valued and consumers know their clothing isn’t causing harm to people or planet. ‘Hopefully now the pendulum is heading back the right way’, Jo says. ‘Hearing of 1,138 people dying at Rana Plaza just to bring us cheap clothes has triggered a huge response, with calls for an end to the abuse of garment workers and transparency within the industry.’

Click here to find out why Where Does it Come From? ethical scarves are a Hero.


Crowdfunding for the first African cotton tunics will begin soon. For details, click here.

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