» Be Fair
Zara Baker finds fair trade doesn’t mean compromising on fashion at Fair
“Fair is for people who care about design but also about where it comes from,” says Emma Hiscock, manager of the clothing and accessory shop, Fair. It’s inspiring to meet a small team so passionate about what they do, and enlightening to realise that all of their products are fair trade. We are increasingly made to think about where our food and drink is sourced from; the same thought should go into choosing our clothing. Ethically sourced products are key at Fair. They have taken the whole world in their hands (under their wing and into their store), helping organisations far and wide by offering fair trade clothes, accessories and gifts from their shop on Brighton’s Queens Road.
“Our objective is to support under-privileged people living in Africa, Asia and South America,” says Siobhan Wilson, Fair’s owner. “It’s not about charity, but about giving them opportunities. We’re trying to drive business their way and develop products with them.”
Siobhan and her colleagues (comprising Barbara Wilson, Christine Gent and Michelle Parlett) all come from a non-retail background, but they came together to bring about positive change, and the steps they have taken so far are remarkable. Who would think that this small, unassuming shop, sitting on the busy Queens Road, could be doing so much to support organisations world wide? It’s down to the careful planning and constant research by Siobhan and the team that Fair manages to stock such varied and wonderful products.
Working closely with a friend in?Kolkata, Siobhan is always on the lookout for new organisations to create products for her shop, and who, in return, receive a better way of life. Calcutta Rescue is one such organisation, providing a free medical service to the people on the streets of Kolkata. Ex-patients create stunning hand-embroidered keyrings and cards which Fair then sell. Similarly, Jeevika Development Society supports women from villages with few opportunities. Where a path into prostitution can be the norm for many, the women work to create hand-embroidered cards. Each is unique and every bit as stunning as the next. One card can take around 12 hours to make, and the thought and effort put into each is second to none. Siobhan shows me one card depicting a jungle background with hand-embroidered trees and meticulously embroidered wildlife. It was absolutely perfect.
It’s humbling to see such a fantastic selection of products that have a remarkable history before you own them. Candles, woodwork and jewellery are made by Silence, a group who are hard of hearing, but highly skilled in their craft and vision. Bags are made from recycled newspapers; chunky jewellery is made from recycled magazines. By sight, the necklaces appear attractive and colourful, but not unlike any other piece of fashion jewellery.?On closer inspection, I see it is the magazine print that makes up the colours, and it is in fact paper wound tightly around and around to resemble beads.
Clothing is high on the agenda at Fair. Siobhan has introduced many brands to the store, and it is these designs that catch the eyes of passers-by. “We want to sell fair trade that is also fashionable,” says Emma. “It’s not about wearing a hemp sack.” The designs are on trend, the colours varied, and by sight and touch, you can tell these are quality pieces of clothing. At the same time, it’s not expensive.?While some people envisage fair trade to mean higher prices, here you can find stunning dresses at around £20 to £35. Fair stock popular ethical brand People Tree; fantastic dresses from London designers Nancy Dee, and the Miksani brand, who make stunning banana fibre outfits.
Customer demand for clothing has seen Fair introduce new brands and a redesign of the shop to include spacious changing rooms. Siobhan hopes to introduce silk ties for men very soon but in the meantime, clothing and gifts dominate the shop. Other items include hand-woven bedding, cushions, scarves and flip-flops. Their silver-plated jewellery may look familiar: these were brought in store by Barbara Wilson, who runs the monthly fair trade market on Ship Street. Like Siobhan, Barbara works with other local fair trade importers to offer affordable and ethically sourced products. The team behind Fair are also responsible for fair trade store Kolkata near Preston Park. This is where Fair stemmed from, opening two and a half years ago.
Other eye-catching designs include the ‘Believe You Can’ fairy princess range of toys and accessories for children which make lovely presents.?For older friends and relatives, the Yonjai Spa bath range is superb. Bath mitts with jasmine and coconut soap inside smell divine and Emma tells me they last ages. The range is created by the Suanplu Women’s Co-operative, which provides a fairer wage, job security and greater control to women from an inner city slum in Bangkok.
“Fair is about respect for people who made the clothes and about supporting the environment as well,” says Emma. It’s refreshing to see a company going to great lengths to make a difference. Fashion and affordability is never compromised, and at the same time, the people behind the goods are never exploited.
10% off at Fair with this article.
Fair, 21 Queens Road, Brighton, 01273 723215, open seven days a week, 10am–6pm Monday–Saturday, 11am–5.30pm Sunday.