Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Naadam - Cashmere sweaters and ethical fashion

I don't often talk much about the ethical side of fashion. In part that's because my main interest is in clothes made in the UK by experienced craftspeople who, I believe, are generally well-treated and reasonably well-compensated. Nevertheless, I don't think we can ignore the fact that clothing production has an important ethical dimension. It's not just sweatshops either, throughout the production chain there is the opportunity for big western designers and retailers to take advantage of suppliers and manufacturers, and many do. And then there is the questionable behaviour at the other end of things as well - certain large brands have a reputation for simply destroying tonnes of clothes at the end of each season to avoid 'diminishing' their brand by allowing clothes to hit the market on the cheap through thrift stores or charitable donations.

All of this is a rather uncomfortable side-story to our enjoyment of nice clothes, and so it's nice to be able to support brands that take the ethical side of things seriously. I've been talking recently with a company called Naadam Cashmere, a relatively recent start-up based in New York that imports super-fine cashmere from Mongolia and turns it into beautiful cashmere sweaters, hoodies, cardigans and other accessories. What's cool is that they've made the ethical approach part of their business model from the very beginning, and are committed to re-investing part of their revenue in livestock insurance for the nomadic herders from whom they buy the cashmere. It's a nice approach, and it's producing some really lovely products.

They also recently released a great little video of one of the founders giving away samples and products with minor flaws to New York's homeless, prior to a particularly cold snap. It's a nice gesture, and a good antidote to the Abercrombie & Fitch approach...

Declaration of interest: I have a financial interest in a company that has been consulting on Naadam's website.

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