Friday, 18 December 2015

promoting bad against good

There is a pattern, which sometimes happens by chance.

Ethical Fashion Forum finds a UK business that is close to collapse, ignores it and loudly promotes the competition from bad countries

Robbing in a hospital is one way to describe it.
  • Remploy

    Ethical Fashion Forum promoted a firm like Remploy in Bangladesh but were silent about Remploy in the UK closing down. Ethical Fashion Forum had got their hands on money for training small business owners the year before, running seminars in Newham College, so they ought to have known what advice to give to business owners about where to get clothes made in the UK - including Remploy. Otherwise, I think the people who paid taxes via London Development Agency for the training seminars should get their money back.
  • Equity Shoes

    Ethical Fashion Forum ran a public-funded set of training lectures about buying from Co-ops, but left-out Equity Shoes, the large hundred-year-old shoemaking co-op in Leicester that went bust the same year. Oddly enough, a Leicester MP was minister at the Department for Business at the time, which gave grants to overseas visitors to London Fashion Week and so can influence what goes on show. That year I think it was Terra Plana footwear made in China and shown in the Estethica room, which is meant to sound a bit like "ethical" I suppose. The MP signed-off the grant payments without knowing or caring. Oh and one of the speakers was Ben Ramsden of Pants to Poverty who's Pi Foundation claimed to promote worker-owned manufacturing.
  • JJ Blackledge

    wallet manufacturers in Manchester. This firm that made flat goods for the corporate gift market went bust the same weekend that Ethical Fashion Forum spoke at a public-funded seminar called "Making it Ethically in China", which was held a mile or two away in Manchester.
  • James Grove Buttons

    About the time this Birmingham factory went bust, and someone was trying to set-up a smaller company with the same tools called Grove Pattern Buttons (hornbuttons.co.uk), Ethical Fashion Forum advertised a member on their mailing list. That ethical claim of this "fellowship 500" member was that these are (1) "locally sourced buttons" from (2) "the poorest areas of the local Panama community". "Locally sourced" is a stylish bit of cheek as an ethical claim, a bit like "nutricious food" - something McDonalds claimed could mean anything but water. The buttons are sold by Miami company and sourced in Panama, according to Ethical Fashion Forum, but when emailed the suppliers say it might be Equador; they're not quite sure. They are sure that they're harvested by low-paid artizans, which follows if you buy from countries without a welfare state and pay as little as you can - even though Panama is a wealthy 100 year-old stable country quite capable of sorting-out poverty if their government wanted to. The third ethical claim - (3) is "100% eco-friendly and sustanable", but I guess that's before airmail. One final thing to say: the american buttons were something I'd rather wear, made out of large nuts, but maybe the machines are the same whatever the material.
There is a history to this. The Make Poverty History campaign was run by establishment groups with help from government ministries, to promote a big vague consensus within which opposite ideas could exist - with examples from George Monbiot in his "Africa's new best friends" article. He could have mentioned that the same vague consensus wants to wipe out manufacturing that bears the cost of a welfare state, but that's another hidden contradiction in the EFF lobby group that got so much help from government in setting-up, with free displays of its founding members' products at government institutions from the V&A to the Crafts Council to London Fashion Week, a sympathetic magazine published by the BBC and even a special study option offered by a Northern Irish exam board. No wonder the people who search online for this kind of ethical fashion tend to be in London, away from the industry that they wipe-out.

One Ethical Fashion Forum founder member - Pants to Poverty - had a problem. If you google their name and address, you get a list of pages about poverty in Tower Hamlets, within walking distance of their office. That's probably why they had to close; their customers among Guardian-reading Londoners noticed the contradiction. Pantstopoverty.org.uk is a new site that spells-out the argument and might sell UK-made pants in future.


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