Sunday, 13 December 2015

Monsoon the party donation and the embassy

Monsoon, the party donation, and the embassy

Monsoon donated £100,000 to the Conservative party in 2008 - 2009.

"In August 2012, our Prime Minister announced that UK Trade & Investment will provide strategic support for the [retail] sector, focused on helping the UK retail sector win more business internationally and securing more valuable investment in the UK" and in 2013, Monsoon had a stand at a UK-subsidised trade show in Malaysia, organised by UK Trade and Investment and introduced by the British High Commissioner who gave the quote above about this notorious company that buys its products in India to sell in Malaysia.

Monsoon sponsor Estethica at London Fashion Week

It looks as though Monsoon had to wait three years for a result: did they get anything in 2008-13?

£100,000 would get you access to the "bottom of the premier league", according to Peter Cruddas, then treasurer of the Conservative Party. Mr Cruddas has cleared his name but I can't google a full text of what he said - only the edited video. Monsoon also sponsor Etsethica at London Fashion Week, which might otherwise ask for more from UK Trade and Investment, so maybe Monsoon is middle of the Premier League? They're also founder members of Ethical Trade Initiative (which refused to sign some of their corporate documents like codes of conduct about ethical standards) and get a huge advert for a not-yet-existing range of artizanal products, presented as a "case study" like the teaching aids produced by Centre For Stustainability in Fashion. It shares the same style of layout, photos, and of quoting a case that has not yet happened, just like the case of Juste produced in earlier materials. The "case study" was presented by Ethcal Fashion Forum to its members.

The other odd thing about this is the zest that UK prime ministers have had for making speeches to introduce obviously stupid policies, like subsidising the expansion of a shop that sells Indian goods into Malaysia, and is well known for paying late and failing to meet its own hopes of "ethical" claims like paying the minimum wage in India. The shop's Irish arm was also in "examinorship" or administration until 23rd of June. So it isn't a good business partner to recommend to anyone else.

Monsoon handout in the style of Centre for Sustainable Fashion teaching materials, quoting a "case study" of something that has not yet happened.

This handout is very much like the London e-book, Growing Sustainable Economies, a collection of entrepreneurial case studies in Bangladesh and the UK, ed Hammond, L and Higginston, published by London College of Fashion. quoting things that might in future happen from the most active staff of Ethical Fashion Forum. Each one has "case study" written next to it, in hope of being quoted in some poor fashion student's essay.  Juste, the Ethical Fashion Forum's dress import business that never came to exist gets a long mention, Sari Dress Project by another Ethical Fashion Forum staff member gets another, alongside a new organisation which, as you can guess, is called Ethical Fashion Forum. "Project partners Department for Enterprise and International Development at London College of Fashion and BGMEA Institute of Fashion Technology give special thanks to the principal funders of this project, Development Partnerships in Higher Education (DelPHE), The British Council, United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), and the companies featured in this publication. (There are also logos from the Department for International Development on the page among others).

Monsoon's handout doesn't have an EU funding logo on it or Dfid backing, but it keeps the strange phrase "case study", as though someone in a fashion college is going to quote this stuff in an essay.

Case Study: Monsoon / SEWA. Head of Corporate Responsibility Olivia Lankester on Monsoon’s artisan heritage

Monsoon, much like fellow British retailer EAST, have artisan collaboration embedded in their brand heritage. Founded by Peter Simon in 1973 after an epic road trip across Asia, the earliest Monsoon collections comprised clothes made in Indian villages using vegetable dyes, hand-loomed cotton and block printing (Monsoon, 2013).

Though now a global brand Monsoon continues to value artisan skills such as beading and embellishment. Monsoon is a founding member of the Ethical Trading Initiative and has its own code of conduct for all suppliers, paying unexpected visits to factories to ensure standards are met. Alongside this Monsoon is involved in a number of community projects in Asia, including a project reviving the silk cultivation industry in Afghanistan to provide livelihoods for widows and vulnerable women
Though most production has now shifted to larger factories Monsoon still trade with some of their original and smaller suppliers. This creates jobs and develops local communities at a time when the  number of artisans in India has declined 30% over the past decade (DASRA, 2013). According to Olivia Lankester, Monsoon’s Head of Corporate Responsibility, “artisans in India increasingly ind it hard to make a living from their craft, many living on the poverty line and struggling to meet their basic needs. This has lead to a generational loss of craft skills and contributed to mass migration to urban areas.” Monsoon aims to tackle this through their commitment to supporting craft communities in India.

Launching this October, Artisan Trade is a range of clothing, accessories and gifts made in collaboration with Indian artisan co-operatives. ”Many artisan groups have incredible skill and beautiful product but very limited access to market. This is where we can help – while also providing technical support to help artisans upgrade and update their product offer.” Artisan Trade is an expansion and rebranding of the Monsoon Boutique range, which provides sorely needed market access for Indian artisans. If successful the range will provide sustained employment for women which will move them away from the poverty line and enable future social mobility and economic growth.

Monsoon Boutique not only provides a sales channel for craftspeople, it also focuses on upcycling Monsoon’s fabric offcuts by using them to produce items such as quilts, aprons and childrenswear. All profits are donated to the Monsoon Accessorize trust which provides grants to artisan co-operatives such as SEWA (Self Employed Womens Association). SEWA is an embroidery co-operative in Delhi that over the past four years has received funding from Monsoon for a new embroidery centre, training programmes for women, a micro-credit programme and an education programme for children.
Rather than work through an intermediary Monsoon have always worked directly with Indian suppliers to design and produce their products. A team in Delhi are on hand to provide technical support, training and advice to producers, which Olivia feels makes a “huge difference” to the success of the operation. When necessary Monsoon have linked artisan co-operatives with larger suppliers to help with operations such as sourcing, packaging and testing requirements. Although not yet launched, Monsoon’s Artisan Trade has good prospects as an expansion of Monsoon Boutique. Their 40 years of experience working with artisans means Monsoon are well placed to bring such products onto the marker as the range already has a deined niche among Monsoon customers. The first Artisan Trade collection has taken 9 months from concept to delivery. Monsoon already have a well established network of suppliers which would help shorten the lead time on the range of artisan clothing for such a large market. The success of Monsoon’s community work is extensive, helping 10,000 disadvantaged women and children every year (Monsoon, 2013). The Artisan Trade line will not only provide employment for these women but proits from sales will be reinvested into community projects to create livelihoods and provide healthcare, education and shelter.

Traditional hand block printing in India
Artisan Trade supplier, quilting cooperative
Yasmin Le Bon, visiting Monsoon Artisan Trade supplier Photography: Sam Faulkner

Below: Monsoon's offices in West London. Photography: Google Street View

Expensive car cordoned outside Monsoon's offices

PlanB4fashion is a link to this ethical fashion blog on a single long page
This blog is by a vegan shoe company called that sells vegan shoes boots & belts

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