Katharine Hamnett decided to kiss goodbye to the licensing contracts she’d spent 26 years building up.
“Knowing what I knew about the way some of those products were manufactured,” she says, “I couldn’t keep doing them.”
In their place comes Katharine E Hamnett: clothes for men and women, untainted by pollution, sweatshops or animal abuse. The E might officially stand for ethical, but it’s also the initial of her middle name, Eleanor. “Yeah. And it could just as easily stand for excessive egomaniac,” says Hamnett equably.
“Farmers are queuing up to grow [organic cotton]. There are 400 million people working in the cotton industry globally. Many farmers in the developing world can’t read; they don’t know the risks.”
One farmer put his product on the roof of his house; the dues got into the family’s water and killed four of his children.
Naturally, Katharine Hamnett has all the first-hand facts at her fingertips.
She’s seen children dying of malnutrition in Africa, thanks to the mechanics of the global cotton industry.
“I want to make a successful business model doing clothes that are ethically and organically sourced because that way the industry, which currently doesn’t give a f***, I will all jump on our bandwagon, as usual.”
The biggest hurdle is consumer perception. “Organic has got lousy connotations. People think porridge colours and turn off.”
“One billion people work in the clothing industry. If fair trade becomes the norm, we could end poverty, do the environment a huge favour and stop the job drain to China.”
“Wouldn’t it be nice to wear clothes that help you look sexier and change the world?”
The Times T2 Magazine, 20/04/2005, Author unknown.