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Ben and Jerry's Fashion and Beauty Sundae School: Ethical Fashion and Beauty

Posted by Ashleigh Toll Oxfam Fashion blogger

8th Jul 2013

Ethical ice-cream extraordinaires, Ben & Jerry's, hosted a series of 'Sundae School' events this year featuring some of the UK's most successful ethical entrepreneurs and business leaders.

I attended the ethical fashion and beauty event which was hosted in the orangery at No. 11 Cavendish Square, just a stone's throw away from Oxford Street. However, the focus of the evening couldn't have been further away from the 'fast fashion' that dominates one of the busiest high streets in the world.

An audience of budding ethical entrepreneurs gathered to hear guest speakers Liz Earle (co-founder of the Liz Earle Beauty Company), Safia Minney (founder and director of People Tree) and Kresse Wesling (co-founder of Elvis & Kresse) reflect on their unique experiences of establishing and developing their ground-breaking ethical businesses.

   

The audience tucked in to delicious ice cream as they waited for Liz, Safia and Kresse to take to the stage     

When Liz Earle launched her beauty business back in 1995, she had a clear and passionate vision that all her beauty products would contain natural based, ethically and sustainably sourced ingredients. Asked whether she has ever been limited by her ethical vision, Liz talked about a new, revolutionary beauty product that was just about to hit the shelves - and then the UK government ruled that one of the key ingredients was no longer to be exempt from animal testing. Despite the years of research and product development by her dedicated team, and the funds that had been invested in the product, Liz pulled the entire project.

Kresse Wesling, Liz Earle and Safia Minney. Image courtesy of Ben & Jerry's UK

Safia Minney described the challenges still faced by the ethical fashion industry and how there are still many "myths to dispel" about sustainable fashion being "oat coloured…and not sexy or stylish."

"There are huge communities with incredible craft skills and I have chosen to pay staff to hand weave…It's an amazing alternative to normal, fast fashion," she explained.

People Tree gives its artisans the technical support and production time to produce their fabric and garments to Fair Trade standards. However, the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh was a stark and tragic reminder that many of the world's largest fashion corporations refuse to comply with basic health and safety measures in their factories. Basic measures that could save their employees lives.

Safia commented that the only good to come out of the tragedy in Bangladesh is that there is now "a burgeoning understanding and awareness that people who have the same basic human rights as us are being paid to work in these factories."

She added that since the disaster, many People Tree customers, old and new, have approached her to say "now we get it."

Kresse Wesling's label, Elvis & Kresse is also committed to supporting the communities associated with their products. The label transforms decommissioned industrial waste such as fire hoses in to bags, belts and much more, with 50% of their profits donated back to charities. Their products are now stocked in Harrods and Cameron Diaz loved the Elvis & Kresse belt she wore in her American Vogue shoot so much that she kept it.

The idea of the 'Sundae School' sessions was to inspire the next generation of socially conscious and ethical entrepreneurs to follow their instincts and establish businesses that will change the way we see and interact with the world around us.

If the overwhelming reaction on Twitter was anything to go by, then the ethical revolution may not be as far away as we think…..

The Twitter reaction to the 'Fashion & Beauty' #SundaeSchool

Blog post written by Ashleigh Toll

Oxfam Fashion blogger

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