In 1991, Safia Minney created an environmental campaigning voluntary group in Japan to focus on sustainable living. The team designed and sold Fair Trade products at festivals in Japan and that became the inspiration for the launch of her ethical fashion label, People Tree.
In 1991, Safia Minney created an environmental campaigning voluntary group called Global Village in Japan which focused on all aspects of sustainable living. The team designed and sold Fair Trade products at festivals in Japan and soon started to get requests from stockists.
The start-up was tough as Sophia invested in labour-intensive processes, dealt with disadvantaged artisans in remote corners of Bangladesh, business costs were huge and the apparel was dyed using low-impact dyes, free of azo chemicals and toxic substances. She had a two-pronged vision — the handcrafted apparel made with ethical production procedures was sustainable and provided rural artisans with a steady source of income. Her debut collection, designed using eco-textiles including organic cotton, met Global Organic Textile Standard, certified by Soil Association.
In 1995, Fair Trade Company was formed as a limited company by transferring the fair trading activity to a new company, People Tree. The company began as a catalogue of handwoven, natural dyed handbags, footwear and apparel made with cotton, Tencel Lyocell and responsible wool, using hand weaving, hand knitting, hand embroidery and hand block printing by women in remote corners of Bangladesh. Shortly, a store opened in Jiyugaoka, Tokyo and in 1996 the brand became a member of World Fair Trade Organization. In 1998, the first flagship store opened in Tokyo. The following year, People Tree expanded to England through a collaboration with Co-operative Group.
Sophia initiated World Fair Trade Day in 1999 endorsed by World Fair Trade Organization and celebrated on the second Saturday of May each year. Additionally, she co-wrote the books, ‘Naked Fashion’, ‘The Sustainable Fashion Revolution’, ‘Slow Fashion’, ‘Aesthetics Meets Ethics’ and ‘Slave to Fashion’. In 2000, ‘People Tree’ was registered as the trading name for Fair Trade Company in London. By 2004, the company expanded into twenty countries and reportedly had a turnover of over $1.79 million. The following year, People Tree Japan launched its first ‘prototype franchise’ store in Tokyo. In 2006, CEO Safia Minney persuaded Top Shop to take People Tree into Topshop as a concession.
Safia and the team worked with several designers, celebrities and influencers such as Emma Watson, Dame Zandra Rhodes and Bora Aksu to mainstream the concept of sustainable and fair fashion. Today, People Tree is an active member of Fair Trade, social justice and environmental networks. It has World Fair Trade Organisation guaranteed status, is GOTS certified and a licensee of Fairtrade foundation. Sold in five hundred stores across the world, the company also has an e-commerce and mail-order business. The core vision has stayed the same since its debut — stylish, affordable fashion that respects people and the planet.
To supply customers with quality products, with friendly efficient service and build awareness to empower customers and producers to participate in Fair Trade and environmentally sustainable solutions.
To support producer partners’ efforts towards economic independence, to protect the environment by using natural resources and to promote environmentally responsible initiatives.
Founder Safia Minney
Apparel and accessories. Services to planet earth include using natural resources and promoting environmentally responsible initiatives.