Friday 16 December 2011

Ethical Xmas

There's just over a week to go until the big day: still plenty of time, although it might not feel it. If ideas for that special something for that special someone are stubbornly refusing to arrive, there's plenty of advice online.
The Guardian has a handy list of ethical pressies, which sensibly include our friends at the Fair Corp and their brilliant Ethletic shoes. They have their own Christmas shop too! I'm not convinced about the Lego cufflinks, mind. Lego should be played with, not worn, and it's tough enough to be rolled into collections that should last for generations of kids.
Talking of recycling, the Telegraph takes the high ground by recommending gifts that you can either make yourself, or are made from recycled material. They tag a rather smart range of belts by Velo-re, made from old bicycle inner tubes. The make your own aesthetic is one that's worth resurrecting. Knitwear's getting cool again, and a nice pair of chunky home-made mittens would go down a treat.
Of course, there's always the Ethical Superstore, who have a huge of goodies to match every budget and taste. They're taking express orders up to the 22nd, so you have a bit of time to make up your mind yet.
As for us... Pier 32 is closing up on Wednesday the 21st, and back up for business on January 4th. The blog will be updating, although probably at a reduced level, dependent on whether I can hoick the laptop onto my turkey-engorged belly.
From all of us at the Pier to all of you, have a happy Christmas and great 2012!

Tuesday 13 December 2011


It's nearly six months to the day since Guru Ian first asked if I fancied writing for the Pier 32 blog. As today also happens to be my 39th (ahem) birthday, it's nice to note that the gang have clubbed together to mark the occasions with a rather nice gift for me.
It's a Stormtech jacket, made to exacting WRAP certification that ensures it's been sourced and put together in a fair and ethical way. Stormtech are a Canadian company, and therefore know their winterwear. The jacket is waterproof yet light and breathable, and stuffed with clever features and touches. I'm still not sure that I've found all the pockets.
It's proven its worth already, as a cycle home in some pretty impressive storm conditions last night soaked my jeans and boots but left my top half bone-dry and warm. Ian thinks you could go ski-ing in the thing. I have to take his word for it; I barely have the co-ordination to walk in a straight line, let alone slide down a mountain with sticks on my feet. I wouldn't normally choose a coat like this, but in use the Stormtech has done the business. I'm a convert to the cause.
Check out the Stormtech range over on the Pier 32 website, and make sure you, your clients and your team stay snug this winter.

Friday 9 December 2011

If You Lead, I Will Follow

I talk a lot on this blog about how customer power is leading the slow but inexorable shift towards a greener, more sustainable high street.  But that's only half the story. Retailers need to be on board, as well--and it seems, they need to be one step ahead of their customer's wishes.
At a conference last month hosted by The Start Initiative, a charity to promote sustainable living chaired by Prince Charles, the problems and challenges faced by retailers in this new arena were thrown into sharp relief. Large brands like Asda and M&S are reporting that their customers are looking for information on sustainable products. But at the same time they're expecting the stores to lead the way.
This kind of public information, which until recently would have been seen as a government responsibility, is more likely these days to be dealt with by the retail sector. Whatever we think of that shift in educational focus, it's an opportunity for switched-on brands to show their customers that they share values and concerns.
The trick is how you introduce and present yourself. Come across as preachy or worse, fake, and there's trouble in store. The key, it seems, is a soft touch, allowing change to emerge slowly.
Adam Elman, head of delivery for Plan A and sustainable business at Marks & Spencer, puts it best when he says:

"The key is to be one step ahead of the customer, not two. Otherwise they won't come with you."
Baby steps, then. Plan A is a good example of this, as most of the changes M&S are making to create a sustainable business model are taking place behind the scenes, and over a five year period.
Clever ways of getting the customer to adopt new ways of thinking towards their purchases have benefits for everyone. For example, the M&S partnership with Oxfam, where donated clothes trigger a discount voucher, keeps the brand and it's values in the customers mind, sparks a return visit to the store and keeps perfectly good clothes out of landfill.
The green High Street is still a long way off. But it's great to see big-name brands taking the challenge seriously, and helping to lead the way.

More on the Start Conference over at the Guardian.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

A Greener Christmas Sock

Tis the season, Hail Santa. If you're a gentleman of a certain age, you quickly become accustomed to the fact that at least one of your Christmas parcels is going to contain socks. Personally, I have no problem with this. Socks are important items of apparel. And I go through 'em like a hot knife through butter. I think I must sweat acid down there or something, The darn things get holed in weeks.
Anyway. Once you come to the understanding that you're going to get socks at some point, you might as well try to make them the best a man can get. No, I'm not talking about cashmere or silk (although cashmere, when properly sourced and managed, is a very sustainable fabric). How about a sock that's 95% organic cotton (with a touch of elastene for shape), made in a wind-powered factory in Turkey?
PACT are an organic underwear company that are reinventing the humble sock. Their manufacturing base, Egedeniz Tekstil, is the first certified organic factory in Turkey. The workers are treated and paid fairly, and the head of the factory is a board member of the Organic Exchange. The cotton is grown and the clothes are made within a 100 mile transport radius, much like the SustainU model I talked about last week. The packaging is rapid-degradable, and the shipping bags can go straight onto the compost heap. Even the decision to add a little elastene to the mix was thought through; it means the sock keeps it's shape longer than a 100% cotton sock, which means it's less likely to go into landfill. With that in mind, PACT will even take your old socks back from you when they're more air-than-wear, and recycle them into new socks or insulation.
PACT are part of a new breed of clothing producers that are changing the way we look at the basics of what we wear. The base layers, the simple T-shirt, the lowly sock, all go through the same processes as high fashion pieces and flashy trainers. Those processes can be rethought and reworked for the modern era, making sure that the end product does no damage at any link in the chain.
So, with the Month of Conspicuous Consumption well and truly on us, it's worth looking at companies like PACT to help make Christmas and afterwards a happy, sustainable place.
Check out the PACT website for much more. They don't just make socks, by the way. There's something for everyone. But a blog post needs something to stand on, and a nice pair of socks is as good a start as any.

Friday 2 December 2011

American (Sustainable) Apparel

America's probably not the first place you think of when you're looking for a company that deals in sustainable clothing. That's why it's such a delight to see the success of SustainU, an American apparel chain that uses completely recycled fabrics.
SustainU clothes are made from fabric produced from post-consumer plastic bottles, recycled cotton and post-industrial textile waste. They're printed and embellished of them with eco-friendly, PVC and phthalate-free ink. The clothes are kind to the environment, and kinda cool, too.
More than that, they're fighting to bring jobs back to the moribund American clothing manufacturing industry. Based in Morganstown, West Virginia, SustainU make their clothes exclusively in factories in North and South Carolina and Tennessee, helping families in some of the most poverty-stricken areas of the USA to restore some manner of pride. Thinking locally has other positive impacts. From start to finish, their products take less than a 200 mile radius of transport to create yarn, knit the fabric, and cut and sew the clothes. By cutting out cross-country travel (and indeed the intercontinental shipping that most big clothing companies take for granted) , SustainU are cutting their transport and fuel bills off at the knee.
SustainU's message is getting across, too. Chris Yura, the CEO of the company was recently cited as a Champion Of Change by the White House, and he was one of the business leaders invited to a recent forum concentrating on ways of getting American manufacturing back on it's feet. As they expand into the retail market, it'll be interesting to see how Chris carries the strong, positive message of his company into the more mainstream market.
SustainU are doing all the right things in all the right ways, and we at Pier 32 applaud them for their forward thinking and belief in the power of locally-sourced, globally minded clothing.

Lots more to read at the SustainU website. Go see.

Thursday 1 December 2011

Kickstart 2012

Yes, yes, I know. It's barely December. You're already panicking about the Christmas presents, there's rumours of a turkey shortage and you just know the lights for the tree are going to be in a knot that's going to take hours and several swear words to sort out.

Why not take a break and consider the New Year? 2012 is Olympic year, of course, and that means the country will be going sports crazy in the run-up. Now is the time to plan ahead and snag some sportswear that will give you a head start in becoming fit and active.

Our latest newsletter highlights some of the ethical sportswear we have on offer. All our clothes are responsibly sourced, and we stock manufacturers like All We Do Is, who independently audit all their suppliers to make sure your gain causes no pain (apart from the shin splints of course, but that's another story).

Add to that our wide range of more social sportswear for all your club and class needs, and you can see that Pier32 has you sorted for a summer of sport. Sounds like more fun than putting up deccoes, right? Click here to read the newsletter in full. You can, as always, subscribe at the Pier32 website.

On a minor detour, let us take this opportunity to wish Guru Ian, Marketing Man Of Mystery a very happy 39th birthday (again). He'll be having a celebratory jog to the Riverside Meeting Rooms later, I'm sure. Have a good one, Ian!