It's sometimes easy, when talking about ethical fashion, to go for the glamourous and exotic. Look at this wonderful scarf, woven by Indonesian craftspeople from the rare and endangered golden silk spider. Behold this bead necklace, handmade by a women's collective in Eritrea. They're all worthy of our attention. But sometimes we forget that a key factor in eco-friendly fashion is the local angle. What price to the earth does that lovely scarf or bracelet have if we have to ship it halfway across the world?
My esteemed collegues at The Tweed Pig, as advocates of the ethical advantages of traditional British style, are a good first stop on the search for the sort of sturdy, well-crafted clothing that has become a signifier of the global image of the yeomen and women of this great nation. They call it tradcore: local manufacture, good provenance and products styled to look great regardless of the tides of fashion.
A good example of this movement can be found in the Yorkshire Dales, under the gables of Swaledale Woollens. This small company, based in the pretty village of Muker, is a genuinely local enterprise. Started as a co-operative in the 70s, the same collective principles from which it was founded still apply to the business today. Villagers hand-knit the sweaters and jumpers, and the money earned from their sale goes back into the community.
The wool for the clothing comes from sheep local to the area. The signature design, the Swaledale sweater (pictured above, nice, eh?) is hand-framed and made entirely from wool that's come from sheep that graze the hills and dales around the village. You could probably meet the sheep from which your jumper came. You can certainly buy the wool, if you're handy with a set of knitting needles. Provenance doesn't get any more impeccable than that.
It's increasingly difficult to find British clothing lines that haven't been bought out by a global superbrand, but that doesn't mean that they aren't out there, and that we shouldn't try to find them. Mrs. Pier and I have almost exclusively holidayed in Britain over the past few years, wanting to see the best that this amazing country has to offer. Gems like Swaledale Woollens are right up our street, and always worth a visit if you're in the area. Businesses like this are the exemplar of what ethical fashion should and can be, and it's down to us to support and shout about them.
Check out the full range of tradcore goodness at http://www.swaledalewoollens.co.uk