There is two main certification marks that govern fair trade. The first is the FLO mark on the left above, it oversees commodities such as coffee/tea/fruit and is the most widely recognised. The second is the WFTO mark which oversees the more complex fair trade manufacturing certification. Clothing/stationery/handicrafts any manufactured goods etc all come under this mark so it is the place to go for designers looking to create and manufacture designs and products.
I always wonder why it is the Fair Trade raw commodity mark is so widely recognised but the Fair Trade manufacturing mark isn’t as well known. Mainly perhaps because the Fair Trade raw commodity mark products can sell themselves without much help from design (coffee, tea etc need nothing more than a packet) but fair trade manufactured products aren’t as easy because they heavily rely on design. There are great companies such as People Tree that are doing their bit to show that its possible to do great designs in fair trade, but in general I think its clear that there still isn’t enough great design. Why isn’t it everywhere? More than 50% of coffee sold in the UK is fair trade and still rapidly growing but in clothing it is less than one percent. If there were more it would be a huge force in poverty reduction and the main thing I see holding it back is design.
Having worked myself in advertising and commercial design for a long time I had become very disillusioned in the world and business of design, and I am very grateful to the people I have met in Fair Trade who have reminded me again what good design can be. There are some amazing traditional crafts and hand made objects that just cannot be produced industrially that lend themselves if designed nicely to really beautiful high-end design products. Textile designers in particular would be blown away. Not only that but I have met some pretty amazing and inspiring people. It has been a great opportunity for me to take some time to do something a bit different that is generated by myself rather than commissioned and it has led my design work into lots of new and unexpected directions.
For anyone who is thinking about getting involved they can go straight to the WFTO website here and contact producer groups all over the world by region/country or by product type. Literally anything you can think of (that can be non-industrially manufactured) can be made somewhere by some co-operative. You can also join them on facebook here
If you have any other questions please leave a comment below.
Some amazing hand-woven fabric swatches from ACP. The craftsmanship and work here is just mind-blowing. The stuff you could do with this….!