Blog: Leonie BarrieSeeing red over green

Leonie Barrie | 28 September 2007

Fashion designer Katharine Hamnett has long been known for her outspoken views – and her fearlessness in expressing them. She is, after all, the woman who was memorably photographed with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at Downing Street in 1984 wearing an anti-nuclear T-shirt emblazoned with the message ‘58% Don't Want Pershing.’

In recent years she’s also become something of an eco-warrior, combining her passion for design with a fervour to reduce the pollution and environmental destruction she holds the world’s clothing, shoe and textile industries responsible for.

Speaking at last year’s ASBCI Conference, to an audience made up of some of the UK’s largest retailers and their suppliers, she accused the fashion industry of being: “…too lazy, too overpaid at the top, too ignorant and too disinterested in fair trade.” Price is missing the point, she said, “…it’s not by producing cheaper and cheaper goods – somebody can always make it cheaper than you.” 

So against this background, signing a deal to produce an organic clothing range for one of the world’s largest and most aggressive retailers was probably never going to be a match made in heaven. And today the two companies were embroiled in a very public spat about the future of the line, with Hamnett questioning Tesco’s commitment to the green ‘revolution’ as nothing more than lip service, and Tesco saying the range wasn’t selling as well as some of its own brand organic clothing lines.

This is one of the first, but certainly not the last, examples of an eco-friendly venture turning distinctly sour. But with both parties more than adept at using the power of the media to convey their message, it’s probably not surprising that their parting of ways is being played out on a very public stage.

Tesco and Katharine Hamnett shelve organic fashion line


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