Messages Found Sewn in to Fast Fashion Retailer’s Clothes

Dhaka, Bangladesh - March 2010.Garment factory exterior in the Mohakhali area.The story about ‘cries for help’ sewn in to Primark clothes bought in Swansea has appeared in all the major newspapers in the UK, has been shared on social media and has elicited shocked and horrified responses.

Two messages have been reported, one saying, “Forced to work exhausting hours” the other with, “Degrading sweatshop conditions”. Whether these messages are authentic remains to be investigated but it is known that the conditions referred to in the messages exist in factories all over the world.

Will this be the wake up call that shoppers need in order to convince them to pay heed to the provenance of the clothes, food and goods they buy? Outlining the facts about how mass produced fashion is made in documentary after documentary seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Watching factory workers die as the unsafe buildings in which they work collapse around them also seems to have had little effect on the choices we’re making.

Can this direct message from an actual sweatshop worker be the key to forcing a sea change in the way we buy? I hope so.


Clean Clothes Campaign responds to stories of labels found in Primark clothing.

Over the past week there have been reports of notes for help or messages stitched into clothing sold by UK and Irish retailer Primark purportedly from workers suffering inhumane conditions in the production of clothes for the retail giant.

Clean Clothes Campaign, in response to the stories says, “It is difficult to know whether these notes are genuine. However speculation on the origin of the messages should not distract from the known reality which is that the conditions described – in particular long hours, poverty pay and unsafe working conditions – are a fact of life for the majority of women and men producing clothes for high street brands including Primark.

“As our recent reports, Tailored Wages and Stitched Up, clearly demonstrate inhumane conditions and wages that fall far short of a living wage are endemic in the industry and can be found from clothing factories in Bangladesh to Bulgaria, Cambodia to Croatia.

“Primark are not alone in sourcing from these factories and it is important that Primark and all clothing brands take action and put an end to exploitative and inhumane purchasing practices and ensure the people who make their clothes are paid a living wage in decent working conditions.

“To pay a decent living wage would cost a brand like Primark less than 25 cents on the price of a t-shirt. As these stories have shown, consumers do not want to buy cheap fashion at the expense of another persons well-being.”

Dalhousie University Recognises Alumni Who Are ‘Building a Better World’

dalhousie thingSeveral weeks ago, my alma matter – Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada posted an article about The Fableists. It was part of their ‘Building a Better World’ series, in which they profile past students who – they feel – are making a positive contribution to the world around them. I was then invited to their Alumni event in London, where they presented me with a framed photo from the article and certificate for being an ‘Ethical Outfitter’.

I was honoured to be presented with my certificate at the same time as Dr Nancy Lane, who earned a MSc from the same university in 1960, receiving the Governor General’s Gold Medal for the top marks in the final exams. This helped her gain the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire scholarship and earn entrance to Oxford University. A true trail blazer, Dr Lane was one of the few women doing graduate studies at Oxford at the time (or at any university, for that matter). Female colleagues were particularly scarce in the science department. She went on to complete post-doctoral work at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and Yale University and was then hired as a lecturer at Cambridge University, where she has been ever since. Her area of expertise is cell biology.

dalhousie thing 3

Dr Lane also campaigns to get women to pursue scientific studies. Feeling that her gender is under-represented in the fields of sciences, she travels the world hoping to encourage young women to follow in her footsteps. To her, science is not a career, but a calling.

To say that I was humbled to be in Dr Lane’s company is an understatement. At the same time, I was proud to receive my recognition and delighted that ethical fashion is something that is seen as helping to ‘Build a Better World’. We hope that more people will begin to see the importance of informed buying and start to make changes in their own purchases and lifestyles.


Recipe: Strawberry Cobbler

cobbler 2Wimbledon is around the corner, which means England must be at the height of strawberry season.

At this time of year, I find myself obsessed with fresh strawberries and use them in every dish possible. I have recently made this super easy strawberry cobbler on a few occasions – each time to rave reviews. So, I thought I’d share it with you. This recipe comes from my grandmother’s notes.

cobbler 3

Cobbler can be a fruit or savoury filling, topped with biscuit or pie crust and baked. According to Wikipedia, cobblers originated in the North Eastern United States when English settlers were unable to make traditional suet-based puddings due to the lack of ingredients. They used a biscuit topping on their puddings instead.

This is dead easy and also delicious with other fruit, particularly blueberries and peaches.


400 g (or so) of fresh strawberries

2 tbsp butter

3 tbsp granulated white sugar

3/4 cup or 150g granulated white sugar

1 cup or 125 g self-raising flour

1 cup or 240 mL milk

Wash, hull and cut the strawberries in to thick slices. Toss them in the 3 tbsp of sugar. Grease an oven-proof dish (a square 9″ pyrex dish is ideal) and cover the bottom with the sugared strawberries. Dot the strawberries with small squares of the butter.

cobbler 4

In a separate bowl, mix the flour and sugar well. Add the milk and mix until just combined.

Pour the mixture over the strawberries.

Bake at 350 degrees F or 175 degrees C for 45 to an hour, depending on your oven. The strawberries should be bubbling and the topping golden brown.

Enjoy straight out of the oven with custard, ice cream or cream. It is also nice once cooled but I prefer it warm and bubbling.




Mangle and Wringer – Natural Cleaning Remedies that Make Sense

M&W product 004So, you’ve purchased your organic cotton clothes from The Fableists and are keen to make them last as long as possible. You’re ready to wash in cold water, hang dry, shake and fold. But what can you use to wash them? The last thing you want to do is put toxins in to your chemical-free kids clothes!

Most commercial cleaning products today are laden with chemicals and in order to cover up the toxic odours these produce, further chemicals are added to provide the ‘clean’ and ‘fresh’ scents we’ve become addicted to. Shouldn’t something that is clean just have no smell? Clean jeans certainly shouldn’t smell like fresh pine, or waterfalls – whatever they smell like! It’s no wonder that we’ve seen a huge increase in children with asthma and eczema.

We were delighted to discover Mangle and Wringer, a British brand that uses traditional methods to create their products and recipes passed down from a time before the advent of multi-national chemical conglomerates. Not only are the products fabulous to use, the branding and packaging is also so beautiful that you will be proud to display them on your counter tops. You can’t say that about many cleaning products!

M&W stacking soap 011

Products available:

Spray and Go – an all-purpose, multi-surface spray cleaner

Kitchen Cleanser – a cream cleaner safe for use on most surfaces

Bathroom Balm – a cream cleaner specific to bathroom use

Good for Glass – a spray cleaner for glass

Pure Laundry – for colours and whites, an all-purpose laundry powder

Natural Bleach – for removing stains in your washing and brightening whites

All of the ingredients used are safe, non-toxic, effective and completely biodegradable. They also come from renewable and sustainable sources. A full list of ingredients and directions for use are available on the Mangle and Wringer web site

We used the products around the house, in the garden and on the ultimate greasy testing ground: bank holiday weekend camping. With eight kids in tow, ranging from 8 months to 17 years, there was ample opportunity to put the Spray and Go to the test, cleaning greasy cooking appliances, filthy surfaces and – because of the non-toxic ingredients – even dirty hands.

Upon our return, we did all of the washing using Pure Laundry and Natural Bleach. The Fableists clothes remain toxin-free and have come out clean and pure, with colours still in-tact while sleeping bags and other camping essentials are packed up clean, and ready for the next outing. In short, we are delighted to have discovered a new and chemical free range of products. (favourite product? The Natural Beach. It’s amazing on all our washing!)

M&W Vanessa

Owner of Mangle and Wringer, Vanessa Willes took the time to answer some of our questions about her company and products.

You didn’t begin your working life making traditional cleaning products! What led you down this path?

I spent 20 years working as an architect and interior designer, but in 2004 I was diagnosed with ME or chronic fatigue syndrome and I was forced to stop.

At the same time I met an amazing lady called Bette who, at the age of 84, had come to help at a local mother and toddler group. She offered to help me around the house and she was also keen to aid my recovery. Instead of recommending bed rest, she suggested gentle physical therapy and taught me how to make traditional soap, as her mother had shown her more than 70 years earlier. As we got to know one another she told me of her extraordinary life ‘below stairs’:

She went into service at the age of 14 where she recreated her family soap recipe and, with it, made cleaning products that were safe and effective. When she married and moved back to the country, Bette set up a local laundry and used her own soap based washing powder and stain removers to great effect.

Can you tell us where the name Mangle and Wringer came from?

Our name Mangle & Wringer comes from those days when Bette ran the laundry. She was known locally as ‘Mrs Mangle’ – long before the character in Australian soap Neighbours! – and her eldest daughter, Margaret, became known as ‘Little Miss Wringer’. We were keen to honour Bette in our brand and Mangle & Wringer seemed to fit.

Your branding is lovely, who did it for you?

I created the branding myself, with the help of a friend who is a graphic designer. I was keen to convey the traditional nature of the products, but also create packaging that would look good enough to be left out.

Is your packaging recyclable?

All packaging is recyclable although we hope customers might find a second use for the tins and the Pure Laundry Powder and Natural Bleach bags are completely compostable.

Are your products tested on animals?

None of our products, or the ingredients we use, have ever been tested on animals.

Do you have any new products in the pipeline?

We’ve had a lot of requests for the pure liquid soap we use in the products so we will launch that next. It can be used for washing dishes, floors, as an all purpose cleaner and is very safe and gentle on skin – containing just organic coconut and sunflower oils and nothing else! We are also add ‘Bette’s Bar’, the original bar of traditional soap. Again, it’s a fantastic multi purpose soap that’s great for cleaning anything, but is particularly gentle on skin being made using 100% organic coconut oil.

Other products in the pipeline include a beeswax furniture polish and a soap based spray especially for marble and granite. Bette’s books contain hundreds of wonderful recipes so you can expect lots of wonderful products in the future too.


You can purchase your Mangle and Wringer products online via their own web site Items are dispatched immediately for next day delivery in the UK. If you are interested in overseas delivery, please contact Mangle and Wringer directly in order to make arrangements. 


Flash Sale on All Anthony Peters Designed T-Shirts – 40% off!

Special sale on all of the t-shirts in the Anthony Peters collection at The Fableists. Currently a steal at £10 each (reduced from £16). Get yours while the sale lasts!

Illustrator and Designer Anthony Peters

Illustrator and Designer Anthony Peters

Anthony Peters is a UK-based illustrator and designer. He has illustrated three t-shirts for The Fableists. You can see them below. Anthony is represented by RARE BIRD in London. Read our interview with Anthony here. 

wear me out

‘Wear Me Out’ perfectly illustrates our philosophy of buy less and wear more. We want your little Fableists to put as much in to the clothes as we have and do their best to wear them out! Wear often and care for them well.


‘Make Art Not War’ shows three soldiers armed with pencil, crayon, paper clip and sharpener! Is the pen mightier than the sword? Let’s see what our kids can do with their pens.

happy factory

‘Happy Factory’ depicts a factory that isn’t spewing foul air, where people are happy to come and they are fairly paid for their work.

Buy your Anthony Peters illustrated tees here. Sale ends Monday June 16th.


#FableistsTuesday for a Chance to Win One of our Tees!

Keeping up with your social media is a full time job. It can take hours to login in to them all and populate them with selfies and witticisms. It’s hard work finding cute photos of yourself as a child to share on Thursdays, lists of like minded handles to recommend on Fridays and don’t even get me started on #SelfieSunday.

You deserve to be rewarded for all your hard work on social media. So, we’re giving away a t-shirt every week until the end of July. And we’re going to do it on Tuesday. Why? Why not? Tuesday just feels a bit left out. No one moans about it being the first day back at work/school; it’s not hump day and you’re nowhere near the end of the week yet. It feels like it needs a little something to make it special too. We’ve dubbed it #FableistsTuesday. No, it doesn’t rhyme, but we like it anyway.

And what’s not to like? Every Tuesday through July, you get the chance to win one of our kids t-shirts. All you have to do is tweet the hashtag #FableistsTuesday with a photo of the t-shirt you’re hoping to win. You can use #FableistsTuesday on Facebook too but please know that your privacy settings might prohibit us from seeing your post. You can find our current t-shirt collection with photos right here. They come in sizes 3-4, 5-6, 7-8 and 9-10.

Don’t have a kid? Your kids aren’t the right sizes for our tees? You can still play. Our tees make the absolute best gifts. They look pretty cute on dogs, too. We’ve checked.

Use your social media time to win something – we’re all about #FableistsTuesday!

Father’s Day Gift Guide

TIESWhen I was a child, I remember buying my father a tie for Father’s Day – an actual tie! With the world a more casual place, many fathers have little opportunity to wear ties, making this go-to gift option of the 70s obsolete. So what to get for good old dad? Here are a few last minute options that will show you’ve put some thought in to your choice!

Organic wine
Organic wine is made from grapes which are grown under organic farming conditions, which excludes the use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilisers. The details for organic certification vary from country to country. The chemicals used in much commercial farming contain toxins that will find their way in to the wine. Not only can these be unhealthy to ingest, they can also affect the taste of the wine and mask the unique earthy textures and flavours that each individual region can impart to its local grapes. Organic wine is generally produced in smaller batches and as such makes a unique and prized gift. Some adherents also argue that drinking organic wine will give you less of a headache. Drinking less wine will also help with that!


Organic wine is available from many local farm shops and fruit and veg box delivery schemes. Even supermarkets stock organic wine now. Organic Wine Pure, from Germany, have been doing mail order of organic wines since 1983. Sedlescombe Biodynamic Wines of England, in East Sussex offer vineyard tours and gift packages which include their own organic wines as well as organic fruit liqueurs and juices.

Bamboo Socks and Pants
Father’s day traditional gift = socks and pants. If you’re going to go this route, then why not go for the best? The growth cycle of bamboo is totally sustainable. The plants thrive with no chemical pesticides and, as anyone who has planted it in their garden can tell you – it grows and spreads like wildfire. It can grow in limited soil and on slopes and can sustain itself on rainfall alone, so there is no need for watering. It is also totally biodegradable. On top of all of this, bamboo is also soft, pliable, naturally moisture wicking, breathable, anti-bacterial and protects the skin from UV rays (just what dad needs in a pair of pants!). BAM bamboo clothing offers basics like the socks and pants we seek, as well as fitness clothes and every day essentials like t-shirts.


Organic skincare
I’ve often wondered whether there was any difference between skin care for men and women, or whether it was just a case of packaging. For father’s day, you want dad to feel ‘manly’ – whatever that might mean for your dad, so spring for some special products made just for him. Organic Homme products fit the bill nicely, with their sleek black packaging. They use organic ingredients that are also fairly traded and they offer ten ‘power-packed- products ranging from shampoo, to deodorant, to face scrub and even anti-aging formulas. You can buy their products from the amazing Green People, which stock a billion things you might need and even on Amazon. Neal’s Yard Remedies also have a range specifically for men, including their brilliant ‘Shave Oil’, which moisturises skin and hair while shaving. It’s a really lovely product.


Beer & Dad? Often a safe bet. For something different, try signing dad up for a beer club. This will ensure he has loads of new and exciting beers to try out. With Beer Hawk, who are ‘Hunting Out The World’s Best Beers’, you get 15 new beers with each delivery, based on your personal preferences. You can choose one delivery for £40, or choose a few to arrive throughout the year. They have a good selection of international organic beers. There are small organic brewers all over the world, so dad might appreciate beer from his most local organic brewer.


BBQ Time
Put together a BBQ kit for dad using more sustainable products such as BioRegional charcoal (available at Sainsburys and Homebase). This is made of British lumpwood from sustainable sources. Natural firelighters made from wood and vegetable oils, along with rolled up newspaper, can be used to light the BBQ.


For the Gadget Lover
Try this solar charger from Nigel’s Eco Store . It comes with a selection of 9 connector tips, so that you can charge any number of gadgets. Never be without a charge – even when you’re supposed to be off-grid!


Membership has its Priviledges
If Dad likes going out and exploring, then consider membership to a local natural area, heritage or historic preservation organisation or wildiife or natural habitat protection agency. Many of these groups and organisations have local park areas, monuments, historic buildings, natural landscapes to explore. Now you just have to pick which one to sign him up to! This will provide great fun for the whole family and get everyone out.

national_trustenglish heritage logo

Sami Viljanto’s T-Shirt Designs for The Fableists 40% Off This Week!

Sami Viljanto is a Finnish designer. The Fableists tapped him to create a collection of t-shirts for us.

These designs are all based on tattoo art. We love them and they have proved to be a very popular collection. All of our artist-designed t-shirts are numbered as they are printed as a limited print run of only 500 per design, across all sizes. They come with a passport, so that you can note the names of the kids who have owned each tee in order to pass them on with their history.

Find out more about Sami and these designs by reading our interview with him here. 

To celebrate Sami’s designs, we are putting them all on sale through Tuesday June 10th 2014. They are reduced to £10 each (from £16). These t-shirts are 100% organic cotton and certified by the Fair Wear Foundation.

Order yours today from our web site. 

LEGO for Girls and Boys – Just Give them the Basic Blocks

The good people at LEGO have announced that after their winter review (read: intense pressure from every side), they will be soon be launching a ‘Research Institute’ set featuring female figures as scientists.

LEGO has received a huge amount of criticism for their ‘LEGO Friends’ series, which casts female figures in the roles of pet groomer, hair dresser and musician, amongst others. There is nothing wrong with these career choices but with so few female LEGO characters in the fold, it feels a little unfair that all the male figures get to be the astronauts, lion tamers, race car drivers, pilots, scientists and the rest.

The ‘Research Institute’ set received more than the 10,000 votes required to put it in to the running at LEGO. Kudos to LEGO for listening to the public and creating a set that is aimed at both boys and girls (and their parents!). Both genders should be encouraged to believe that they can grow up to be and do anything they set their minds to. But my major gripe isn’t about LEGO’s pastel-hued sets aimed at little girls and their parents, it’s the fact that LEGO comes mainly in ‘sets’ in the first place.

These sets don’t allow for much creativity and problem solving, which seemed to me to be what was so brilliant about LEGO in the first place. Once the set is constructed, you might as well just glue it together. Following instructions to build a set has nothing to do with whether our kids will become architects or manicurists, it will only prepare our children for a lifetime of assembling flat-packed furniture! And I don’t think anyone wants that for their kids.

The original LEGO was played with by both boys and girls and last year this photo from their 1970s ad campaign –

lego adwith a little girls as the model – featured in countless blog posts. The ad, and the toy, were all about creating and building your own designs – and those designs were beautiful. When I was a child, LEGO held endless possibilities. We could build space stations, a ranch, a house and, yes, even a beauty salon. And we may have been the only ones who knew what we’d built but they were our creations and they opened up a whole world of imaginary play.

If your son or daughter wants to play with Stephanie, the dog groomer, then let them build. Just make sure there is scope for the planning and development of massive futuristic structures of questionable description in what might one day become a small town around her shop. Or maybe it will be something entirely different tomorrow.