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.


Make a New Year’s Revolution

ofjMZkwAt this time of year, stuffed full and a few pounds heavier from Christmas over-indulgence, we start to heap pressure on ourselves with New Year’s resolutions. Sometimes we stick to them and sometimes we don’t.

How about choosing a few lifestyle changes that are easy to stick to? We’re calling it a New Year’s Revolution. Make a list with your kids of ways to consume less and reduce waste – they will love it, so let them take charge. Here are a few suggestions:

Start a compost
Collect rain water in a water butt to use for watering your garden
Plant some veggies in your garden or on a window ledge
Recycle more of your waste
Choose seasonal fruit and vegetables
Turn off lights when they aren’t in use
Buy less of the stuff you don’t need
Make sure the things you are buying are produced ethically
Buy things that don’t harm the planet to produce or dispose of
Wash your clothes at 30 degrees or less
Hang your washing and use your tumble dryer less
Turn off the water when it’s not in use

Packed lunches are a place where big changes can be made:
Choose re-usable water and drinks bottles rather than plastic bottles and drink boxes
Invest in some re-usable containers instead of foil and cling film
Don’t buy multi-packs (which use more packaging), buy large packs and separate them in to your containers

This lists consists of some simple, every day ideas to live a more sustainable life. You don’t have to take them all on at once and you might have several other ideas for things you can change and do as a family. Start with a couple at the beginning of the year and build on them. You’ll be amazed at how easy these small things are to incorporate in to your lives and they will save you energy, money and reduce your waste. It will also teach your kids to start taking care of their world and being responsible for something. Good all around.

Have fun with it and let us know how you get on! Send us the ideas and lists that your kids come up with and we’ll start an album on our Facebook page.

Happy New Year! May 2014 be the very best year yet.

The Fableists

Welcome to the Dawn of The Fableists’ New Blog

Apache in 'You Are What You Wear' Tee by Gregori Saavedra and the Western Shirt

Apache in ‘You Are What You Wear’ Tee by Gregori Saavedra and the Western Shirt

With the news that we have a launch date established, we will be making some exciting changes to our blog site. The grand opening of our web site on Tuesday October 29th, will mean that the blog will be located within the site as well as at its current location.

Up until now, we have been telling the story of The Fableists. We’ve been sharing photos of the first collection, information about how and where the clothes are made and interviews with many of the people involved in making the clothes and getting our brand out there.

Kunal from Chetna Organic

Kunal Balar from Herbal Fab

We will still bring you stories about The Fableists and give you special sneak peeks at our new collections but will also take a step back and look at what is important to The Fableists. We will share information on sustainability and design but will also bring you great recipes and activities for families. We’ll look at other brands who are making changes in the fashion industry and do interviews with people who are making those changes. Our blog will reflect what our brand is about: design, sustainability, kids and their families and doing great stuff and having adventures!

le touquet

You are The Fableists, so we’d love to hear from you. We welcome comments and suggestions.

May We Introduce Indian Organic Farming Collective Chetna Organic

Ayan Banerjee, CEO of Chetnna Organic

Ayan Banerjee, CEO of Chetnna Organic

Chetna Organic is working with small and marginal farmers in India in order to improve their livelihood options and by making farming a sustainable and profitable occupation. Chetna’s strength has been collective action and the fair supply chain. Chetna Organic Agriculture Producer Company Ltd (COAPCL) is the name of the 100% farmer-owned producer company. Some of The Fableists’ clothing is made from cotton grown by farmers who are a part of this collective.

We spoke to Ayan Banerjee, CEO of Chetna

The Fableists > Tell us how Chetna was started and what inspired you to form a collective? 

Ayan > The Chetna Organic & Fair Trade Cotton Intervention Program (OCIP) was established in 2004 as a supply chain initiative in organic cotton that works towards improving livelihood of farmers. The intent was to improve livelihood options of smallholder farmers by making their farm systems more sustainable, profitable and creating access to ethical and fair-trade markets in cotton. Chetna Organics or Chetna Organic Agriculture Producer Company Ltd India (COAPCL) has made clusters of organic cotton farmers from 2005. Established in 2009, Chetna Organic Agriculture Producer Company Ltd (COAPCL) is a 100% farmer-owned Company, professionally managed and backed by venture philanthropy so as to empower farmers by engaging them to build an ethical supply chain.

The Fableists > Where are you based and why are you active in that region?

Ayan > We work in the highly underdeveloped areas of Maharashtra (Vidarbha – Amravati, Akola, and Yavatmal), Andhra Pradesh (Telengana – Adilabad, Karimnagar) and Odisha (KBK region i.e. Kalahandi, Bolangir and Koraput). Most of the districts are rated as some of the country’s 250 most backward districts. We are present in that region to improve the livelihood (options) of small farm holding households in India through making their farming systems more sustainable and more profitable.

The Fableists > How many farmers are now part of your collective and how do they benefit?

Ayan > Currently we are working with 15,000+ farmers across the areas mentioned.
The benefits they are provided are:

  • Premium: Organic cotton generally would receive a premium over and above the market price. This premium is very important for a small farmer whose income is just sufficient to feed his/her family with one meal;
  • Low investment: Organic farming normally does not involve capital investment as high as that required in chemical farming. Agriculture greatly depends on external factors such as climate, pests, disease. Further, most of the small farmers are dependent on natural rain for water, as they are based in far off tribal areas. Therefore in cases of natural calamity, pest or disease attack, and irregular rainfall, when there is a crop failure, small farmers practicing organic farming have to suffer less as their investments are low;
  • High return on investment: Compared to BT (conventional) there is a high Return on Investment for farmers, thereby creating social impact;
  • Traditional knowledge: Small farmers have abundance of traditional knowledge with them and within their community. Most of this traditional knowledge cannot be used for chemical farming. However, when it comes to organic farming, the farmers can make use of the traditional knowledge;
  • Create community owned and managed assets: The money which is received as Fairtrade premium is used for creating assets for the farmer groups and cooperatives towards local institution building, thereby fulfilling the “Gandhian concept of local Self-Sustainability”. The farmers of our various cooperatives in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Odhisa have built a storage warehouse with 560 MT capacity and Water Treatment plant at Karimnagar in Andhra Pradesh, Bio Fertilizer unit at Amravati in Maharashtra, Dal processing unit/5 MT/Per day and purchased a tractor at Akola in Maharashtra, Rice processing unit at Golamunda in Odhisa and Dal processing unit/5 MT/Per day at Bhawanipatna in Odhisa.

The Fableists > Are there a lot of farming collectives in your region now? If so, do you work together?

Ayan > Yes. There are a lot of farming collectives in the region compared to 10 years ago. We do work with some but not all because there are some activities that are done with the use of chemicals and pesticides, which will deviate from our major environment objective of being organic.

The Fableists > Apart from cotton, are any other crops grown by your collective? What are they used for?

Ayan > Yes, they also grow pulses, soya bean, millets, etc. It is used for self consumption as well as for commercial purpose.

The Fableists > Where and to whom do your collective crops mostly get sold?

Ayan > The products are sold domestically as well as internationally in Europe and Japan. Some of our buyers are Fellisimo, Rajalakshmi, Armstrong, C&A, Jackpot, H&M, Marks and Spencers, Sainsburys, and more.

The Fableists > Why organic?

Ayan > It is the belief of the organic farming community that organic farming minimizes the need for chemical inputs thereby limiting damage to health and the environment. It is a more sustainable method of farming than conventional techniques and biodiversity is promoted. Intensive farming is said to destroy the fertility of the land but with organic farming and sustainable crop rotations, soil health is improved. However, weed control is carried out mainly by mechanical cultivation methods thereby disrupting the soil structure, releasing carbon into the atmosphere, removing valuable moisture and increasing soil erosion.

There is a potential in organic farming to create systems that give farm animals good welfare, and current research does not contradict this. However, there are some dilemmas caused by the underlying philosophy, and these must be recognized and discussed so that solutions can be found which promote animal welfare within the given framework. At the same time, the organic approach can open up for new ways of thinking and for innovative solutions. Organic farmers must take animal welfare issues seriously.
Organic farming is substantially based in eco-centric ethics, and the overall goal is to create sustainable agro ecosystems. However, animal welfare has, from the start, been an important goal and animal welfare concerns in organic farming can be supported by the underlying philosophy.

The Fableists > Tell us about the certification you have received.

Ayan > We are certified by 3 agencies:

  • Control Union (CU)-For being organic
  • Aditi-For being organic
  • FloCert-For being Fairtrade (FT)

The Fableists > How have the prices your farmers are receiving for their crops changed since you were founded (in 2004)?

Ayan > They never knew the benefits of doing organic farming. Once they started to do it; they realized that they would receive a premium for the products produced by them. It has become guaranteed for them that they will receive a higher price … and also the MSP (Minimum Support Price).

The Fableists > What are Chetna’s goals and objectives over the next 5 years?

Ayan >

Goal: To improve the livelihood options of Indian small farm holding households (we are working with about 40,000+ farmers not all engaged in organic cotton value chain); we hope to touch 100,000 farmers through making their farming systems more sustainable and more profitable.

Objectives over the next 5 years: Procurement, processing and marketing of 2500 tonnes of organic and fair trade certified cotton lint, produced by around 12,000 small and marginal tribal farmers. This is expected to translate into a total business value of approximately INR 20 Cr. Procurement and processing of 1000 tonnes of various food crops (e.g. Soya, pulses, rice etc.) – in partnership with the local cooperatives, is expected to generate revenue of approximately INR 3 Cr.

Establishment of related community owned infrastructure (through part financial contribution from the community) at co-operative level that supports the farmer’s business activity. Infrastructure envisaged are Dal Mill in Adilabad (for pulses processing), Vegetables grading and transport facility in Karimnagar, Bio fertilizer production facility (to support organic farming), shade nets and green houses etc.

The Fableists > And how about for the long term?
Ayan >

  • To demonstrate an ecologically and socially sustainable delivery model for poverty elevation through development of an organic and ethical supply chain.
  • Empowerment of farmers through prompting collective decision making, appropriate training and promoting greater participation in food and garment supply chains by moving up the value chain.
  • Consumer education and sensitizing of supply chain constituents towards creation of an ecologically safe and socially sustainable market system which is a win-win for all.
  • To achieve operational and financial self sufficiency of COAPCL through business operations

The Fableists > Has the suicide rate amongst farmers struggling with the cycle of debt in the areas that Chetna works decreased as a result of your effort?

Ayan > The suicide rate has decreased gradually in the areas where Chetna is working. It is important that the farmers are given necessary support that they require to become sustainable and to mitigate risk under different circumstances.

The Fableists > Is collective farming the future for farming in India? Can the smallholder survive on its own anymore?

Ayan > The smallholder farmer would be able to survive on its own only if he is not exploited and fetches the ‘right’ (not economically, with asymmetric bargaining powers, but (fair) price if offered in the market. But it is unlikely to happen in India. Therefore, collective farming is looking like the future for farming in India to get the ‘right’ price for the farmers for their produce. It also becomes easier for the farmers to raise finance for themselves through collective farming.

Meet our R&D Gal, Ruby Griffiths

Ruby Griffiths, Fableists

Ruby Griffiths, Fableists

My name is Ruby and I do research and development. I am quickly going to tell you a bit about how I ended up here. My journey began around age 15 when I had to choose what I wanted to take for my A-levels. Going to an art college in London studying business, sociology, psychology and philosophy was an interesting experience considering I had chosen the least artistic subjects – this is probably because I am the least artistic person I know.

Yet it was here where my deep love for psychology began to blossom and I decided that I wanted to carry on with further education studying just this. Before embarking on this adventure, however, I took a gap year. I wanted to work and earn some money but I also wanted to go away and find new experiences and new challenges (despite being so young!). I have always felt a deep desire to help people in some way or another and so I spent 4 months in Arizona at a mental health clinic where I provided a helping hand.

Not only did it open my eyes to the array of methods to try and help people, but it was the beginning of my understanding of sustainability and what it means. Daily life wasn’t simply centred on peace of mind but also about looking after your environment and culture. There were vegetable patches where the patients would cultivate their own food and they were made to participate in equine therapy. Equally, there were numerous discussions of caring for our environment and creating a caring culture. This opened my eyes to how the environment touches everything and it impressed me that it was a big part of treatment.

After this I took my degree by the horns; I had been accepted into Royal Holloway University to do a bachelor of science in Psychology. Here I decided to hibernate behind my books for the next 3 years. When I finished I started to search for a career – I wanted to point it towards caring for the world in which we live, in some way.

I was lucky to have Matt come along just as the search had begun to look fruitless. I had been told before our first meeting to read a book by Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS shows, called ‘Start Something that Matters’. It’s an incredible story about a man who goes to Argentina and comes home with an idea and a dream and turns it into something spectacular. So going in I knew he wanted to create a children’s clothing range that made a difference but I had no idea how he was going to achieve this.

When I arrived and Matt turned up he sat down, talked with me a bit about the book and then took out his tablet from his bag. Here he brought up 5 sketches he’d done himself of what he wanted his collection to look like. There were so many ideas in his mind but hardly a business plan. But what Matt captivated me with was his story (or ‘fable’ as The Fableists would say) about sustainability and how to get children and parents excited by it.

This is not an easy message to get across to people, but in one meeting Matt had hooked me, and so began our 10 month journey that had led us here. I have been able to watch a wonderful transformation as a man’s brilliant idea has been put into action. In a mere 10 months so much has happened and everyday I learn more and more, I have been privileged to be involved in such a unique and special project.

The Fableists Speak at WWF One Planet Leaders MBA at Exeter University

WWF One Planet Leaders MBA at Exeter University

WWF One Planet Leaders MBA at Exeter University

The Fableists were recently invited to speak at the WWF One Planet Leaders MBA at Exeter University. Jean-Paul (JP) Jeanrenaud MSc. Oxon., of the WWF and Director of the MBA programme ask us to come along and present to the group of MBA candidates. We were honoured to be asked. For us, it’s a great place to tell more people about what we are up to and to discuss our business with the business leaders, CSOs and huge brains that happened to be there from all over the planet. We all love the WWF (who doesn’t, right?) and feel this MBA they are running will help change the world by creating future leaders of businesses that see things a different way – the right way, as far as we are concerned.

So, on Thursday the 13th of June 2013, Ruby and Matt got up and told the story of The Fablesists and were put through their paces. It was really exciting and great to be challenged on all points of our story. We were questioned in an intelligent way about what we are doing and why. We had a 3 hour slot which rattled past in no time and then had the wonderful experience of setting the crowd a task or two. They performed the tasks and fed back to us. Wow, their ideas were inspiring.

We spoke not just about more great reasons to be doing what we are doing, but other ways to push the brand. And, interestingly, other regions that the candidates thought that we should launch The Fableists. We felt like we made some new friends and perhaps created some new Fableists to help us along this road.

What a privilege, what a benefit and what a great day. It really was a great moment and made us realise that we not alone in our mission and also how important our business plan really is. You see we are all about collaboration and we think we found some new collaborators.

JP of the WWF commented, “We invited The Fableists to come and inspire the One Planet MBA students because they are a cutting edge example of how all businesses will be in the future. They care, they’re cool and they’re credible. They’re proving that doing the right thing is good for people, planet and profit. Dressing kids responsibly in robust clothes that have a story, lets you trace the journey of the tee-shirt, jacket or jeans from the farmer through the factory-worker to the finished garment in your wardrobe. Your kids can look good and you can feel good knowing that they’re dressed in clothes with a conscience. Wear the story!”

We are next speaking at an event this week in Cannes, France at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

We hope the more we talk, the more people will listen. We hope that in a couple of years all brands will have the same sustainability goals.

Thanks very much to JP at the WWF for this fantastic opportunity.