Ambassador story: Katharine Hamnett

Katharine Hamnett has a message for the fashion industry—‘no more fashion victims’. The iconic British fashion designer and Fair Wear member has been printing that statement on T-shirts since the beginning of her career back in the 1980s. Her bold designs are one way she works to raise awareness about the way our clothes are made.

At a Fair Wear conference in 2017, Hamnett spoke to a crowd of fellow Fair Wear member brands about why she is still fighting for garment workers today. She said that although awareness is starting to grow, there’s still a long way to go to make the industry more ethical and sustainable. Her talk tied in with the theme of the conference which explored how member brands can increase their influence by inspiring other brands and industry actors to take responsibility and act.

That was Hamnett’s message to fellow Fair Wear member brands. While she emphasised the importance and role legislation plays in protecting the people who make our clothes, she also encouraged Fair Wear member brands to keep pushing to make fair fashion the norm. Leading by example, she said, is the best way to affect change.

Hamnett’s role as an activist within the garment industry began when she first started looking closer into her brand’s production practices in 1989. In an interview with Vogue UK, she explained: ‘We thought we weren’t going to find anything wrong. Of course, we found everything wrong.’ From widespread workers’ rights violations to toxic pollution created by the cotton industry, the findings were a wake-up call for her. Shortly after, she switched to using organic cotton and moved her production back to Europe. Much like Fair Wear, she recognises that creating widespread change is a continuous process of improvement. That means that she’s always searching for fairer and more sustainable ways of producing her signature designs. In 2018, her brand joined Fair Wear to take their commitment one step further. With a goal of being completely traceable and transparent by 2020, Hamnett is out to prove that changing the industry from within is possible.

Learn more about Fair Wear member brand Katharine Hamnett.

Photo: William Pine