WorkinFashion.me Presents: Thread Tales
By Yasmin Jones-Henry
A reluctant presentation delivered during second year of my Classics degree on the topic of classical reception, the female gaze and the art of storytelling – opened my eyes to a cross-millennia association between womanhood, agency and the needle and thread. The Classical scholars among you – may know what I’m alluding to. For those unfamiliar with Ovid’s Metamorphoses, I was referring to the myth of Arachne and her tapestries. The assignment my tutor set required me to relate that story to Valesquez’s 17th century painting of ‘The Spinners’ as an interpretation – ‘reception’ of the idea that this cherished art form is interwoven with the heritage of womankind.
In the age of increasing homogeny and preference for gender neutrality and Artificial Intelligence, a narrative that celebrates women, the female entrepreneur (who during the classical era was often armed with a loom or spinning wheel), and craft itself, may be interpreted as controversial. But it is an essential part of our human experience. In today’s world, of the 75 million people working in fashion and textiles globally, the majority of them – are – yup – you guessed it: women. Fast fashion’s victims are predominantly female. The Rana Plaza disaster saw a tragedy that saw many mothers, daughters, women, girls meet their deaths in unsafe working conditions that are endemic to the global textiles manufacturing industry. Their craft instead of being celebrated – was exploited.
‘Fashion is a feminist issue’ Mary Creagh MP (chair of the Environmental Audit Committee) concluded as she addressed a rapt audience at February’s Pure London textiles event in Kensington Olympia. The findings of the Parliamentary Audit Committee’s investigations into the UK’s textiles industry painted a disturbing picture of the level and extent to which many of the high street’s household brands were complicit in keeping this wheel of female exploitation turning. This, combined with the industry’s reliance on unsustainable high impact materials, has left consumers worried about where to turn. I have often asked on this very platform how a brand can truly call themselves ‘luxury’ if they are not ethical to their core.
Sitting in a friend’s living room (Sanja Vukelic, founder of S’Dress) earlier this Spring, I was introduced to Katherine Maunder, founder of Threadtales Company. I’ll be honest. As a journalist who writes about fashion, I am inundated with emails and intros to new and ‘exciting’ ethical start ups. But this one didn’t just capture my attention, their story is one that captivates the imagination.
The story doesn’t begin with the founders. It begins with their mother – a 70+ year old inspirational midwife, who leaves the comfort of her UK home, to ride the back of a motorcycle, visiting remote villages in Myanmar teaching women about safer methods of midwifery in order to help to reduce the country’s child mortality rate. On one of her many trips, she returned with a material made from the lotus flower. Yes. The lotus flower has multiple functions – but I had no idea it could be used in the process of manufacturing biodegradable and sustainably sourced textiles – at least not until Katherine put one of their scarves in my hands to examine.
Surely this is the true definition of luxury. Something that feels luxurious because it is well made, bespoke, crafted by artisans using the very finest materials – and what’s finer than sustainably sourced fibres? It feels good, because the person who has purchased the product, is safe in the knowledge that their transaction is in fact an investment – returning to the villages that weave this innovative material.
Getting to grips with the business side to a socially conscious enterprise, is no easy task. Katherine, a designer by trade – has in the space of a year, established a brand that sits well within the UK’s ethically conscious consumer market. “Thread Tales’ philosophy; ‘Wear something that Means Something’ drives us to create without compromise” Katherine explains, “Our aim is to position ourselves in the luxury market to enable us to use quality materials that sell with high enough margins to succeed in creating a value chain, that delivers decent wages for environmentally and ethically sourced products.”
As recognition of their sustainable credentials Thread Tales have been awarded the Butterfly Mark by Positive Luxury as a ‘brand to trust’. “In addition to sourcing sustainable fabrics, we offset our freight, use environmentally sound packaging and have a zero waste policy” Katherine tells me with pride. Currently the yarn is being processed in Myanmar and mostly woven Nepal (at least 85%) and Myanmar (15%).
Number 8 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: “Decent Work and Economic Growth” is fulfilled with the platform Thread Tales offers the local artisans, as their craft is opened up to a wider global market in search of ethical luxury. Aside from meeting their macroeconomic obligations as an emerging player in the fashion industry, Thread Tales is also an early business success. “Since we started trading in September 2017, we’ve had no returns”, Katherine informs me with a measure of pride. “We’re also selling outside the UK, with customers coming from the US, Finland and Germany” – proving British businesses in the 21st century can still be conduits for positive change on a global scale.
My job is to scour the earth for stories about trailblazers, entrepreneurs and artisans using their gifts to bring a little light to the world. Thread Tales speaks to the fans of female empowerment, to the followers of impact investment and social enterprise. It’s a story of a mother’s ability to inspire her daughters through her indefatigable passion and sense of humanity. It’s the story and celebration of an artisan’s ability to create but also innovate – without harming the environment that gives them shelter. It’s about the ability to use fashion as a force for good – now that’s worth celebrating.
You can learn more about the Thread Tales story by visiting: www.threadtalescompany.com
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