British consumers spent £5 million on fair trade clothing last year, a figure set to double this year.
In exclusive figures revealed to Drapers, the Fairtrade Foundation this week identified the size of the clothing market for the first time. Total fair trade sales for all products in the UK were up by 46% during the same period, from £195m to £290m.
Fairtrade Foundation non-food product manager Tamara Thomas said she expected sales of fair trade cotton to soar this year. "We are getting more and more enquiries from organisations, including high street retailers, on a weekly basis. The number of calls has doubled in the past six months."
The organisation has now secured eight new suppliers of Fairtrade-certified cotton to cope with increasing demand in the UK, creating a pool of 23 farming groups available to UK retailers.
John Snare, director of ethical brand Braintree Hemp Clothing, said he expected the market to double this year. "The real growth will come in the next year five years as ethical fashion filters into the mainstream," he said.
Topshop is the latest retailer to outline its next phase for fair trade - the retailer already stocks fair trade brand People Tree. This month Topshop launches its first own-brand fair trade T-shirt line as part of a wider initiative by the Arcadia-owned chain. The range hits all of its stores next week, retailing at £12.
In addition, Topshop is to introduce a further line, Design4Life Ghana, into its flagship Oxford Street store in London and online from April. It will comprise dresses and bags made in Ghana using batik fabrics. A window in the Oxford Street store will also be devoted to the launch.
Topshop buyer Claire Hamer said: "By supporting producers in Africa we are encouraging sustainability and fair wages for workers. By helping their development these farmers will one day be able to develop organic fabrics."
The Topshop launch follows Next's debut this week of an own-brand Faritrade-certified cotton kidswear line in 210 stores, priced from £6 for a pack of three T-shirts. It plans to expand the range into womenswear.