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Katharine Hamnett to sever Tesco tie-up

Katharine Hamnett has said that she is to pull her organic and fair-trade clothing range out of Tesco.
Speaking exclusively to Drapers, Hamnett said the tight distribution and lack of merchandising of her Choose Love at Tesco line had caused her to question Tesco’s dedication to the range.

She added that the UK’s largest retailer had failed to deliver shop-in-shops and an extended kidswear range under the Choose Love brand.

Hamnett, who is famed for championing green and ethical causes, said she was “incredibly disappointed” with her tie-up with Tesco, adding that she would not renew her contract when it ends in November 2008.

“Choose Love is only available in 40 stores and the merchandising is practically non-existent,” she said. “The collection is relatively small, but I envisaged a far bigger range. Farmers can raise their incomes by 50% by converting to organic cotton. I had hoped that demand from Tesco would have been much higher.”

She added: “I was initially really excited about the tie-up because I thought we could increase demand for ethical products. Tesco could have been the Marks & Spencer of organic cotton. But I’ve come to the conclusion that it simply wants to appear ethical, rather than make a full commitment to the range.”

Consumer awareness of ethical and environmental issues has rocketed in the past 12 months. Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy outlined the retailer’s plans to address these issues in January (see box below).

But the sourcing director of one retailer said: “If your ethical offer is based around grabbing headlines rather than substance, you’ll inevitably come unstuck.”

Hamnett’s criticism of Tesco’s support for her range follows headlines questioning other fashion retailers’ commitment to wider ethical issues. The Sunday Times alleged that Sir Philip Green’s Kate Moss for Topshop range was made by Mauritius-based supplier Compagnie Mauricienne de Textile, which it claimed used slave labour.

The Guardian also waded into the debate with front-page headlines about Primark, Mothercare, Gap, Matalan and H&M using an Indian supplier that allegedly pays workers as little as £1.13 for a nine-hour day.

Hamnett is hunting for new deals to replace the Tesco tie-up. She has secured deals with footwear group Terra Plana and knitwear brand John Smedley for spring 08 and autumn 08 respectively.
When Hamnett’s comments were put to Tesco, a spokesperson said:

“We are proud to be the first to offer Katharine Hamnett organic clothing and are continuing to expand both our fair trade and organic offering for spring.”

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