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Fast fashion brought tragedy to Bangladesh’s garment industry. Now Zandra Rhodes and People Tree are giving skilled female workers a brighter future. Lucy Siegle joins them in Dhaka
When Zandra Rhodes touches down at Dhaka airport it’s as if a rock star has arrived. Her trademark pink bobbed hair and matching outfit strike a chord in Arrivals and a small crowd rushes up to her, camera phones aloft. “You look beautiful,” says one man, snapping away. “Thank you!” she purrs. Rhodes has arrived in Bangladesh via Mumbai (where she’s busy designing part of the airport, apparently). She is always busy and it seems she has been since the 1960s, when she left the Royal College of Art and set up her first shop on the Fulham Road. Her bold prints in outrageous colours have since been worn by everyone from Diana, Princess of Wales, to Kylie Minogue. Rhodes is here to oversee production on her collaboration with the affordable ethical brand People Tree – and to see how local garment production can be made as good as it can get.
This is the second time she has worked with People Tree and its founder, Safia Minney. For years Minney has worked with the same organic farming co-operative in India to produce Fairtrade cotton. Now she’s bringing it to Bangladesh to be woven on hand looms (an ethical trade first). Part of Rhodes’s collection will then be block-printed and tailored in Bangladesh, too.
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