Everywhere I go the team call it ‘Safia week.’ That’s because there’s always a lot to do.
Here’s a sample of a day in my life in Tokyo:
8.30 – Meeting with the Directors to finalise the People Tree Fair Trade chocolate order – it’s made with Bolivian cocoa and muscavado brown sugar from the Philippines and is one of People Tree Japan’s most popular products. We talk about running events to raise awareness of the trade issues that sugar and cocoa farmers face in the developing world.
9.30 – Meet with the Comms team to discuss our 10th and 20th year anniversary in the UK and Japan – lots of campaigns and new things happening.
10.30 – Off to the Bangladesh Embassy to meet Mr Manzurul Haque who is standing in as Ambassador to explain how the closure of the largest land port Benapole has forced cotton yarn prices to double, resulting in over 50,000 handweavers losing their jobs as prices of clothing become uncompetitive. We discuss the issue and have a nice cup of tea together and Mr Haque promises to send my letter to key people in Friday’s diplomatic bag. I wear my Fair Trade handwoven dress from Bangladesh designed by my favourite Japanese designer Mihara Yasuhiro.
12.30 A quick organic lunch with Misao our business development manager and Naoko our General Manager.
13.30 We start the Spring/Summer 2011 collection meeting, going through samples, fitting them and making final tweaks to each handmade garment and the whole range. Building our collection is always an interesting challenge as we have such a diverse range of customers – department stores, boutiques and Fair Trade shops as well as our own stores and mail order customers. There’s a lot of feedback and ideas from our customers too! Next week I’ll be doing the same in London.
15.30 - I meet with Marcia, from Bombolulu Workshops in Mombasa who is here visiting us from Kenya as a guest for World Fair Trade Day. We discuss quality issues and new techniques to develop new designs to bring work to the 150 physically challenged people they employ. The world recession has affected Bombolulu export sales and we need to help them now (link).
We’ve designed a new collection using the indigenous skills of hand twisted and hand beaten brass together with beautiful natural stones. The collection is top secret, so no more clues!
17.00 We have People Tree monthly team meeting together with Raihan Ali who’s visiting us from Swallows in Bangladesh. He tells us how Fair Trade makes a difference to women in the villages where Swallows employs 250 women. Raihan was asked how Swallows has changed since People Tree started working with them. He told us , “we had a small room with 17 handlooms and a dye unit. There was an iron roof and bamboo walls and one day the walls just blew away in a storm. Today we have a proper roof and walls and a new handicraft centre where we can employ 250 women. At the time People Tree started working with us we had just lost our only Fair Trade customer and people in the Fair Trade movement were saying there was only a future for Fair Trade foods and handicrafts not textiles. People Tree helped us to completely turn around our project and is still 70% of our sales today”
We also shared People Tree’s plans and activities from each department – there are nearly 50 in the team in Japan.
18.00 – I join the sales managers to talk about a design collaboration with a new baby/kids retail brand who want to partner with People Tree. They are very charming and very passionate and shake my hand a lot (which is very unusual in Japan. I got the royal treatment!) I feel very excited when big business wants to do the right thing! Let’s see…
19.00 – Dinner with Raihan, Naoko and Miki a great friend who is assisting me tomorrow for the People Tree Autumn Winter photoshoot. I have a glass of wine and lots of fun – but get home and can’t sleep – I’m so excited about the photoshoot tomorrow – I’m shooting!!
I sleep for ONE hour OMG! This is going to be great and I’m going to have to be full of energy and at my best. The next day is starting at 4am! And I still can’t sleep…