15 minutes with… People Tree Creative Director, Tracy Mulligan

Push is honoured to have partnered with People Tree, the world’s first clothing company to receive the World Fair Trade Organisation Fair Trade product mark in 2013, on forthcoming PR projects that will continue to champion ethical and environmentally sustainable fashion made with the utmost respect of people and the planet.

People Tree collections – contemporary, versatile, innovative and affordable – are designed in-house by teams that include Fair Trade producers, garment workers, artisans and farmers; this is integral to the way the company does business.

We spoke to Tracy Mulligan, Creative Director at People Tree to talk more about trust, taboos around ethical fashion, storytelling and future-proofing.

Fairtrade and organic cotton farmers at Gujarat, India.

For those unfamiliar, People Tree is…?
People Tree is a fashion brand with a cool difference. We have the highest ethical and eco credentials in the industry today. We have been busy with this for over 25 years!

What does Fair Trade mean to you?
It ensures that all the employees who make the clothes from the very beginning of the life of the garment – planting the cotton seed, to the customer receiving the garment have received a fair wage and are working in safe conditions with the environmental impact being kept to the minimum.

What change have you personally implemented at People Tree and how did you action it?
When I started at People Tree over nine years ago, I set about improving the quality and streamlining production creating more positions within the tech team. I wanted to create fashion pieces that were equal in desirability to conventional fashion brands.

I have also worked with the team to provide opportunities and training to our smaller artisan groups who are now confidently producing beautifully tailored contemporary hand woven pieces. Last year I was appointed as Creative Director at People Tree; I feel as the eco fashion market is changing, we are making changes at People Tree too.

This year I have introduced beautiful Tencel® pieces to the collection which has been a huge success as they are already selling out on our website! This is currently our biggest growth area. What’s great about this is that the large increase in orders to Creative Handicrafts, our amazing producer partner. They are now able to give extra work to the women from the slums in Mumbai and with childcare support too! Being a mother I know how valuable it is to be able to support your children and their education.

Ethical fashion brands can still be let down by poor design, would you agree? How has People Tree been positioned as both stylish and sustainable?
Yes I would agree, in the past this may have been true. But not anymore! When I came to People Tree I had experience of creating an extremely successful designer fashion brand. I had sold my collections to many of the major designer stores such as Harvey Nichols and Collette Paris. I had stopped designing to have children but the opportunity to join People Tree came up. I loved the idea of the challenge to turn People Tree into a fashion brand which is sold in conventional fashion stores and that is exactly where we have continued to grow our orders annually.

It’s great to see other seriously eco fashion brands emerging, and sustainability being the hot topic of today. But sadly, workers’ rights are still not the focus for many of these companies and that’s where People Tree is still different. We will keep showing the industry how business could be done and the more we grow the more people we can help.


What/who inspires the design process?
The People Tree design team love fashion and are very aware of trends but our inspiration comes from core beliefs and that can be seen in our slogan t-shirts like our current Equality or Respect tee. The theme for our SS17 collection is Playful Nature. We had fun playing with stripes, words, bold colours and creating hand woven stripes.

Nature and wildlife is reflected in our abstract floral and geo prints, which are all unique to the brand and designed exclusively in house. Our AW17 collection named Urban Nature is inspired by the changing colours of the seasons and nature reflected in contemporary fashion pieces.

Given the current political landscape, consumers now demand complete transparency from brands. How does People Tree continue to gain trust and convey truth?
I think it’s always best to stay authentic and tell honest stories. I believe People Tree constantly proves that fashion can be done with respect for people and the planet at the same time as creating fantastic fashion. Our certifications give the guarantee we are doing what we say we are doing.

In an age of ‘stuffocation’ brands championing the fact that less is more is key, how is People Tree supporting this dialogue?
At People Tree, we are great advocates for treasuring fashion pieces for longer and this is always reflected in our collections. High quality and natural fabrics are key. Moreover, each piece is considered in terms of versatility – wear to work, to an event, week to weekend, or day to evening.

How does People Tree leverage its story across social media? What successes have you seen?
Storytelling has become more important for brands in the saturated space of social media. Absolute customer integration into the People Tree World is our core strategy. People Tree is a brand that tells honest, real stories no matter what the channels and that’s what will help to create such compelling content. It’s important to tell every authentic story in creative ways, using different communications channels with clear aesthetics. People Tree lifestyle has become synonymous with slow living and getting the brand out there to like-minded audience, brands, influencers and ambassadors is key.

Is People Tree fit for the future?
Ethical fashion is a growing industry, many brands are waking up to this and there are great new eco fabrics which are being created. This gives us more and more versatility to create great fashion collections so watch this space.

Tailoring at People Tree Fair Trade partner Creative Handicrafts, India...

Want to know more about this brand? Need to bag yourself a slogan tee? Head across to the website to read more on the People Tree story and shop the latest.

Push x

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