The innovators: Clare Lissaman

Posted in Style
by Make it last on 2 February, 2015

I wanted to save the world and overcome poverty.

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“As an idealistic student, I wanted to save the world and overcome poverty,” Clare says. “Trade rather than aid seemed to be the way forward. Plus, we all wear clothes.” A degree in Chinese led to work in Hong Kong and the mainland, which included visits to many factories. “While I was concerned about working conditions, there were no tools to help,” Clare says. “I would insist on visiting the dormitories and sitting down in the canteen and talking to the workers.”

Having moved on to the NGO sector, and back to the UK, Arthur & Henry was born out of experiences Clare had gathered as a consultant – and one incident in particular. “I was speaking on behalf of the Ethical Fashion Forum at the World Congress on Organic Cotton,” Clare says. “Someone asked ‘who here is wearing organic cotton’ and almost none of the men – who were all dressed up in smart work shirts and suits – were. They said that they would love to, but couldn’t buy smart shirts suitable for work in organic cotton. So I thought someone should make some.” Arthur & Henry subsequently launched in 2012.

“The biggest rewards have been both the positive comments from our customers who love the quality of our shirts and the fact they are organic, and also how happy our tailors are to be making our shirts,” Clare says. “Seriously, they are really passionate about our brand.” The biggest challenge? “Getting people to know we exist!”

When it comes to offering advice to others who would like to make the fashion industry more sustainable, Clare argues that they should learn as much as they can. “The Ethical Fashion Forum’s SOURCE is a great resource,” she says. “Join in with other people: initiatives, certifications, collaboration makes all things easier. Develop an ethical policy and communicate it to your suppliers and your customers. Talk to your suppliers and – crucially – listen to them as well.” Some of her favourite projects – apart from Arthur & Henry – are Elvis & Kresse’s upcycled fire-hose accessories, Monsieur London men’s accessories sourced from artisan craftspeople around the world, and Traid Remade.

When discussing those who are reluctant to think sustainably, Clare quotes the 18th-century British politician Edmund Burke, who said that ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’. An everyday action that we could all do, Clare adds, is to “turn the thermostat down and put on a jumper.”

To solve the problems in the fashion industry, Clare stresses the need for consumers to become activists: “Individual consumer actions are all good, but if we really want to make a different we also need to be activists, to campaign for industry-wide change.”

Read more here and find Clare’s twitter over here.

Words by Emma Lundin

Clare Lissaman is an ethical and Fair Trade consultant and a co-founder of Arthur & Henry – an ethical shirt manufacturer that she runs with her younger brother Mark and Sreeranga Rajan. The company – named after Clare and Mark’s grandfathers – specializes in organic, ethical fabrics and classic cuts. The result is shirts to cherish.


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