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Christmas shopping idea: Fair@Square fair trade festival

Iona Salter

Thu Dec 01 2011

Fair@Square fair trade and ethical fashion show

WANT to give a gift with meaning this Christmas? A fair trade and ethical festival is coming to Federation Square this weekend, showcasing fair trade fashion, homewares and ideas.

THE Fair@Square Festival is set to take place this weekend at Federation Square.

The festival is Australia’s largest fair trade and ethical festival. Organisers aim to demonstrate how people in Australia can – through the things they buy – create a sustainable future, value and respect all people and preserve the planet.

Festival directors Susanna Bevilacqua and Boby Vosinthavong, who started the festival in 2009, have both spent time in producer communities in the developing world in an attempt to understand producers’ lives and needs.

“We travelled extensively, in particular in Southeast Asia, we saw some of the very poor communities in those areas,” Susanna says.

“Boby’s mum runs a fair trade cooperative in Laos and we saw the benefits of that – empowering people, providing people with employment opportunities, paying them the right way.”

Fair@Square fair trade and ethical festival directors Susanna Bevilacqua and Boby Vosinthavong were motivated by their travels in Southeast Asia

Fair@Square fair trade and ethical festival directors Susanna Bevilacqua and Boby Vosinthavong were motivated by their travels in Southeast Asia

Susanna says the pair have been motivated by a desire to improve peoples’ capacities to provide for themselves and their families.

“One of the things that affected me was, for example, when I travelled in Vietnam, visiting some of the orphanages, and some of the kids that were there – not all of them were orphans,” she says.

“Some of them, their parents couldn’t afford to keep them so they put them there. And that’s really sad when parents don’t have a choice.

“I’ve got a small son and thinking that I couldn’t provide for him would be very difficult for me.”

Shopping fairly

There has been an increase in consumers’ awareness of and interest in fair trade recently, according to research conducted for the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand.

The sale of Fairtrade Certified products rose almost 200 per cent between 2009 and 2010, reaching almost AU$150 million.

Melbourne City Councillor Cathy Oake told Eco News it was fantastic to see Melbourne leading the way in the promotion of fair trade and ethical products.

“It’s a timely event too, just weeks before Christmas, and will encourage sustainable purchases when more often these days people want to give gifts with meaning or purpose,” she said.

The festival will showcase products by a range of ethical producers including Oxfam, Cadbury and Lush.

Fair@Square 2011 boasts more than 80 market stalls, as well as workshops, talks and live music performances. The stalls will feature fair trade, organic and culturally diverse products from around the globe.

Shoppers will be able to gain further understanding of ethical production processes and how their purchase decisions affect others.

Fair fashion

One of this years’ festival’s highlights is the Ethical Fashion Show this Friday. Australian Idol contestant Emelia Rusciano will MC the show, which will display a mixture of fair trade, recycled, organic and handmade items on the catwalk.

RMIT fashion and textile students will be selling silk scarves, woven in Laos and printed with their designs.

The Scarf Project aims to raise money for not-for-profit organisation Lao Sericulture, for the establishment of clean water filters and toilets for schools and hospitals in remote villages in Laos.

The designs on the scarves are hand-printed by students on silk supplied by Mulberries, an organisation that trains and provides tools to silk worm cultivators, silk weavers and dyers in Laos.

Ethical fashion designs by SOSUME, which will feature at the Fair@Square fair trade and ethical fashion show at BMW Edge

Ethical fashion designs by SOSUME, which will feature at the Fair@Square fair trade and ethical fashion show at BMW Edge

Student Loredana Camarata, who contributed to The Scarf Project, says it was great to take part in something a bit different.

“It was great to know the background to the fabric, and it’s made us think a little bit more about the end use of our designs but also where it’s starting from,” Loredana says.

She adds there is definitely a growing awareness of ethical and fair trade fashion among her peers.

Loredana’s classmate Sarah Hickey says she’s always had an interest in fashion that is sustainable.

Her designs were inspired by the concept of “upcycling” (which transforms waste or useless products into products of better quality), with the leaf-like prints on her scarves printed using onion skins.

Other highlights include a walk-through display of what a sustainable home looks like – also a collaboration with RMIT students – and of course, a chance to Christmas shop.

“If people are thinking of Christmas shopping, they want to find something different, or are thinking of doing Christmas shopping ethically, come to the event,” Susanna says.

The Fair@Square Ethical Fashion Show will be held on Friday, 2 December 2011 from 7.30pm to 9.00pm. Check the event page for more information and ticket bookings.

Fair@Square 2011 will be a free public event. It will run from 11.00am to 6.00pm, Saturday, 3 December 2011 and Sunday, 4 December 2011. The full program can be viewed on the website.