Organic uniform my shorts?

10th March 2006 at 00:00
They may not be edible but for right-on, middle-class parents and environmentally-aware children they are the new must-have product: the organic fair trade school uniform.

Clean Slate, a family company in Derbyshire, is about to start selling clothing made from cotton grown in southern India without pesticides or insecticides.

The uniforms are then manufactured in Tamil Nadu by women workers, many of whom are disabled, who are paid a decent wage and overseen by a group of benevolent Franciscan nuns.

The clothes are dyed without the use of azur, which can damage water supplies.

Mark Rogers set up the business with Kerry Summers, his wife, after he had difficulty finding ethically-produced schoolwear for Sienna, his eight-year-old step-daughter.

He said: "You can find school polo shirts in shops for pound;1.50, which is less than I pay for a sandwich. And you start thinking - how can they make that and pay someone a living wage? Are other children making your child's uniform in a sweatshop?"

Mr Rogers said the clothes, which will be available in all standard colours and types, would be a few pounds more expensive than the cheaper uniforms in shops but would be better quality.

Clean Slate has already received an order for 250 PE kits from a primary school and hopes to begin selling its full range in the next month.

Mr Rogers, who is American, began his career as a sculptor and still works on his art. "My 13 seconds of fame was probably when I had some commissions during the Clinton presidency and built a 30ft-diameter bird's nest out of wood on the White House lawn," he said.

Reactions on The TES online staffroom to the clothes were mostly positive, although some said they would only appeal to families with children called Tarquin or Jocasta. "The irony is the organic uniform will be worn by those who are ferried to school in posh trucks," one teacher said.

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