Green Is The New Black: Tracy Mulligan, Creative Director At People Tree

BY A. CADWELL | OCTOBER 2016 

Meet Tracy Mulligan Of People Tree 

People Tree has long been a pioneer in ethical and environmentally sustainable fashion. For over 25 years, the brand has partnered with Fair Trade producers, garment workers, artisans and farmers in the developing world to produce ethical and eco fashion collections. An award winning designer and the lead Creative Director for People Tree, Tracy Mulligan has helped People Tree transform ethical fashion into something contemporary, accessible, and desirable. I was eager to hear Tracy's passion for working with People Tree, her perspective of the brand's design direction and her insights into ethical fashion trends as we head into the cooler seasons.

AS AN AWARD WINNING DESIGNER AND LEAD CREATIVE DIRECTOR FOR PEOPLE TREE, WHAT FUELS YOUR LIFELONG LOVE FOR FASHION?

I grew up in Surrey. Fashion has always been part of our family. My mother had been a seamstress and could knit. Working in fashion was naturally perfect for me. I started making my own clothes as a teenager and I studied fashion and textiles at St Martins School of Art. I love creating collections from initial inspiration boards, its interpretation into silhouettes, colour palette, fabrics, print designs, weaves and embroidery. I love the four to six months design and development process and I love seeing all of the pieces line up into a cohesive collection telling one story. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle that’s coming together until the final piece is finished and then we move on to the next season!

YOU HAVE WIDE-RANGING DESIGN, MANAGEMENT, AND CONSULTANCY EXPERIENCE WITH INTERNATIONALLY RENOWNED BRANDS, WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT WORKING NOW AT PEOPLE TREE?

My favourite thing about working for People Tree is a simple knowledge that my work is continuously improving lives of people who make our clothes. Safia Minney, People Tree’s founder, has changed the way I see the world. Fair Trade means offering better trading conditions to marginalised small producers which do not maximise profits at the workers’ expense. Fair Trade guarantees that small scale farmers, artisans and producers receive a fair and stable price and an additional premium, enabling them to move to economic self-sufficiency and ownership. I also love working with my colleagues at People Tree who are passionate and believe in change. We are all focused on the same positive outcome and they are also a great team. 

WE LOVE PEOPLE TREE FOR THEIR CONSCIOUS AWARENESS OF THE FASHION INDUSTRY’S FLAWS AND IMPACTS. WHAT IS YOUR PERSPECTIVE OF THE SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF THE TRADITIONAL SUPPLY CHAIN AND HOW IS PEOPLE TREE TRYING TO ADDRESS THESE ISSUES?

Ethical and sustainable fashion companies need to link to campaign together and make the green the new black.

I believe that companies such as People Tree are constantly proving that fashion can be produced with respect for people and the planet. The devastating impact of fast fashion is greatly presented in the eye opening documentary The True Cost. Everyone should really watch it. Businesses need to upgrade safety standards for their suppliers and should be held accountable if not following these processes through. Consumers are increasingly looking for transparency in supply chains. This has been brought on after the horrific collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, an industrial tragedy, killing 1,134 garment workers and injuring thousands more. I am also worried about the continual growth of fast fashion and the amount of garments produced. The estimates say over 80 billion garments are produced each year worldwide. Ethical and sustainable fashion companies need to link to campaign together and make the green the new black. 

The choices and considerations for the modern consumer can be very overwhelming. What do you look for personally when you’re trying to purchase clothing and accessories responsibly or ethically?

Identify your priority – there is so much to get behind in ethical fashion. Safe working conditions, living wages, organic cotton, second hand or environmentally safe production. Always be mindful and read what each brand offers on their website as well as press articles. Follow ethical hubs for news on ethical fashion. Credentials and labels really guarantee the trust and transparency. Certifications like Fair Trade, GOTS for organic, FSC for Tencel or OEKO-TEX for trims can help to ensure that people know if products are made to the highest ethical and environmental standards. If I want to buy an ethically made piece I cannot source easily, I also buy from charities. I support such as Oxfam as this prevents clothes from going to landfills. 


We can’t get enough of People Tree’s aesthetic. How would you describe People Tree’s unique design direction and what inspires it?

People Tree’s aesthetic has evolved over the past eight years I have been here. We love nature and wildlife and so do our customers. Our prints are always inspired by nature. We also like the sense of fun and this is reflected in our prints and t-shirts. We create styles that are feminine and contemporary. You can find styles which suit different body shapes and age range as we are all unique. Each piece has versatility considered – wear to work to event, week to weekend, day to evening. I love that People Tree is affordable and offers investment pieces such as those made of 100% certified organic cotton. Using traditional skills and technologies such as hand weaving, hand block printing or hand embroidery in a contemporary way enables creating employment in rural areas where work is always scarce as well as preserving the culture and the heritage of countries we produce in. The fabric design is also unique to People Tree and is limited edition seasonally. 

ANY FASHION INSPIRATION OR TIPS AS WE HEAD INTO AUTUMN AND WINTER? ANY TRENDS AHEAD THAT YOU ARE PARTICULARLY EXCITED ABOUT? 

I think it is always best to follow your style and what suits you. Look for pieces that are investments and you can wear year on year. I am personally very excited about layering, which is a key look this season easily understood in the polo neck under dresses, jumpers or shirts. This practically means that you can use your pieces all year round!