Counter Culture The Third Estate
We meet the owners of ethical clothing shop The Third Estate
Counter Culture: The Third Estate
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Independent shop The Third Estate specialises in high-quality, highly desirable clothing with a heart. We meet its owners, Angela Corcoran and James Beal, and discover there’s more to ‘fair’ fashion than hemp handbags
What personal morals and ethics have you embodied in Third Estate?
James: I’ve been vegan for around ten years, and Angela has been vegetarian for 13. We both try and live a ‘low-impact’ lifestyle - we try to avoid shopping in the big chains, where we can’t be sure of a product’s source.
Angela: I gained an awareness of Fairtrade from my mum, who always shopped at Traidcraft. To me, where and how something has been made is just as important as what it looks like.
What moved you to start Third Estate?
James: I used to co-own a record shop, where we began to sell vegetarian shoes. We got a great response, and used the space above the shop to sell quality hand-made and non-sweatshop clothing. We wanted to continue selling these after the record shop closed, so Third Estate was the logical continuation.
Angela: Also, when we went shopping, there was nowhere that we were happy to go. The problem is, a lot of people still think that ‘ethical’ clothing means hippy rainbow tops and tie-dye!
What kind of response have you had from customers in Leeds to the products you sell?
James: There are a lot of people in Leeds that actively look for ‘alternatives’ to the high street, and we like to think we provide this, by selling good-quality clothing with a moral aspect that people actually want to buy. We realise that most people wouldn’t buy things like vegetarian shoes, because they simply don’t realise they’re available - that’s what we want to change.
Angela: Because of our hidden-away location, people have to make the effort to come here, so when people like our shop and what we do and keep coming back, that’s a great feeling. A guy came in here recently, and actually thanked us for allowing him to ‘find’ our shop!
What brands do you sell, and why did you specifically choose these?
James: All the products we sell have a different aspect that fits our ideal. One of our biggest brands is Fred Perry, but we sell only their clothes made in the UK. We’re particularly excited to sell Athletic shoes, as they’re made in good factories in Pakistan where workers receive a fair wage, and the rubber they use is Forest Stewardship Council-approved and fairly traded with the rubber tappers.
Angela: We also focus on handmade and locally produced clothing, for example, we have ‘recycled’ clothing designed by a friend of mine in Manchester, which is totally unique but also inexpensive.
How easy is it to survive alongside the low-priced, high street behemoths?
Angela: We can’t compete on prices with chain stores, because we can’t mass-produce in the way they can. The only way you can buy things made in the UK and Europe, things made in limited numbers or completely ‘ethically’ is by paying more money for it. There’s simply no such thing as cheap clothes - everything comes at a cost somehow, and it’s terrible that people have this mindset that they can just buy cheaply and then throw things away. We don’t see our clothes as ‘disposable’, they’re unique and designed to last, and our customers really appreciate that.
What is the future for Third Estate?
James: We’d love to be able to stock more clothing made in Leeds, and we’ve already spoken to designers at the Art College. We’re working towards an ideal of everything we sell being incredible, affordable, and all made fairly in the UK - it’s a while away yet, but we’re making progress!
Posted on Wednesday 4th March 2009
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