Tummah Ethical Trade: Making Ethical Fashion Accessible & Affordable in New Zealand

Caleb and Anna are passionate about making ethical fashion accessible and affordable to all New Zealanders.

Caleb and Anna are passionate about making ethical fashion accessible and affordable to all New Zealanders.

Written by Lucinda Staniland. Lucinda is a freelance writer and the editor of The Yoga Lunchbox.

Ethical fashion is a conversation that New Zealanders are only just beginning to have. Many of us have become accustomed to searching out, and often paying more for, free-range, local, fairtrade and organic food, and we are well educated on the destructive consequences of industrial agriculture and food production.

And yet, most of us don’t give much thought to where our clothes came from, or, if we do, we give up when we find out that it’s difficult and expensive to find ethical alternatives.

Enter Tummah Ethical Trade, the brainchild of husband and wife team Caleb and Anna.

Tummah Ethical Trade is the first Conscious Consumers accredited business to offer a full range of certified organic and fair trade clothing—with a grand total of 47 products, including underwear, t-shirts and stylish clothing for both men and women. They are also the first 100% online business to be accredited with Conscious Consumers.

The pair became interested in ethical fashion as an extension of their interest in organic food: “We were trying to purchase ethical varieties of foods, and then came the time when we needed replacements for clothes that were wearing out! We searched for ethical clothing in NZ, but there weren’t many options.”

Caleb and Anna knew that they couldn’t be the only people in this situation—at the time, for example, there was no Fairtrade underwear available in NZ—and so Tummah Ethical Trade was born out of a desire to make ethical fashion accessible and affordable to all New Zealanders.

New Zealand’s fashion scene is controlled, as in most western countries, by ‘Fast Fashion’. Like fast food, fast fashion businesses produce large amounts of incredibly cheap, readily available clothing that most of us take for granted—but at what cost?

Anna says, “People often talk about clothing as disposable when in reality the resources used, and the people making the products, should be given more respect. The price of clothing has been getting cheaper, but how can this be when the same process still has to happen? Clothing should be an investment.”

So why has it taken conscious consumers like us so long to start investing in Ethical Fashion? Why do we buy fair trade coffee, but not fair trade underwear?

Caleb and Anna say it comes down to two things: Accessibility and affordability. The ethical clothing available in NZ, while it is increasing, is “only a speck in the ocean”. It is typically only available online and in high-end boutiques, and often only in ‘designer’ styles, not everyday or casual clothing.

So while New Zealand consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the ethical and environmental consequences of fast fashion—something that was clearly illustrated earlier this month in the social media storm between Farmers and ethical clothing fans—trustworthy suppliers of affordable organic and fairtrade clothing are not there to meet the demand. For the average kiwi, ethical clothing is hard to find and hard to afford.

Caleb and Anna are committed to changing this state of affairs.

To ensure the integrity of their products they carefully screen their stockists and investigate ethical practices. Two of Tummah’s brands—Etiko and Mighty Good Undies— were among the three brands to receive an A+ grade in Tear Fund’s recently released Ethical Fashion Guide.

These are products that you can trust and they are affordably priced, making them accessible to your average New Zealander. Caleb and Anna say, “Our motivation is simple, we aren’t in this to make big money, but instead to be part of a change within the New Zealand fashion market. We believe having lower prices will encourage more people to join this movement with us.”

Throughout the process of connecting with Caleb and Anna, I found myself deeply impressed by Tummah Ethical Trade, and by the very genuine values that lie behind it.

The essence of these values is clearly illustrated by the story behind how the name ‘Tummah’ was chosen. Caleb and Anna say, “We reached the conclusion that the value we most want to operate with is integrity. Business anchored by integrity was the motivation behind the name ‘Tummah’, the Biblical Hebrew word for integrity. Being honest, truthful, upright and fair in the way we conduct our business and in the products we stock, that’s what we are all about!”

Tummah Ethical Trade is conscious business at it’s best—operated with integrity and motivated by making positive change.

“We wanted to be proactive in helping the movement grow, and the business grew from there. Once you’ve got an idea like that on your mind, you can’t stop thinking about it! So we committed and went with it.”

Conscious Consumers are stoked to be supporting businesses like Tummah Ethical Trade.

At the very beginning, Conscious Consumers was an accreditation system for hospitality businesses, but in recent years it has expanded rapidly to include fuel, transport, energy, groceries and—finally!—organic and fairtrade fashion.

Caleb and Anna, when speaking of their own journey, say “Once you start to be conscious in one area, you must consider all areas.” As New Zealand consumers begin to wake up to the brutal reality of the fashion industry, businesses like Tummah Ethical Trade play a crucial role in providing much-needed alternatives.

How can you support businesses like this? It's easy! 

Sign up to the Good Spend Counter. It’s quick, easy and secure, and it allows you to make your values visible to businesses across New Zealand, influencing them to be more like Tummah Ethical Trade.


Anna Geiserman