Earlier this year we mentioned Katharine Hamnett’s Cotton Campaign. Now with the recent launch of her new ethical line, Katharine E Hamnett, we felt it was time to take another look at the career of this designer who has long co-mingled social and environmental causes with her design work.
Katharine Hamnett has been designing since the 70’s and was using contemporary heavyweights Ellen von Unwerth, Juergen Teller and Terry Richardson to shoot ad campaigns long before others. So, it is no surprise her fashion designs have pushed the envelope in other areas as well.
In 1983 she launched her protest t-shirt line for which she has become famous, donating a portion of the proceeds to charity. In 1989 she became active in researching the environmental impact of the clothing and textiles industry. Realizing that conventional cotton agriculture was responsible for 10,000 deaths annually from accidental pesticide poisoning, desertification, and long-term contamination of water, with working in conditions less than desirable, she decided to try to change the industry from within. In 1990, Katharine gave a speech on the dangers of conventional cotton cultivation in New York and launched an environmental cotton campaign in association with the Pesticide Action Network. Throughout the 90’s Katharine continued to weave social and political messages into her work and onto her clothing.
OXFAM invited Katharine to Mali in 2003. There she visited with cotton farmers and governmental officials. In this year, four years after her initial attempts to promote the benefits of organic cotton, she decided to cancel her current licensing agreement and go into production on her new ethical Katharine E Hamnett line. Katharine also relaunched her protest t-shirts last year. Both lines and more information about the designer are available at her website below.