You walk into a department store and a certain shirt catches your eye. It’s cute, trendy, and fairly inexpensive. Into the shopping cart it goes and into your closet… pause here for a moment. Let’s ponder for a second where exactly this shirt came from. It’s a name brand that is well known and sought after, but do you really know where this shirt was produced or who made it? More than likely, the shirt you just purchased, along with the rest of your wardrobe, was stitched together from a factory overseas that doesn’t have the best yelp rating. With mass production and the accessibility of buying a wardrobe all in one place, people have gotten lazy in checking the label. But, there is a solution to our dilemma. You can make a difference in how brands produce their products and the environment in which their employees function under by buying from fair trade brands. You have the chance to impact the lives of traditional artisans and the environment in which they produce these works of art.
Here is a list of five fair trade artisans that you need to put on your radar. The change is easy and effortless, all you have to do is wear it.
When I think of knitwear I think of scratchy, bulky, grandma looking sweaters. Not so très chic. The brand, Callina, changed my perception completely by creating sustainable knitwear that looks effortlessly chic and –just as important– comfortable. The founder of Callina has made it her mission “to create timeless knitwear for women who seek quality, strive for perfection and never settle.” Designed with clean contemporary lines and made with TLC; Callina has partnered with artisans in Peru who create these quality garments. Preserving the traditional and cultural skills of the region, Callina provides business opportunities to the indigenous communities who rely on alpaca production as a means of economic growth. (To learn more, read our recent interview with Callina here.)
Rock + Pillar
Traditional skills like cobbling, weaving and leather working are slowly dying out to the mass production from machines. Luckily, there are still some brands making it their mission to bring individuality to the fashion industry by keeping these traditional skills alive and thriving. Rock + Pillar have done just that by having master craftsmen create beautiful shoes and bags that can stand the test of time and are unique. By using the skills of South American artisans mixed with modern pieces, the end product is the combination of the past and present. With the proceeds from the sale of these products, Rock + Pillar creates opportunities for artisans to continue this sustainable practice and to pass it on to future generations.
New Market Goods
When you look at the tag in your clothes, more than likely it says “Made in Bangladesh” (maybe the second most likely says, “Machine Wash Cold”). As one of the world’s largest exporters of clothing, Bangladesh is the place where your designer duds were probably stitched together. Unfortunately, the horror stories of workers’ conditions in these factories are less than brag worthy. The founders at New Market Goods witnessed these harsh conditions and wanted to create change and bring transparency to clothing production. They made it their mission to encourage positive production practices and did so by partnering with local garment producers. Each New Market Goods garment is hand-woven and constructed in Deshal, Bangladesh where the producers seek to improve working conditions in their factories. A share of the profits that New Market Goods receives is returned to encourage artisanship and improve the livelihoods of the people within the community of Deshal.
When you think of a luxury ethical clothing brand, would you pair Scottish with Pakistani designs? What seems out of the ordinary is actually extraordinary. Ala Mairi has blended the two cultures into a beautifully designed clothing line. Focusing on the artisans, they employ skilled weavers, lace and yarn makers, dyers, spinners and embroiderers from Rawalpinidi, Pakistan. The founder of Ala Mairi, Fatima Mahmood, seeks to improve the livelihoods of the artisans by showcasing their talents with one of a kind scarves and tunics. Their work is beautiful, colorful, and elegant.
Ways of Change
Showcasing a sleek, minimalistic design, Ways of Change (WOC) has made an impact on how hand-made jewelry is produced. Employing refugee artisans living on the Thailand/Burma border, WOC have made it their mission to connect the consumer with the designer. By using the wonders of technology, specifically social media, WOC is able to put a face to how and where their products come from as well as to educate the consumer on how they can make a difference in the ethical fashion world. The hash tag #WearTheChange has become an important factor for the conscious consumer. A portion of the profits Ways of Change receives goes back to the community of artisans that create the jewelry to encourage community development projects and essentially the future of artisanal skills for future generations.
Anna Terry attended Texas A&M University where she received her Bachelors of Fine Arts in Communication. She is based out of Austin, TX and is a Marketing Assistant for Ecohabitude. Anna writes for Ecohabitude’s blog and hopes to inspire others to live a socially conscious lifestyle with easy, fun, stylish tips to incorporate into their everyday life.
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