Fair Trade Fashion is for Everyone
If you are going to buy new, then buy fair trade. Fair Trade fashion has come a long way from the cliche concept of boxy dresses made of a vaguely itchy natural fiber (resembling, perhaps, a burlap sack). Fashion forward and fun is the mission of modern fair trade brands.
But what is fair trade? How does it apply to fashion?
There are many fair trade organizations, each having a slightly different mission-- but all striving for an over arching goal: to put people and the environment first.
Putting both people AND the environment first may seem oxymoronic, but upon closer inspection of fair trade guidelines, the importance of this pairing becomes exceedingly clear. Our clothing is hand-made. From farmers who grow the fibers to make textiles, to individuals who sew the finished product, garment workers deserve an environmentally safe work place. "Environmentally safe" means growing organic cotton so that pesticides do not poison the farmers or contaminate the run-off water which can cause birth defects. "Environmentally safe" also means a ventilated building and providing gloves and masks when garment workers are assigned to work with dyes or dangerous equipment.
Listed below is more information about some of the fair trade organizations that my favorite fair trade fashion brands are certificated through:
Fair Trade Federation -- North American organization that is part of the larger fair trade movement aiming to build "equitable and sustainable trading partnerships and creating opportunities to alleviate poverty".
World Fair Trade Organization -- Working with organizations in 76 countries, to become certified "an enterprise or organisation must demonstrate they put people and planet first in everything they do."
Green America -- "certifies businesses that are committed to using business as a platform for social change. . . (businesses must demonstrate that they are) Operating a "values-driven" enterprise according to principles of social justice AND environmental sustainability; . . (and that they are) Environmentally responsible in the way they source, manufacture, and market their products and run their operations and facilities"
Domestic Fair Trade Association -- ". . . fosters collaboration between farmers and farmworkers in the United States and Canadian sustainable agriculture movement. We seek to build supply chains dedicated to principles of fairness and equity by uniting these efforts with mission-based traders, retailers, and consumers."
Here is a look at a few of my favorite fair trade clothing organizations:
These Ghanian mamas, grandmamas, aunts, nieces, wives and daughters are vibrant heroes!
All Global Mamas apparel (women, men, babies, and kids!) is made from hand batiked textiles. Click here for a closer look at the Batiking process.
Global Mamas textiles are made from 100% organic cotton, using environmentally safe practices for dying, and are completed in a no-waste cycle. To ensure no fabric is wasted, Global Mamas designed products to incorporate the textile scraps (ex. patchwork quilts and purses.) The patchwork application of these recycled scraps highlights the spunky prints even more by mixing and matching! Global Mamas also upcycles flour sacks to line many of their products.
Global Mamas does not limit their beautiful fabrics to clothing. The Mamas also make kitchen decor (like placemats and aprons), blankets, purses, and eye glass cases.
**Global Mamas jewelry is also beautiful and unique, but fair trade jewelry will be covered in a different post!
All of the Mamas are given credit for their work--look at the "meet the mamas" page.
In addition to being encouraged to participate in major business decisions, Global Mamas states,
"Our Mamas realize their dreams of having the opportunity to support their families, send their children to school, improve their health, and save for the future."
Click here to read more about Global Mamas.
Fair Trade Federation
World Fair Trade Organization
The Mata Traders tag line says it all: “Let’s fashion a better world”
Like Global Mamas, Mata Traders clothing is a vibrant asset to the modern woman’s wardrobe. The textiles are hand made using block and screen printing. These traditional Indian printing techniques are a creative and an imperfect practice which inherently makes every garment unique.
Click here to take a closer look at the Mata artisans screen printing original textile designs.
Mata Traders embodies why fair trade is important — the female artisans in India and Nepal come from all places (small villages, rural farmlands, slums in the city), but by working with Mata Traders they are all able to use their living wage to support their families, educate themselves and their children, and help their community rise out of poverty.
Click here to read more about Mata Traders.
Fair Trade Federation
Green America: Gold Certified Business Member
If you prefer more of a classic aesthetic with neutral colors, Maggie's Organics is for you. Made almost exclusively of 100% Organic Cotton or Merino Wool (allowing a small percentage of spandex for stretch) , Maggie's Organic apparel is not only ultra-soft, but is versatile-- some dresses can be worn either frontward or backward! With classic a-line silhouettes, Maggie's clothing is flattering on every figure.
While Global Mama's and Mata Traders focuses more on the social impacts of fair trade, Maggie's Organics focuses on the environmental impact of fair trade. Organic cotton indicates that pesticides are not used during the farming process. The elimination of pesticides ensures that run off from cotton farms is not contaminated with chemicals. While not all dyes are 100% natural, M.O. uses environmentally sustainable dye practices which adhere to the North American Organic Fiber Processing Standards. Maggie's Organics aims for transparency in all aspects of their organization.
Read more about Maggie's Organics practices here.
Domestic Fair Trade Association
Free 2 Work
Fair Trade Federation