My Journey to Ethical Fashion

Back in my college days I attended a popular Christian conference over one of my Christmas breaks. I went with my two roommates and we met up with several other friends from Mississippi State for a weekend of refreshment in the Word and Godly fellowship. Little did we know at the weekend's beginning that we would acquire information during our time at the conference that would seep deep into our hearts and souls and call us to action. We learned about human trafficking. 

I had never heard of this problem before believe it or not, and I can remember for days after we returned from the conference my roommates and I would sit around our kitchen counter discussing this issue. We were so burdened yet so unsure of how to play a part in the ending of trafficking. After many emotional conversations we came up with the idea of hosting a 5K to raise money for International Justice Mission and their fight against injustice around the world. 

This race began a work in my heart that deepened my compassion for others and opened my eyes to the reality of human depravity around the world...it also led me to my husband, which is a funny story for another day! All this to say, once I became aware of human trafficking I simply could not forget about it. 

So what does this have to do with fashion? 

Well I desire to live my life in a way that aids the fight against human trafficking. Ben and I have made small decisions since marriage that we believe are truly making a difference. We buy our coffee every month from Sweet Aroma Coffee, a company that gives money to different organizations around the world who fight trafficking. I also have made the decision to buy jewelry from companies such as , a company that creates jobs and has ethical production practices. So now I want to take this to my closet. 

For quite some time I have felt as though the clothes hanging in my closet did not fit me. I do not mean I could not get them on my body or hated the way they hung on me (though this is true in some case)...no I mean they don't match my current season of life. I was married right out of college, so my wardrobe is full of "sorority college girl" clothes. Everything is oversized, too dressy, and flashy. Nowadays basic tees are acceptable every single day, even at church since we attend a laid back home church. I have been eager to figure out "my style" and even more eager to build a wardrobe that is both fitting and ethical. 

WHAT IS ETHICAL FASHION?

The first step is to learn about the differences between ethical or sustainable fashion and fast or mainstream fashion. Similar to the slow food versus fast food movement, ethical fashion is about promoting sustainable sourcing and quality garment production. In contrast, the fast fashion movement is in a perpetual race to the bottom to create more garments in less time and less money. The inevitable result is a frenetic industry that depends on unsustainable resources and often exploitative production. Ethical fashion turns this model on its head and promotes quality items made with sustainable materials and by workers paid a fair wage.
— DANIELLE L. VERMEER

I feel that these words by sustainable fashion advocate,  Danielle L. Vermeer, describe it the best, ethical fashion is about promoting sustainability and high quality products. For me ethical fashion is also buying from companies that are transparent about their production process, factory conditions, and worker conditions. These things can often be hard to find but with some really great resources out there on the internet today we can learn a lot more about clothing production than we could 10 years ago. My goal today is to share my findings after hours of research.

RESOURCES FOR YOUR OWN RESEARCH - 

  • Know The ChainA company that works hard to provide production information on hundreds of business and clothing companies.
  • Free to Work - This company provides scorecards for different clothing brands based on policies, transparency, monitoring, and worker rights. 
  • GoodGuide - A website where you can find product reviews for ethical, green, and environmentally safe products. 
  • FairTrade USA - Great starting point to help you understand what fair trade is, what companies there are out there, and more. 

Also, as a result of the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, all companies that make a certain amount of money every year are required to disclose what they are doing to fight human trafficking and forced labor slavery within their production process. So you can go to a website like Gap, or Anthropologie, and by law they must have a statement about their practices that you can read. 

ETHICAL CLOTHING COMPANIES

This is not an all inclusive list by any means. I was amazed at how many companies out their are a part of this ethical, slow clothing movement. For more lists check out these here, here, and here. I have included the companies that best fit within the style I am working towards for myself! 

  • Everlane - I list this company at the very top of my list for a reason. They are amazing. I recently purchased two simple tees from Everlane, and am in love. The quality is amazing, and the prices are not too terrible either. But my favorite part about this company...radical transparency is their motto. They list every single factory they use in their production process, as well as the exact costs of every item on their site. This is a must visit site even if you do not go to another option listed below. 
  • Alternative Apparel - A little more pricey, but full of beautiful staple closet pieces. I am looking at this tank, and this dress for my spring capsule. 
  • Seamly - Another beautiful site full of simple basics, this company celebrates creativity and art in the form of clothing. 
  • Threads for Thought - I have recently gotten really into holy yoga, and the collection of trendy tights, tanks, and tees are amazing on this site. 
  • TheRootCollective - This shoe and accessories company partners with small scale businesses in marginalized communities to create jobs. Their ballet flats are a must have. 

  • Cana Collection - Similar to Lululemon, this fitness clothing company features trendy work out clothing for men and women. 

Again, this is not an complete list, but simply some of my favorites out of all the companies I have stumbled upon through my research. I would love for you to leave other suggestions of fair trade, ethical companies that you know of in the comment section below. 

To be honest I am a littler scared about beginning this journey. It is so easy to purchase cheap clothing that I can afford right now on all the different trendy websites out there. However, I know this is worth the patience, money saving, and research that this practice requires. So I am committed to only buying ethically, as best as I am able, for the rest of 2015! Ah...I cannot believe I just typed that. Here we go! 

Do you shop ethically? What are your favorite companies?