I’ve taken you through my journey from realizing that I not only enjoy fashion but also wanted to be able to teach my daughter how to dress well. To realizing that through my clothing purchases I am affecting lives around the world. We then went through some ideas on how to dress better but buy less. So if you are still tracking with me after all of this, you may be wondering, where and how can you actually shop? And I am finally getting around to organizing a list of some favorite companies for you.
First let me say that the industrialization of fashion has worked to separate us as far as possible from the people who make our clothes and even further from the materials that they are made from. As Americans it is almost impossible for us to live in a way that doesn’t misuse our natural world and exploit people everyday. And there is big business involved in maintaining things this way. So making choices that are different will require thought and work. And I’m the first to say that I am not doing this perfectly, we all need to start somewhere and remember that every step, even if it is a baby step matters.
The biggest challenge in shopping ethically is to stop and think before every purchase.
There are millions of dollars going into marketing everyday trying to get us to do the opposite.
1. Can I make my own? If you sew great. Or sometimes doing something simple like moving a button or hemming a skirt (you can use iron on stitching, I do it all the time) can help you get more mileage out of a a piece of clothing.
2. Can I shop locally. Buy from a friend or local business. This is the best way to know exactly where your clothes come from and lets you keep your money invested into your local economy.
3. Can I shop small? Etsy shops are a great resource. Here folks like you and me are sewing clothes and you can buy them which lets you support small businesses. And there are also lots of small fair trade companies popping up these days as more of us choose to shop ethically.
4. Can I shop made in the USA? While I love supporting small businesses abroad too, the practicality of shopping USA clothes can’t be beat. Just think about the use of fuel required to bring our clothes to us from China when they could have easily been made here. Plus the USA typically maintains better standards for working conditions (though there are certainly some exceptions to this) shopping from our own country just makes sense.
5. Can I shop second hand? While this can’t solve all of our problems, it can at least decrease the tons of textile waste that is going into our landfills every year.
6. Can I swap? My friends and I recently organized a clothing swap which was a lot of fun and all of us went home with a few great finds. Even without an event, think about sharing items between friends. We all have items that only get worn a handful of times. Before sending them off to the Good Will see if a friend may want them or even might want to do an exchange.
7. Can I shop Fair Trade? Look for companies that are Fair Trade Certified. Some smaller companies may not have the official certification, but do your research and see if a company seems to care about ethical sourcing for materials and treatment of workers.
8. Can I shop Organic? While fair trade certification does involve maintaining environmental standards, when it comes to clothing manufacturing, as far as I can tell, it doesn’t require that materials, like cotton, be grown organically. So while shopping fair trade certified is a big step towards caring for people and for the environment, there may still be heavy use of pesticides and genetically modified cotton to create the raw materials for clothing. More companies are using organically produced materials as consumers have begun to show more interest in buying them.
Ethical shopping won’t save your soul but it will make a difference. Both ends of this are important to me. I have to remember that this isn’t an end in and of itself, we live in a broken world that won’t be repaired simply by ethical purchasing. Yet this is a practical and simple way to make an impact for the better on people and the environment in which we live.
Okay so here are some companies that you may want to check out.
Shopping Second Hand
Thred Up– I do most of my shopping here. You can save your sizes and search settings and they often have promotions for 10-40% off, returns are free if you take store credit. They have kids clothes too.
Schoola– formerly Moxie Jeans. All kids clothes. Not only are you buying second hand but now that Moxie Jeans has joined Schoola you are making a contribution to help schools.
Also don’t forget to check out local resale and consignment shops.
Everlane– Their motto is “radical transparency,” based in LA they partner with responsible factories and develop relationships with them to make “high end basics.” Prices are reasonable for the quality of clothing. They make both men’s and women’s clothing.
Zady– Higher end but great style and an engaged company active in promoting fair trade and chemical free clothing.
Elegantees– Women’s tee shirts and simple dresses. This company works to provide sustainable income for women who were formerly in sex workers.
Boden– Super stylish. Men’s, Women’s and Kids clothing at reasonable prices. They aren’t fair trade certified but are dedicated to ethical business practices.
Go0d Cloth– Clothing and accessories.
Tonle– Women’s tees, skirts and dresses. Mostly made of remnant fabrics.
Tea– Super cute clothes for boys and girls with an international flair. Not fair trade certified but dedicated to ethical sourcing.
Several of the other companies listed here have kids items as well.
Prana– Mostly athletic clothes, they also have some swimwear in the summer.
Patagonia– One of the few large companies that has made significant steps towards becoming fair trade certified.
Undies and Swim
PACT– Organic and fair trade tees, sweats and undies for men, women and babies.
Naja– Undies and swim. Your purchase goes to supporting women to be trained in sewing, those women are then employed to make the Naja products. They aren’t fair trade certified yet but it looks like they have a sustainable and healthy business model.
Good & Fair– Undies and Tees.
Rey Swimwear– Ethically produced, classic swim wear for women and girls.
The Root Collective– One of my favorites. Beautiful artisan made shoes from Guatemala, plus great customer service. Use this link and get 10% of.
Seeko Sandals– Comfy ribbon sandals and flats, hand made in Uganda and proceeds go to support education of girls there.
Oliberte– Gorgeous (but pricey) leather shoes, from the first fair trade certified shoe company, produced in Ethiopia.
Ethletic– A new company for me, but they look amazing and make really cute sneakers, like Converse but ethically made.
Noonday Collection– I used to be an Ambassador with Noonday and I really owe all of my education on fair trade to them. Artisan made and on-trend jewelry, bags and scarves from small businesses all around the world.
Jenny Krauss– Brilliant textiles from Guatemala, belts, headbands, bags and some home accessories.
Warby Parker– Sun glasses and prescription eye-wear. Uses the buy one give one model.
Catalyst Scrubs– This is a brand new company committed to ethically producing scrubs.
Sundara– Best known for the pajamas but they have some good looking tees and tanks too.
Maggies Organics– Organic and Fair trade tees and socks.
The Good Trade- Is a helpful blog for looking new and up and coming fair trade companies.
Well I found quite a few pieces that I want to buy while I was putting this together, which is working against my desire to own less clothes. It is always a challenge isn’t it?
I’d love to hear of your favorite fair trade companies.
Thanks for being here.
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