By Dawna Matthews:
Fair Trade, the newest buzz word, is sweeping the nation — whether talking about coffee or chocolate or fashion. That’s right — fashion! How we dress is a unique statement of who we are and how we present ourselves to the world. Our choice of clothing style is a reflection of how we feel, the seasons, and what makes us feel good. But, what that clothing is made of and how it’s made discreetly reveals who we are and what we believe in, consciously or not, because we become models of our choices. And every decision we make with our dollars ripples around the world.
What Is Fair Trade Clothing?
Fair trade clothing is clothing made by businesses with a commitment to social justice in which 1) employees and farmers are treated and paid fairly, 2) sustainable environmental practices are followed, and 3) long-term trade relationships are fostered. Trade certified garment factories must meet minimum workplace requirements based on regulations of the International Labor Organization.
Fair Trade and Ethical fashion includes dresses and ornaments produced and sold with an emphasis on environmental protection and social contribution. It includes clothing made from organic materials that are less of an environmental burden to produce and accessories made in developing nations with consideration for fair labor environments.
All workers at Fair Trade certified factories receive a Fair Trade “premium” paid by the brand hiring the supply services. That extra money goes into a single, collective bank account controlled by the laborers in the factory. The workers then vote to determine whether they will use their Fair Trade premium for a community need such as a school, medical center, etc., or pay it out as a cash bonus to each employee.
Why Buy Fair Trade?
Manufacturing clothing is an ugly and often dirty business. Oftentimes, apparel laborers in developing countries are drastically underpaid, work long hours without time off and frequently are minors. Additionally, factory conditions are less than ideal and are places that expose workers to toxic chemicals and polluted air. Cotton laden with pesticides; dyes laden with heavy metals; the extraction of oil to produce synthetics; chemicals used to scour, bleach and finish fabrics; and manufacturing practices that violate human rights all take an irreversible toll on the ecosystem and on humans.
How To Make a Difference
Care What You Wear /Purchase with Purpose
Buy sustainable fabrics such as bamboo or organic cotton. Look for fair trade products as well as products with low environmental impact. Some great companies are Patagonia and Prana.
Vintage fInds are fashionable and good for the environment. The most eco-friendly fashion is fashion made from recycled, upcycled or reclaimed objects. When you buy pieces of clothing or accessories that are giving new life to items that otherwise would end up in a landfill, you’re making the most responsible and, often, the most fun fashion choice.
Basics Last Forever
Feel free to spend a little extra on simple classic pieces which will last for years and can be combined: this is actually a more environmentally friendly decision than buying a a less expensive item which needs replacing every year. I have items I bought many years ago that are still fashionable and will last for even more years, as they will never go out of style. Some items to splurge on — little black dress, white shirt, a cashmere cardigan and jeans.
Each day when we get dressed, we make a decision that affects the livelihood of someone around the world. Each choice we make has a major impact on how we support the world and how the world supports us. By choosing fair trade, you are choosing to consciously support people’s livelihoods and sustainability. Just one simple choice can make a world of difference.
For more information: