Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fair is Fair is…Fashion

By Courtney Wantink - FASHIONING CHANGE

Eco-friendly fashion has suddenly made a leap into areas I never could have predicted or imagined. But for a girl whose closet is full of thrift-store deals, I tend to ignore this progress. Well…I used to. However, my passion for fair trade and the positive effect it can have in so many ways has ignited in me an irreversible interest in all things ethical and eco-friendly. The fair trade coffee? Check. Fair trade chocolate? All stocked up. When it comes to fashion however, I find my fair choices to be more limited.

A relatively recent step by Fair Trade USA (formerly Transfair USA), as of December 2010, was to announce an Ethical Fashion Certification Label. This, of course, requires members to meet standards regarding the environment, labor/wages, manufacturing, and more. As of yet, there are only four approved retailers. While this is a great beginning, I know there are many others out there making great efforts to be ethical in their production of clothing. Both within and outside of the US, designers and brands are working to localize production, meet environmental standards, pay fair wages, and even create clothing whose life cycle is limitless. Such steps as natural dyes, sustainably-grown fabrics, and cradle-to-cradle design are emerging rapidly in an industry infamous for its impact on the world.

Through the course of my work at Fashioning Change, I’m finding that many ‘green’ brands exist that haven’t achieved the fair trade status - largely because of certification costs. Yet often, non-certified brands are equally fair and transparent in showing the life cycle of their products. It’s important, then to keep an open mind when searching for ‘fair trade’ apparel - it may not have the label, but could very well be doing many things right.

Fashioning Change is working to bring visibility to eco-friendly and ethical brands that have not necessarily achieved fair trade status. Part of our vision is to recognize those consumers who seek to truly be green and fair, and connect them with information that will allow them to both live and shop as such. We seek to look after health, the earth, and human rights all at once; we strive to implement a systemic change in the way consumers shop and retailers provide. Everyday brings more information, more retailers anxious to have a positive impact (and not just on their own bank accounts). Through Fashioning Change’s green shopping intervention app we will make it easy for shoppers to easily find authentic ethical and eco-friendly clothing and products (sign-up now for a sneak peak).

Fashion has always been an evolving industry- season to season I have scarcely been able to wrap my head around new trends. Regardless of what color you’ll put in your wardrobe this spring, the good news is that it CAN be ethical.

Fair Trade San Diego asks consumers to look for the fair trade label when making their purchases.  However, since fair trade clothing is so limited in terms of certification, (click here to see which brands are fair trade certified in the US) we encourage shoppers to make ethical choices when purchasing clothing. 


Fair Trade San Diego said...

Another option for a company to show their commitment to fair trade is to become a member of the Fair Trade Federation. Many companies that commit to fair trade practices but sell products that don't fall into a Fair Trade Certified category, demonstrate their adherence to fair trade principles with membership in FTF.

Anonymous said...

Who is policing these Fair Trade certification organizations?