6 Brands Flying the Flag for Fairtrade Fortnight 2019
Fairtrade Fortnight is just around the corner, and is somewhat of a lynchpin in the calendars of ethical consumers. After all, Fairtrade was one of the first introductions many of us had to ethical and sustainable shopping back in the early ‘00s. But is it still relevant today? And is it as important to buy fair trade clothes as it is to buy fair trade bananas? You betcha. Here’s why.
What is fair trade?
Very simply put, it’s about giving the people who make the things you buy a fair price for their work (aka doesn’t screw them over). Trading inbalances and injustices are far too common between producers in developing countries, and buyers in the developed world. Poor working conditions, unfair pay, child labour and exploiting the environment are just some of the outcomes when companies profit from the hardship of those working in their supply chain.
Organisations such as Fairtrade Foundation have done a huge amount of campaigning in the last few decades to raise public awareness of the massive, global issue of unfair trade. And there are now several fair trade certifiers and labelling organisations such as World Fair Trade Organization and Fairtrade International, which help to provide a framework and a standard that trading businesses can work to and also assure consumers that the labelled product has been traded fairly. That is to say, that fair wages have been paid to producers, working conditions are good (and this means adequate lighting, good hygiene and toilets, allowing workers to have regular breaks, and so on; the Rana Plaza disaster is just one example of how far the standards can be allowed to fall when it comes to the working environment of garment factories), their business processes are transparent, they use sustainable environmental practices, and gender equality has been upheld.
Fair trade in fashion
Fair trade entered the public consciousness, in the UK at least, in the context of food and drink first and foremost. Coffee, chocolate and bananas that have been Fairtrade certified are now very easy to find and buy up and down the country. But where does fair trade fit in the context of fashion?
The fashion and textile industry employs an astonishing 1/6th of the global workforce, most of whom are women – in fact this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight campaign focuses on these women with the message “She Deserves a Living Income”. It is also the second most polluting industry, second only to oil, and uses a whole arsenal of toxic chemicals in its production processes which workers are often dangerously exposed to.
Now I won’t go into detail about the many crimes of “fast fashion” here, but it’s safe to say that a lot of producers get screwed over because of it. Thankfully, there are an increasing number of “slow fashion” brands which make a point of finding out as much as they can about their supply chains and ensuring they are certified fair trade, as far as possible.
Six brands making fair trade fashion
Cotton is used to make a lot of everyday clothing, including denim, t-shirts and underwear, and People Tree were the pioneers of using fair trade cotton in their clothing range way back in 1991 (they now also use sustainable materials including Tencel, responsible wool. They were also the first fashion company to be awarded the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) product label and actively represent the WFTO by providing technical assistance for producers, helping them improve their skills and strengthen their businesses as well as create a positive social impact.
RubyMoon are newer on the fashion scene, but equally passionate about treating producers fairly and eradicating modern slavery in the clothing industry. Their beautiful yet practical swimwear and gym wear range is also made out of ocean plastics, and the company also donates its net profits to women entrepreneurs around the world.
Menswear brand Lyme Terrace is run by young designers who have high standards, but won’t compromise on the ethics of their supply chain and production, either. By personally visiting and vetting their suppliers in China, Germany and the UK, as well as checking their suppliers’ suppliers, the guys at Lyme Terrace are nothing if not thorough with their mission to create high quality, ethical men’s clothing.
Working with social enterprises, garment factories and local independent makers in Cambodia, Good Krama is an awesome new brand that ensures its supply chain pays its workers fairly and provides good working conditions.
WYNAD Clothing’s founders Rob and Hannah visited as many of their suppliers in India as possible to see for themselves where their clothes would be coming from and that they were fair trade certified for their unique collection of post punk inspired fashion. Their clothes are made using sustainable production methods and 10% of their profits go towards funding female empowerment and gender equality projects in Kerala, India.
Just AK makes quality, durable clothes that make artistic statements and convey strong social messages, whilst maintaining high ethical standards in their production. Each item of clothing they make and sell comes from suppliers that produce them to Fair Wear and/or SA8000 social and ethical standards.
Fair trade fashion still has a long way to go before we see it as widely available as we see fair trade coffee, chocolate, bananas and so on. But these brands, and many more, are creating a following of conscientious consumers who don’t believe that wearing great clothes has to have shameful side effects. They’re proof that we can use our wallets to fight trade injustices, support the empowerment of garment workers and to promote a fairer system for all.
At Compare Ethics – we only work with brands who are committed to fair trade and a living wage. It should never cost someones life or a livelihood to put clothes on your back. Respect and empowerment for workers provide good vibes all round.
Disclaimer: we may receive small commission for sales made from some of the brands listed here. We are proud to work with ethical brands that are committed to a new way and a better world.
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