How to be an ethical materialist
Note: None of the brand mentions in this piece are paid. Just 100% pure ponder truth bombs.
The clothing, textiles and footwear industry is one of the most labour intensive in the world. The high-speed consumption of clothing - what we refer to as fast fashion - puts an enormous pressure on garment industry workers all over the world to pony up the goods, and many of them endure gruelling working conditions. In the world today some 21 million textile industry workers are still the victims of forced labour.
Not only this, but the clothing industry is one of the worst offenders when it comes to the environment. It takes a tremendous amount of water and energy to manufacture our clothes - the water required to produce a single cotton t-shirt, for example, is 2700 Litres. Synthetic materials derived from petrochemicals are highly pollutive, whilst vast tracts of arable land and forest are being cleared to grow bamboo and cotton plants.
But before you give it all up and join a nudist colony, allow us introduce to you five stand out clothing labels which go above and beyond to make fashion feel good. This is next level ethical fashion. Not only do these brands source their fabrics sustainably, but they go the extra mile to create economic opportunity in disenfranchised corners of the world.
These kids are top of the class!
Founded by entrepreneur Catalina Girald and actress Gina Rodriguez, Naja employ single mothers in Colombia to make eco-conscious lingerie. With discreet designs on the inside of their bras and inspirational quotes lining their underwear, this brand wants women to feel empoweared. (You can have that one Naja).
The women who work with Naja receive above market wages and healthcare benefits, as well as school supplies and meals for their children. Through their ‘Underwear for Hope’ campaign, Naja also support women in marginalised areas to sew the wash bags which come with every bra. An additional two percent of the company profits go towards local education programs.
With mother earth in mind, Naja use digital printing technology instead of water-thirsty dyes, and incorporate sustainable fabrics like recycled plastic into every collection.
Put your best foot forward with a line of organic cotton socks which are changing the world. Conscious Step design stylish GOTS and Fair Trade certified socks as a solution to poverty alleviation. Co-Founder Prashant Mehta describes that “Our everyday clothes are a result of modern day tragedies, and our desire for fast fashion and the latest fads has allowed many to lose appreciation for the art and meaning of clothing we wear”.
So every Conscious Step sock pattern corresponds with a premier non-profit organisation, so when you buy a pair of green aztec socks, twenty trees will be planted. With the argyle print, six food packs are sent to malnourished children. Crosshatch provides a week of HIV treatment to an expectant mother, whilst polka dot print will donate schoolbooks to children in Asia.
Stylish and socially responsible - that’ll put a spring in your step.
This fun and colourful brand tackles urban poverty in Ghana through fair and sustainable local employment. Based in the city of Accra, Yevu collaborate with artisanal producers, designers, tailors and textile makers, and connect them with a global market. Yevu pays three and a half times a typical wage to its employees, and every Yevu worker puts a portion of this income into the education of their children. If you are in the market for a mood lifting, statement-making ‘piece’, look no further than the high-waist flare pants and coconut print shirts by Yevu.
Raven + Lily is a Fair Trade fashion label that pays homage to beautiful women everywhere. This label was created to alleviate poverty through empowerment, employing over 1,500 women in the developing world. Raven + Lily workers receive fair wages and access to healthcare and education, offering them a safe and sustainable future.
Raven + Lily designs are hand-loomed from raw materials, sourced from the different regions where they are manufactured. Their designs honour the traditional crafts and contemporary styles of the women who make them, with collections spanning Ethiopia, Cambodia, Guatemala, Haiti, Pakistan and Kenya.
Oliberté is a brand with heart and sole.
With their uncompromising standards for social responsibility, Oliberté are generating change literally from the ground up. The shoes at Oliberté are stitched and moulded in the world’s first Fair Trade Certified shoe factory in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. They empower over 70 local employees, whose every face and name you can find on their website.
Oliberté are also committed to ecological sustainability, donating one percent of their proceeds to the environment through onepercentfortheplanet.org. They source their natural rubbers and leather locally and partner with a tannery that uses chrome recycling to reduce chemical use. Oliberté shoes promise you quality for the long run, offering free lifetime warranty with every pair.
Draping praise on these exceptionally ethical brands is not in any way a guilt-trip. It is intended to form a cutting pattern for your fashion consumption choices. In our busy lives it is insane to throw shade at consumers for not having the forethought to purchase only the socks that plant twenty trees or immunise potential AIDS victims per pair. That is unreasonable and unrealistic... Unless, you have read this article and you now know a little bit more about some brands that are benchmarking ethical fashion.
This article should be used as a top-down perspective balance tool. If you are buying from fashion brands that are doing half, or even a quarter as much good as those in this article then you are probably making a conscious consumer choice.