Do you want slaves making your clothes for you? Yeah. I didn’t think so. Yet what most Americans fail to realize is that much of the clothing produced world wide is made by the hands of people who are either forced into labor or are working under life-threatening conditions.
This week is Fashion Revolution Week which marks the 4th anniversary of the Rana Plaza Factory collapse in Bangladesh India.
If you remember this event, you know how horrific and senseless a tragedy like this really is. At the end of the day 1,138 garment workers lost their lives for clothing. This should never happen. Ever.
Though awareness is raised and action is taken, events like this continue to happen. All you need to do is perform a search on the internet to find story after story of harm coming to those who are ostensibly indentured slaves working in the garment industry.
Albert Einstein was famous for saying,
“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”
In our lifetime we have the chance to irradiate forced and indentured labor. In our lifetime we have the power to end slavery. Right now, as we speak over 27 million men, women, and children are slaves of one form or another whether they are forced to work in meat processing facilities in the US or as sex workers in the Jakarta.
One of the many ways we can put a stop to these kinds of labor practices is by becoming aware and speaking out, but also by choosing very carefully and thoughtfully where and how we obtain our clothing and food.
Here are 6 ethical brands you can count on to be transparent and ethical.
One) Imogene + Willie
Although denim isn’t the most environmentally friendly thing to make, what I do consider wonderful about this brand is that they don’t push out new styles at a dizzying speed. They take time and carefully craft each handmade US produced pair. They employee Americans and focus on small batch production.
There’s not a line that I love more and they offer free denim repair!
Offering modern basics with radical transparency, Everlane is quickly becoming the “go to” place for must have shoes, shirts, and slacks.
Three) Auntie Oti
A company devoted to handcrafted traditional Indian textiles, Auntie Oti, is source for beautiful scarves and home goods.
I have a scarf towel thing of theirs and love to bits.
Four) Proud Mary
Proud Mary is one of my all-time favorite brands because of how beautiful and whimsical their style is. I would say they are known for their handmade Moroccan raffia shoes and sandals. Not only are these made responsibly and fairly, they are made from earth friendly renewable materials.
Everything is made in house in their studio in Minnesota. Hackwith specializes in core collections, basic colors, and elegant shapes.
Six) Elizabeth Suzann
This company is hardcore about sustainable practices. They test every garment, select natural fibers and each and every item is produced under one roof in Nashville, Tennessee.
Asking the question
I am extremely passionate about this topic. But it’s not something I’ve felt passionately about for a long time. For years I’ve allowed myself to ignore the questions that would pop up while browsing at H&M or Target or Forever 21, “How can this amazing blouse be so affordable?” “Why does the tag in my jeans, t-shirt, or sweater never say Made In The USA?”.
Basically I avoiding asking myself where my clothing came from. I chose to accept the token efforts of these global retailers to make their lines more “ethical” and “sustainable” because they had what I wanted or needed. Was I also a slave to fashion?
As my commitment to organic and sustainable food grew, so did my commitment to ethically made clothing. Large brands devoted entirely to sustainable and ethical practices started emerging. I started to take notice. I’ve always shopped at the thrift store, but I never did for altruistic reasons.
In 2015 when my cousin moved back to Knoxville I had no idea that she had undertaken a task that, quite frankly, blows my mind. She had committed to making all of her own clothing. After teaching herself to sew, she began to embrace the notion that making one’s own clothing was not only better for body image and the wallet, but also infinitely better for the world. She opted out of the system in a big way, joining a growing movement of modern seamstresses 😉 who revived an almost dead art form for a new socially conscious generation.
It’s people like my cousin and others who are blazing a trail and creating an entirely new industry that we can be proud of and rest assured in. As the internet and online retail opens, literally, an entire world of like minded customers, ethical fashion, like organic foods, is becoming the standard not the exception.
My hope is that in the years to come, more people will opt out of a very corrupt and dangerous system to support and nourish a flourishing and life giving and profitable industry. There is a lot more I’d like to say on this topic. And even as I write this, my mind is whizzing with resources, books, articles, and videos I’d love to share with you. But I have to save that for another day.
This week is all about voting with our dollars and using our currency to create lasting change.
What about you? Have you ever asked yourself where your clothing comes from? If not, what is most surprising to you about the garment industry? Let me know in the comments section below.