Eco Friendly Fashion Goes Mainstream (For Better Or Worse)

It wasn’t that long ago when eco friendly fashion was seen by most consumers and fashion industry insiders as a fad that only people on the outskirts of the normal purchasing populace embraced. Well-dressed folks the world over saw these eco friendly fashion offerings as being for “Hippies” or “Tree Huggers” but that attitude has turned around 360 degrees.

With a global focus on the Earth’s environment and daily attention from local and national news outlets, it’s not as easy to dismiss the concerns of those “outsiders” anymore and many mainstream clothing and accessory producers have adopted eco friendly fashion (or eco fashion as it’s now often called) as the wave of the future.

Many manufacturers including big names and international chains have eco fashion lines available. Not that Wal-Mart is a fashion chain at all but even their clothing departments have organic shirts and pants made from recycled materials if you know where to look for them. This adoption, however, has been a bit of a mixed blessing. Many of the original trendsetters in the eco fashion revolution have been overlooked by consumers as these relative newcomers gobble up the limelight.

What can you do to help? Buy from small outlets, medium-sized manufacturers, and local companies.

Shopping for what you want and finding what you need may take a little longer but you’ll feel a whole lot better about buying. In fact, one of the best things you can do is find outlets that sell fair trade fashion and accessories.

Fair trade fashion is not only more environmentally friendly (the raw materials are often grown locally and the finished products are produced with less mechanical and chemical intervention) but it supports local artisans and craftspeople-even in far-flung lands. Fair trade fashion items have undergone a lengthy certification process by national and international organizations dedicated to the protection of the rights and livelihoods of the laborers and craftspeople who produce the goods. When you buy fair trade clothing and accessories, you don’t have to worry that your new dress is made of recycled cotton but made by virtual slave labor!

After all, shouldn’t the clothing and accessories you were make you look good on the outside and feel good on the inside?

So the next time you’re surfing the internet for that perfect item of clothing, and accessories to go with it, take a minute of your time to make sure the items you are buying are “guilt-free.” You’ll remember it every time you wear them.

Fair Trade Fashion – The Ultimate Guide

The days when fair trade fashion meant tie-dyed pantaloons and ill-fitting ethnic smocks are long gone. Top designers are now working with new ethical fashion labels to create clothes and accessories that are desirable, not just because they’re associated with a good cause, but because they’re stylish and beautiful.

So what makes fair trade fashion fair? Here is a quick summary of the 5 things to look out for:

1. There are a number of fair trade certification bodies that you should look out for when you’re browsing for fair trade products. A good one is the World Fair Trade Organisation, while in the UK, the British Association for Fair Trade Shops (BAFTS) is another standards organisation. These organisations help customers know that the products they’re buying are genuinely ethical.

2. Where are the products made? And under what conditions? Do you really want to buy from companies that outsource their production to sweatshop manufacturers with poor conditions and low wages for their workers? Fair trade or ethical fashion companies will be happy to explain where and how their products are made. Rembember: transparency and fair trade go hand in hand.

3. What materials are being used? Fair trade and environmental sustainability are different concepts, though in practice fair trade fashion companies will also engage in eco-friendly sourcing practices. So look out for organic cotton, recycled items and other ‘green’ materials.

4. Fair trade fashion isn’t just confined to the margins of the fashion world. Many mainstream shops have fair trade concessions, and there are now ethical and eco-friendly fashion labels showcased on the catwalk at all the major fashion shows.

5. Price. Ethical fashion is no longer the preserve of the wealthy, with increasingly affordable products available as the movement becomes more mainstream. However, fast fashion goods like T-Shirts for £2.99 are not a realistic price. Someone somewhere will be paying the true cost of that T-Shirt – most likely in a miserable wage and poor conditions. According to the NGO ActionAid, if the retail price of a £6 dress was increased by just 10p it would be enough to double the wages of the factory worker in Sri Lanka who produced it. Ethical fashion can make a real difference.

You might think the global economic downturn could impact on customers’ appetites for fair trade fashion. But according to the Cooperative Bank’s Ethical Consumer report, sales of fair trade and organic clothing grew by 70% to £52m in 2007, and this year is scheduled to see still further growth.

And consider this: in 2007 a survey by TNS Global found that 60% of under-25s said they bought what they wanted, regardless of where or how it had been made. This year that figure had dropped to 36%, suggesting that child labour and sweatshop scandals have made their mark.

The future’s great for ethical consumers and suppliers.

Fair Trade Jewellery – Why Bother?

Fair trade jewellery does producers a world of good. That’s what the advertisements tell you. But does ethical trade really make a difference? Surely a fashion necklace isn’t going to change the world? Should we really bother buying ethical jewellery?

Traditionally, the fine and fashion jewellery industry has focused on marketing its products by romance and emotion. You fall in love with a fashion necklace or a glittering ring and it makes a beautiful accessory for a party or wedding. Most often, it never crossed our minds where it was made and who created it.

This view is increasingly out of date, where any responsible person realizes that we are all part of one global community that is interdependent. Is that gold ring contributing to environmental degradation in Peru? Is your fashion necklace being made by a Bangladeshi child forced to work in intolerable conditions for a pittance?

Supply chains are becoming increasingly transparent. Before, the old attitude was ‘out of sight, out of mind’ but with globalization, the internet, cheap travel and Facebook, that’s no longer possible or desirable. Many more people are beginning to ask whether fashion jewellery companies that hide their supply chains are doing so for a reason?

Worth it, but not worthy

But the new generation of fair trade jewellery designers who are leading the way by creating eco-friendly and ethical jewellery have realized that preaching to customers won’t get you anywhere.

In fact, the best way to help marginalized or exploited workers in developing countries is to create cutting-edge designs of fashion jewellery that are desirable because they’re stylish, beautiful and on-trend first and foremost. The fact that by purchasing these products means you are helping to build a fairer way of trading is the cherry on the cake.

How a piece of fair trade jewellery is made, whether it’s a fashion necklace or a gemstone ring, is important to the wearer because it’s part and parcel of its story.

The future of ethical jewellery

Of course, fair trade jewellery still only makes up a tiny proportion of the jewellery market, but the ethical jewellery movement is growing fast and gaining fans and space in the mainstream fashion world.

One day soon, it will be socially unacceptable for anyone to purchase jewellery that is not ethically sourced.