I’m so excited to share this new post with you all! For the last few posts on the ins-and-outs of the Fair Trade world, we have explored it through the lens of food. Appropriate, considering the massive role food has within each unique culture. It keeps us going physically, and it ties us to who we are. But, Fair Trade also reaches into other areas of the market that are just as personally definitive and way more visible. One of my favorites: fashion! It is impossible to condense all the different brands and shops into one list, so today I am going to give you a few useful tips on how to translate the values of Fair Trade into your wardrobe.
- Know the lingo.
There are a whole host of different “buzzwords” that brands will use to hint at their values and practices. Look for terms like “slow fashion,” “certified B-corp,” “ethically-made,” “sustainable,” and “conscious clothing,” just to name a few. This kind of vocabulary will often hint at the sources and methods the company utilizes in the production of its goods.
- Do your research.
Many retail websites will have an About page, which can give you a lot of information about where that company’s values lie. More often than not, a brand that prioritizes Fair Trade practices will let you know. It’s something to be proud of! Keep your eyes open for any information about the nature of their relationships with artisans, where they source materials from, and any environmental or social development non-profit organizations they might be involved in supporting.
- Labels don’t lie
And when I say labels, I’m talking about the little symbols that can be found in the margins of a brand’s website, if they have received fair-trade or B-corp certification. Organizations like Fairtrade International®, Certified B Corporation®, World Fair Trade Organization®, and Fair Trade Certified™ all have their own seal or symbol, which can be found at their websites. A brand must apply officially associated with these organizations, so you can rest assured that these “badges” aren’t given out to just anyone. The company has to give proof that they meet specific ethical criteria in order to display the labels of these organizations on their website…But labels aren’t the end-all-be-all, either. Many businesses follow ethical practices and aren’t official members of those larger associations. An excellent example is an initiative close to our own hearts here at Olive Branch: Huaywasi. This collective based in Peru is dedicated to empowering female artisans through education; teaching them to use their artistic talents to earn a living for themselves. To read more about who they are, click here, and to shop their selection of gorgeous handmade clothing and accessories, click here.
- Keep it close to home.
“Shop small” doesn’t have to apply just to the Saturday after Thanksgiving. You never know what’s available right down the street! By purchasing from farmers, artists, and skilled manufacturers who work in your own community, you are not only contributing to a better local economy, but also standing behind the entire ethical principle underlying the Fair Trade movement: supporting producers. In this case, you might even know them personally. Don’t limit your perusal to traditional retail shops, either! Thrift stores are a great way to circulate clothing and household items throughout a community, cutting down on the demand for new products in general. (Bonus: this is also, technically, a form of recycling; which ultimately reduces the amount of clothing waste that would otherwise end up in a landfill.)
So next time you’re shopping around for a new addition to your closet, consider the source. Prioritizing Fair Trade ethics in your wardrobe choice might take a little extra time, brain power, and perhaps even cost a bit more than we’re accustomed to. Still, just like in our mental health, prioritizing the small yet significant things leads to the most impactful differences. I suppose that makes shopping Fair Trade a form of self-care—a little rush of excitement over your purchase, plus an extra serotonin boost from knowing that you’re making community-conscious choices both locally and globally.
Olive Branch Counseling