Fair trade. We see it on our coffee, our bananas, and now our clothing. But what exactly is fair trade and why is it so important?

Let’s get one thing straight: your fashion is made by people, not robots. An estimated 100 pairs of hands touch our clothes before we see them. Yet, a groundbreaking report exposed that 48% of clothing brands don’t know who their factories are and a whopping 75% couldn’t tell you where their fabrics come from.

This is what happens when companies feel the pressure to keep it cheap, and these days, this pressure is higher than ever.

In contrast, a company that practices fair trade is thoughtful, transparent and accountable for their actions.

Fair trade brands are recognized by their close, ongoing relationships with suppliers, producers and makers. A fair trade brand makes the point to know and visit their factories and artisan communities. Fair trade brands are known to use things like WhatsApp to communicate efficiently and bridge language barriers if necessary.

 

Photo: EST WST Collective
Photo: EST WST Collective

 

Fair trade is a powerful vehicle for change that fights poverty and economic crisis.

When we purchase fair trade fashion, we find out who made our clothes and help families and communities thrive on fine craftsmanship: something that we in turn benefit from through high-quality, long-lasting pieces.

Fear not, Fair Trade isn’t just a hemp sack.

Fair Trade fashion is becoming more and more stylish thanks to growing consumer demand. We send market signals every time we purchase an item of clothing. As consumers, fair trade gives us a way to connect with people from around the world and improve the lives of others. Want to shop fair trade fashion, but don’t know where to start?

Here are five brands that make being responsibly fashionable easy:

Fair Trade
Photo: Ways of Change

Ways of Change empowers refugee artisans on the Thailand/Burma border through entrepreneurial training and a collection of hammered brass jewelry highlighting generational skills.

Photo: Animaná
Photo: Animaná

Animaná works with producers and artisans from Patagonia all across Andes to create beautiful sweaters, scarves and home goods in luxurious natural fibers.

Photo: Saiint
Photo: Saiint

Matter Prints works with artisan co-ops and fair factories all around India to develop apparel with heritage-based fabrics and techniques.

Fair Trade4
Photo: Garmentory

Osborn creates small-batch, handmade shoes in partnership with cobblers and artisan weaving cooperatives in Guatemala.

Fair Trade_2
Photo: EST WST Collective

EST WST Collective partners with weavers in rural Nepal and India to develop scarves, purses, totes, rucksacks and laptop bags with respect to the heritage of their makers.

Photo: Rock+Pillar
Photo: Rock+Pillar

Bonus Brand! Rock+Pillar works closely with and supports artisans in Peru who practice traditional cobbling, leather working and textile weaving.

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