Why Conscious Fashion?
We believe it's important to create a positive impact where we can- and one action can go a long way.
Conscious living can change the trajectory of many lives around the world- including our own and I wanted to share a little about the how and why behind that.
Listen to this talk I did at our local church or scroll below to find out more.
Ethically made products and conscious consumerism are incredibly important- the fashion industry (and so many others) are ridden with slavery and scandalous supply chains.
I started learning about this topic a few years ago and felt led to start this ethical fashion company so women could have an easy way to shop for products that are trendy and as close to slavery free as they can be today.
There are over 40 million people are trapped in human trafficking today, which is about the populations of California and Oregon combined. 80% of those are victims of labor trafficking, 25% of them are children, and most are women and girls.
The department of labor came up with a list of 148 goods that are commonly produced by children, or with forced labor or both. Some of these products include: carpets, diamonds & gold, agriculture, coffee, cotton, electronics- yes, this includes the iPhone, clothing and textiles, accessories, shoes, pornography, and tobacco. Here's en image from the Department of Labor that also gives some every day examples of things that are likely to involve forced or child labor:
I don’t know much about slavery within all those topics but I can talk to you a bit about the items we put on each day.
As stated by Remake.org and Fashion Revolution, my favorite research based sources that report on the fashion industry, Pre-1980, stores would receive new items four times a year- in Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer. Now, we have 52 micro-seasons and fast fashion brands receive new products 2-7 times a week. With the fashion industry growing at such a vast rate, the biggest corners we now cut are human. These cut corners don’t only happen within the cheap fast fashion brands, like forever 21, etc., they happen across many/most brands that manufacture overseas, and sometimes here in the USA.
80% of the workforce are young women between 18-35. Children typically enter the industry at 14 work an average of 14 hours a day, 6 days a week. Many of these workers are exploited, physically and verbally abused, work amongst harmful working conditions and toxic chemicals (that can lead to death) while enduring sexual harassment on a daily basis- many of them are forced to take regular pregnancy tests so factories can avoid costs associated with maternity leave or childbirth and are forced to take birth control. Most workers earn less than $3 a day, live in extreme poverty and can’t afford their basic needs. 70% of their income is used for food alone while women have to leave their children for years on end to work in these factories so they can have some kind of an income. These women see their children once a year.
If an unexpected bill comes up or they can’t make ends meet, many women feel forced to turn to prostitution to cover the costs because they have no other means of income or time for another job.
Here’s an example of what some of these destructive working conditions look like:
This is Rana Paza. In 2013, This factory in Bangladesh collapsed and killed 1,138 people and injured 2,500. There were 5 factories inside this building that made clothes for brands like J.C. Penny, The Children’s Place, Mango, Primark, and Walmart, as well as many other major brands across the world. Employees reported dangerous cracks in the building the day before and begged managers to let them stay outside, but ultimately, they were forced back to their stations and the building then collapsed on them.
Unsafe working environments like these aren’t unique. Brands we love and see everyday use these factories like these around the world. They’re cheap, so brands can have a larger profit margin and we can have cheaper clothes. ‘Fast fashion isn’t free. Someone somewhere is paying for it’ - Lucy Siegle, journalist.
This industry has grown to generate $1.2 trillion a year, yet the supply chains remain the same. Our desire to buy cheap products or even from moderate or higher end brands that use factories like these is breaking up families, keeping people in poverty, keeping kids away from school, and it’s also literally killing people.
Poor nations remain poor and societies of uneducated people remain uneducated. This is a cyclical issue. This is one that will not change unless we do.
Whether or not you’re a fashion guru, this should apply to you. We all came here dressed today, so it’s something we should all be paying attention to.
Solutions & how to take action
Now, if you’re thinking of taking conscious consumerism head-on and going ‘slavery free’ in every aspect of your life, I greatly admire you, but unfortunately, I don’t think it’s possible. We all own computers, phones, furniture, clothing and everyday household items that most likely involved some kind of labor trafficking. Throwing them all out the window would be wasteful and would cause another slew of issues.
Fortunately, we’re starting to wake up and consumers are demanding transparency. The ‘ethical fashion movement’ is already making huge strides and bringing awareness to the everyday consumer. Target has started to carry a line of fair-trade jeans and tons of world-changing brands are being birthed.
We can’t change everything all at once, but we can start making small changes in our everyday lives that will lead to a great impact.
I know I’ve given you a lot of information- it might be overwhelming, but here are the 6 best ways to make the changes in your own life:
- Shopping with ethically made or fair trade fashion brands like mine (Atonement Design) and understanding what ‘ethically made’ and ‘fair trade’ means.
- ‘Ethically made’ is a bit of a variable term, but it essentially means it provides at least a basic level of standards in labor ethics. People are provided with a standard wage for living, the basic human needs are cared for in the workplace and people are treated with dignity and respect. Ethical can also relate to the product’s impact on the environment, but it at least encompasses basic human needs. This helps people in the immediate but isn’t exactly changing an entire society.
- ‘Fair-trade’ has a pretty concrete definition. To constitute as fair-trade, a brand must comply with the standards set by Fair Trade International and monitored by the Fair Trade Federation. The FTF believes trade ‘should be used as a tool to help alleviate poverty, reduce inequality and create opportunities for people to help themselves.’ They’re about the larger issue at hand. They’re out to change developing communities for the better, to transform societies and create a sustainable impact that will last far beyond their term of employment. They’re out to break cyclical poverty and shift the trajectory of developing nations through their programs. They support fair and on-time compensation, healthy and non-toxic working conditions and build long-term relationships with the workers so they can develop skills for a successful future for themselves and their children.
- Shopping second hand. This is a great way to participate in conscious consumerism. It’s cheap, pretty easy and makes a lasting impact. By doing this, we’re minimizing our environmental footprint (which is another issue we can spend hours on) and we’re not showing brands we agree with their current practices.
- Made in the USA. We have sweatshops here in our country, we just don’t have as many. I used to think shopping USA made ensured that things were ethical, but it doesn’t. It’s just less risky and sometimes ‘less risky’ is our only alternative option. There are countless factories here that are heavily monitored by third parties, and there are some that take advantage of undocumented workers and treat them terribly.
- Get the Good On You app. This app is essentially a directory of brands you can look up when you’re shopping that will give you a brand’s ‘score’ and will tell you whether or not the product you’re looking at is ethically made. It makes shopping much easier.
- Ethical fashion directories. There’s a great one on StillBeingMolly.com or you can just google ‘ethical fashion brand directory’ and many will pop up.
- Just ask. I email countless brands all the time to see if I can carry their products in my online shop or if I simply can’t. Brands that believe in transparency will get back to you and the ones that don’t will probably remain silent.
Being a good neighbor typically plays out in our direct interactions with others and lending a hand when we see someone in need, but when it comes to the supply chains of our purchases, it’s not typically something we think about. I encourage you today to think about where in your own life you can make small adjustments that will make a lasting impact. A group of 10,00 people striving to perfectly eradicate slavery in their own lives won’t solve our problem- millions of people making small everyday changes, and doing so imperfectly will.
I hope this helps you!
-Haley Jaeger, Founder.