For the past 9 years I have been working in the ethical fashion arena. Seeing behind the "fast fashion" scene of an industry filled with greed, environmental destruction, and a lack of concern for the well being of employees, has been quite disheartening and not surprising. What gives me hope is the sustainable fashion movement and the people who aren't buying into systems of greed and are now focusing more on what they actually need.
We don't need much to survive. Ask anyone who has taken a long backpack journey how they felt when they returned home. I'll bet you the majority of them purged their closets and homes of access stuff. When you minimize the stuff in your life it leaves more room for what actually matters... people. By this I mean you may buy less but you buy from an artisan in your area who makes beautiful pottery. It's their life's joy. It may cost more but it supports the local economy and that person lives their dreams and you get a beautiful mug to give good vibes to your coffee. (-: Every time you use that item you can share with a friend about who made it. Maybe it will inspire them to get back on the pottery wheel and rekindle those past artistic endeavors they had in college. Since the mug is probably the equivalent to buying 4 mugs at Target, maybe you save up for a few months and only buy one when you have a milestone- Like good grades, or a weight loss goal, or a work goal. Do you see what happens here? Now that mug has meaning, it has a story, and it has richness.
Corporate America cannot survive off of this system of "less is more". That terrifies them. They want us to all be locked into their system of consumption that keeps us disconnected from what truly matters. They keep us distracted and make us feel a false sense of security through constant consumption while they get richer, the environment gets destroyed, and we feel more miserable.
What is exciting about all of this is that the power is in our hands. Consumers are starting to demand more ethical goods and this brings change. Wal-Mart now carries organics and Target now has a tiny "artisan made" section. The market will go in the direction we move it.
Many of you have asked who some of my favorite brands are that I trust. Here is a list that I hope helps you in your journey to become a more conscious consumer:
1) For Bags and Gifts:
JOYN India: I have personally worked with this group and they are doing some amazing work to empower Tibetan refugees as well as Indians who otherwise would not have employment. As if that wasn't enough, the fabric is spun and woven by a local former leper colony in their area. I'm not much of a handbag carrier but this is my go to place if I need a gift. They sell their lanyards and luggage tags in sets of 3 so they are a great gift to keep on hand.
2) For modern Bags and Jewelry (Coming soon!)
MORINGA: This is a brand I am starting for some guys who have had a non-profit in Ethiopia for many years. Currently on the web-page we have some old stock from their non-profit brand, but come November- WATCH OUT! We will have new jewelry and handbags all made by artisans in Ethiopia. The jewelry will focus on brass and ebony wood materials, and the handbags will be a very clean and modern cut. I'm so excited to show you guys! I can't wait to wear everything!!!
3) For a Clothing Splurge:
BEL KAZAN: I found this brand at a boutique in SIlverlake (Los Angeles), CA last time I was in town. I did some research on them and was so delighted to find they are an ethical company based in Los Angeles and manufacturing with artisans in Bali. They have quickly become one of my favorites. They are more expensive than what I would normally buy but right now they are having a great SALE (still pricey but doable) on their Fall 2015 pieces.
4) For Shoes:
Sseko: Love this company and love the owner Liz Bohannon's Instagram feed (Funny alert!) This brand is happy, light hearted, and employing women in Uganda and Ethiopia and providing school scholarships to their employees in Uganda. Their strappy sandals are versatile and you can change out the straps, or check out their
5) For pretty affordable basics:
Everlane: This brand is all about radical transparency. They break the supply chain down for every item they sell to show you the items exact cost. You can click to see the place it was manufactured and why they chose that facility.
6) A zero waste clothing company:
Tonlé: They are a zero waste company. This means all of the scraps that normally go in the waste bin get put back into the production chain and are turned into jewelry, woven into fabrics, etc. This is a clothing brand that inspires me most by it's practices. I have done projects with this brand for many years and the owner, Rachel Faller, is an incredibly inspiring person who deeply follows her conviction about how ethical fashion can be accomplished.
In closing, I know it is hard to spend $80 plus on a dress that you are used to buying for $10-$20. But when you invest in a more expensive piece, you can wear it for longer and also be an advocate for that brand as you tell people about why you bought it. Life was meant to be precious and meaningful on every level, and this journey has proven that to me. I am thriving with less in my closet. It's easy for me to grab an outfit and go now, without having to sort through mounds of clothing and still feel like I have "nothing to wear".
If you are new to this ethical fashion concept please don't feel overwhelmed. Start with one small thing. In terms of Ethical Fashion it's "One small step for (wo)man, one giant leap for (wo)mankind."
If you have any questions or want to share any brands that are your own favorites please leave a comment.
Onwards and upwards, ~Lori Fox