When women support each other incredible things happen. Imagine applying that thought to our shopping habits. Globally about three quarters of all garment workers are female. That could be your sister, mother, aunty or grandmother sitting for hour after hour at a sewing machine; being paid less than a living wage, in unsafe work conditions. Making the top that you snap up for a bargain, photograph once for Instagram and then throw away.
We need to connect our purchases with a human face. Connect with the art and process of garment making. Let's make a conscious choice to know where our clothing came from.
As Emma Watson says “It’s not enough for me anymore that it’s a beautiful piece. I want to know who made it and where it came from”.
Using our buying power to send a clear message to brands that we will settle for nothing less than transparency and fairness for those women working in every facet of the fashion industry, is an important first step in empowering women globally; both consumers and producers.
The easiest way to take this first step in exercising your purchase power is by choosing brands that treat workers fairly, pay them a living wage and offer good working conditions. By choosing brands that reflect our values we are ensuring the growth of sustainable and ethical shopping. Here are four brands that are transparent, sustainable and empower women in the production life cycle of their brands.
“Because I believe in making fashion fair” - says veteran fashion journalist Marion Hume.
(L-R) Bianca Spender, model Rae Rodriguez, The Social Outfit board member Aminata Conteh-Biger. Rae wears the dress design from the Mindfully Made Collaboration, and Bianca and Aminata wear garments from Bianca's own collection.
The Social Outfit
The Social Outfit is an ethically trading social enterprise which employs refugees and new migrants in Sydney. Operating as a shop front, selling clothing made from deadstock donated by some of Australia’s best known designers (including Romance was Born and Bianca Spender); The Social Outfit offers refugees and new migrants a first job in paid employment, employee training and experience in clothing production, retail, design and marketing. Recently partnering with Bianca Spender for the Mindfully Made collaboration, two pieces were designed by Bianca and sewn by the The Social Outfits sewing technicians and then sold at David Jones department stores as part of Fashion Revolution Week 2018. 100% of sales were donated back to The Social Outfit. Buying one of these items with a swing tag signed by the maker, one of the women who sewed it is a powerful thing and empowering on a personal level.
“We want to continue to make and sell quality products that help financially empower people, and provide customers with unique pieces that tell amazing human stories” - they say.
A designer committed to sustainable fashion. Representing Australia at the recent Commonwealth Fashion Exchange, Kitx created a stunning dress made from hand-hammered, drilled and threaded shells from the Solomon Islands. Working with three female artisans who beaded the shells (which are used as local currency) and stripped rafia (bark from trees) using sea coral to soften the raffia. The straw was then hand tied together by these women. These pieces were designed with integrity, minimising the impact on people and the planet, and using materials that are traceable and non hazardous. A brand that cares about “the health and wellbeing of the workers who are farming, handling our production and the end life phase of the garment’s life cycle”.
“We choose to work only with sewing and finishing contractors who are committed to quality and human decency within their operations” - explain responsables o Kitx.
Menesthò Sustainable Swimwear
Menesthò Sustainable Swimwear offers sustainable luxury resort and swimwear made in Europe. Using organic fabrics and producing in London, Menesthò has designed a zero fabric waste production line. This ensures higher standards of employability and a reduction in their carbon waste footprint. Garments are handmade with love in London, with their social media featuring regular posts on bikini pieces being cut and stories showing swimwear being sewn. You know exactly where it’s come from and you’re supporting a local artisan business by purchasing one of their pieces.
Menesthò uses Vita fabric made from recycled polyamide and Econyl® fibers, made from recycled yarn scraps, fishing nets, fluff and industrial plastic waste, that is being processed in Europe in order to produce fabrics for commercial and industrial use. Choosing to use ethically sourced fabrics such as bamboo, organic cotton, hemp and Modal, Menesthò is committed to supporting an ethical, fair and sustainable fashion industry. Recently featured in Tatler, Elle, GQ and Harpers Bazaar; Menesthò is a brand making waves in sustainable luxury resort fashion.
Veerah Shoes is a label “inspired by women made for warriors”, as they say. With a logo known as the 'Veerah knot' symbolizing the unity of wisdom and compassion embedded on the bottom of every pair of heels, Veerah makes PETA approved vegan shoes using eco-friendly, cruelty free and ethical materials such as apple peel skin: A bio-based vegan leather material derived from organic apples grown in the Italian Alps. The brand also uses post consumer PET bottles - their signature Orchid print fabric is made from 100% recycled and repurposed bottles. Approx 4x500ml PET bottles are recycled for each pair of Veerah shoes, greatly reducing the amount of waste going directly into landfills and the ocean. Other material Veerah uses is cork, a renewable and sustainable resource.
Veerah participate in further social justice initiatives including contribution of 1% of proceeds to social impact causes, offering 10 paid hours per month for employees to take self improvement courses and sponsoring a one year scholarship for "A She’s The First Girl Scholar" for every one hundred customer interviews.
+ Words: Julia Henry
Julia Henry is a sustainable fashion advocate, living on the beautiful Central Coast of NSW, Australia. She is the creator of @ccfashionpack, an instazine embracing the fashion revolution which promotes slow and sustainable fashion in a real life setting.