10 Fair Trade and Woman-Fueled Companies for International Women's Day

by - Thursday, March 08, 2018

 Happy International Women's Day!

If you are questioning how to help women around the world, the best way to start is where you dress. Western women are held to impossible standards of beauty and stylishness, but the constant churn of fast fashion hurts the women who make it most. Sweatshops that make your cheap clothing are infamously inhumane and unsafe (people continue to die in fires and other destruction, we find out about slave labor weekly, it's BAD). What isn't always mentioned is that these sweatshops and fast fashion factories are primarily staffed by women.

It's the clearest link we have between first world misogyny (beauty standards and consumer pressure to always be fashionable) and the truly disgusting mistreatment of women all over the world.

  Odds are good that you have something in your closet made by a slave, or at least a woman mistreated. That's the bad news. The good news is that since you are part of the problem, you can be part of the solution too. Get fast fashion out of your life- try buying your clothes secondhand, made in America, or fair trade. Support businesses owned by women. They are out there and I will prove it to you. 

If you don't know what businesses in your neighborhood are owned by women, tomorrow is the perfect day to find out. If you live near any restaurants, I bet at least one is owned by a woman. Check around and be surprised by the local businesses you could choose to support a woman making it happen. On a broader scale, so many fair trade companies are doing really interesting things to solve problems facing women all over the world. Not surprisingly, many of these are owned and operated by women. This blog offers a small taste, but look around! So much is out there!

pearl harbor female firefighters from 1941
Female Firefighters in training at Pearl Harbor from 1941- from Getty Images, can be found on this buzzfeed article as well
I love this photograph- it's one of the inspiration pictures that lingers at the front of my computer, firing me up to get in there and keep fighting for women everywhere. I love that this picture captures a bunch of women working as a team (despite different races) to learn and to be of service to others. I mean, how awesome is that! I also love that they are all looking at the problem, not at each other, and I just think the photograph is so dynamic- they look like soldiers and superheroes all at once, and they remind me of the amazing power women can have when they decide to face a problem together.

Today is International Women's Day which means I have had a spirit-raising amazing day of feministing online. Most of what I saw easily splits into two categories- 

1. Women praising women in their life, noting the strength of others in their immediate world or feminist heroes of theirs. 

2. Feminists noting how much work is left to do, especially on a global scale. 

It may seem daunting to look at the incredible challenges still facing women (also, inconceivable to me that people wouldn't identify as feminist or at least with feminist causes- you cool with child brides? Love genital mutilation? Think women deserve to take the brunt of poverty in the world? Me either). But, I also feel encouraged this year to see how many people (especially women) are working on the problem from multiple angles.

The thing I am most concerned with is the strong correlation between gender and poverty. Women face poverty at staggering rates, making them more vulnerable to violence, abuse, even sex trafficking. This also means they struggle most with things we take for granted like sufficient food and a suitable place to live.

They also struggle for safe workplaces and respect for their labor. You know all those times I talk about the people being mistreated so you can have cheap clothes? Like the clothes you are wearing right now? An estimated 90% of those mistreated workers are women.

These two problems become all the more daunting in the face of climate change. As the climate becomes more erratic, it becomes more vital to have somewhere to keep you safe or confidence you are going to get food. 

Though these problems may feel like a world away from us, we are part of the system creating them- those sweatshops and unsafe factories that make our cheap t-shirts are staffed by poor women around the world. The consequences of climate change and pollution are being felt most by povert-stricken women (and their children) all over the world. Our constant search for more stuff for less money is coting them, disempowering them, and hurting them. This is a depressing truth, but it also feels empowering. 

If we are part of the system, we can also change it. 

First, everyone go read through and sign the Pledge for Parity, which is the theme of the day this year. No seriously, I can wait. 

There are so many ways to get involved and to use your own strengths, ideas, and concerns to help women around you. You can do it! Here is one way you can by doing something you already do- shop.

Want to change safety, health, and living standards for women around the world? Buy certified fair trade. Stop buying things where you know the labor standards are sketchy at best. We all know better, and they are paying the price, so it is time to stop. 

Fair trade companies have a much higher percentage of female leadership (I love this- women helping women) and many are specifically targeting poverty-stricken or post-traumatic (former sex trafficked) women. These women put traditional sewing and embroidering skills to use and gain living wages and humane hours and working conditions. 

This mode of production should be universal, but we can make it more so by showing companies we are willing to pay more for something that wasn't made with slave labor. We will pay extra if they will invest in doing the right thing. 

So if you are also feeling a healthy buzz of lady power on this fine day, think about what is coming up on your shopping list. Could you buy a fair trade gift for someone? Or finally replace that thing you need to replace? Put your money into companies like these, and you give someone a career, not just some one time charity. 

elegantees white t shirt
from Elengantees
Elegantees (FT)- Survivors of sex trafficking who are now free in Nepal make t-shirts. This reduces their vulnerability and gives them a living wage and a life. Who would have thought buying a t-shirt could be social action?

Fair Indigo (FT, O, USA)- This site's mission is to "create a culture of caring with every piece you wear." I couldn't have said it better myself. Lots of great stuff for Men, Women, and Babies and Kids. You can even shop by the values and missions that mean the most to you, including fair trade.
recycled flip flop bracelets
from amazon

Flip Flop Bracelets (FT)- These recycled flip flops/ now bracelets are made in Mali by an all-woman staff. Also fair trade sourced. Pretty cool!

Global Girlfriend (FT)- This amazing site only sells fair trade products made by women! Come on, that is cool. They have clothing, gifts, soaps- all sorts of things. Time to buy someone a birthday gift? Maybe a thirtieth birthday gift? (I kid). Perfect place to start if you want to empower women around the world!

Green Women Store- This online store sells goods from all sorts of women-owned businesses. Some are pretty quirky, but some look great. They don't shy away from women's needs, and the shop looks like you could browse a long time.

Impression purple embroidered scarves
from Impression Purple
Impression Purple (FT)- This company uses traditional embroidery techniques to make gorgeous moden garments. Artisans in Pakistan create the clothes as part of the Ethical Stitch Program.

Junk in the Trunk (RC)- This cool company works in Arizona and California with carefully curated vintage items. Lots of reuse companies, from their gorgeous vintage markets to your neighborhood women's consignment store are owned by women. 

Mata Traders (FT)- Mata Traders employ women in India and Nepal and are fair trade certified. They work with co-ops and try to end the cycle of poverty for the women who work for them, offer fair wages, and a reasonable work day. You can read all about it on their website. Pretty amazing!

raven and lilly shirt
from Raven and Lily

Raven and Lily (FT, EF)- This woman- owned and led company employs 1500 workers at fair trade wages. They also won a B-Benefit Corporation (helping impoverished women improve and establish their livelihood, honoring traditional labor, and using eco-friendly practices). The owner is a woman who works as an environmentalist, a minimalist, and helps communities. And their clothes are so cute.

woman wearing symbology skirt
from Symbology
Symbology (FT)- Lots of really interesting and fashionable clothing made by women in India and the West Bank. They also stress preserving cultural traditions, using traditional techniques from the region the clothing are made, empowering those techniques to continue to move forward. They also use a lot of beautiful prints. I don't see anything about environmental impact though, so I can't speak to that in this case.

This may seem like a small thing, one purchase from one small company, but the movement is growing, and you can be a part of it. Right now, there are at least 40,000 fair trade workers, so the opportunities are growing. The more this happens, and the more money fair trade makes, the more less ethical companies might change their ways. And really, if you are helping one woman feed her children for one day with your purchase, that's not nothing. Not even close. Happy International Women's Day!

10 fair-trade and women-owned clothing companies

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