SEATTLE — We live in a consumer culture not-so-secretly obsessed with the idea that more is more. The average American currently buys five times more clothes than they did in 1980. Not only is this leading to an excessive waste problem (with 10.5 million tons of American’s clothes heading to landfill every year), it has created a clothing demand too high to possibly be created under ethical means.
This increased demand for more and more clothes in stores every year encourages poor factory conditions and wages for workers. Fortunately, there are alternative options for consumers to find ethically made clothes that will help workers escape poverty.
4 Fair Trade Fashion Brands That Empower People in Poverty
As a brand that is an active participant in the fight against gender inequality, Global Mamas is a female-run organization. Employing over 500 Ghanaians in seven different communities, this brand has a transparent focus on what “prosperity” means to each of their employees. In fact, the company’s website is filled with direct quotes from employees, showing their dedication to maintaining an open dialogue with workers. These quotes share perspectives of what prosperity means to the workers or how working for a fair trade company has changed their lives. Eunice Mensah, a bead assembler for Global Mamas, is quoted saying:
“I am free since the day I started because I can pay for things more easily now. I am proud of myself because I am happy every day.”
In addition, employees of Global Mamas:
- On average earn more than 75 percent of the minimum wage
- Receive paid maternity leave
- Are promised 13 percent of their checks to social security
- Have access to free healthcare
Ten Thousand Villages
Employing 20,000 makers of ethical fashion in 30 developing countries, this company ensures a fair living wage by flipping normal business models on their heads. Ten Thousand Villages embraces ethics, including the makers themselves in the conversation about how a product should be priced and prioritizing the profit the maker would make. The company’s ethical business formula follows that 50 percent of the payment for the product is paid immediately once the price is agreed on and the other 50 percent is paid once the product is made. That means whether the product sells or not, the maker receives the full agreed upon amount 100 percent of the time.
Good & Fair Clothing
Good & Fair prides itself on producing fair trade clothes in a stance against modern day slavery. Since 2010 Good & Fair has dedicated itself to fair trade by:
- Providing free education to the factory workers’ kids
- Ensuring free healthcare for workers and their families
- Paying fair wages to the farmers who make 100 percent organic cotton
- Paying fair wages to factory workers
By recognizing the modern day slave conditions for many clothes producers around the world, brands like Good & Fair are creating the gold standard of doing business the right way. This new business model is one that values worker rights and works to empower the maker, ensuring their right to a fair wage and safe working conditions.
Malia Designs, located in Cambodia, provides opportunities for many at-risk women and disabled people through its transparent alternative business model. By promoting the need for control over one’s own life, Malia Designs empowers its employees by:
- Supporting gender equality — hiring many women
- Employing small independent designers
- Paying fair wages
- Donating over $160,000 to anti-trafficking efforts
- Combating child labor — paying artisans fair wages helps ensure their children go to school
Additionally, Malia Designs partners with Damnok Toek, a nonprofit aimed at meeting the basic needs of vulnerable children. Damnok Toek is Cambodian-run and helps hundreds of children each year through:
- The prevention of child trafficking
- Reintegrating 40 children with families yearly
- Schooling over 600 kids daily
Transparency is key to finding fair trade fashion brands that empower those in poverty. The choices we make as consumers have the power to positively impact people living in impoverished conditions. We vote with our dollars. Supporting companies who respect workers and have a dialogue with them about their needs promotes fair treatment and empowers workers to have more power over their own destiny.
– Amy Dickens