Last week, we caught wind of a horrific factory fire in Karachi, Pakistan that claimed the lives of 264 workers. Reporters at Refinery 29 drew similarities between the brutal blaze and the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire here in the states. And with good reason: The Pakistani factory kept their doors and windows sealed shut and had no emergency exits. Under these conditions, the trapped workers were left to suffocate and burn.
Horrifyingly enough, this particular factory was responsible for manufacturing clothing for the United States and Europe. Though this harrowing tale has shaken the fashion world, it’s certainly not the first time factory workers have faced brutal conditions. Just last year, hundreds of employees at an H&M factory in Cambodia suffered from fainting spells, breathlessness, and vomiting. In an Indonesian Converse factory, staff members have claimed that they are routinely physically and emotionally abused on the job. The workers, many of whom are women, reported being kicked, called pigs, and making substandard wages.
So, while it’s tempting to drop $15 on a skirt that’ll end up in a landfill next season, it’s more important than ever to purchase products that are produced ethically. These 10 companies use fair trade and eco-conscious practices to empower workers, their families and communities, and those who want to look good while doing good.
1. Nahui Ollin
Mission: Saying Nahui Ollin’s stylish purses are eco-friendly is an understatement. Each one is crafted from thousands of candy wrappers and soft drink labels that otherwise would’ve clogged landfills. Fashioned in Mexico by artisans earning fair trade wages, you’ll never have to worry about lugging the same bag as every other gal: No two are alike.
What You’ll Find: shoulder bags, totes, messengers, wallets, clutches, headbands, and small gifts
Price Range: $10.75 for a keychain to $231 for an oversized carryall
2. Blue Sky
Mission: Blue Sky’s funky apparel and accessories are produced by more than 500 families in India and Nepal. Employees enjoy fair trade wages, health care, and a nurturing work environment that fosters talent and creativity.
What You’ll Find: apparel including tops, dresses, pants, skirts, and jackets, bags, scarves, hats, and tapestries
Price Range: $5 for coin purses to $89 for a pea coat
Mission: Della works to empower women in Ghana, helping them rise out of poverty with fair wages and weekly money management and literacy classes. Now that’s girl power!
What You’ll Find: bags, electronics cases, headbands, and small accessories
Price Range: $12 for a headband to $68 for a clutch bag
Mission: Most women in Kenya grapple with sub-par working conditions and wages that leave their families yearning for more food on the table. Acacia Creations is on a mission to aid and empower these women through fair trade and eco-friendly practices (a selection of standout pieces are made from gorgeous recycled glass and paper). Artisans earn wages that are five times Kenya’s national average, enabling them to not only survive, but thrive.
What You’ll Find: jewelry, accessories, and home décor
Price Range: $7.50 for a wooden bowl to $44 for a shawl
Mission: California gals Stephanie Pollaro and Wendy Hicks traded in relatively comfortable lives for the streets of India. Through iSanctuary, survivors of human trafficking learn how to make jewelry, rediscovering their dignity and earning 100 percent above a fair trade wage in the process.
What You’ll Find: bracelets, earrings, necklaces, gift wrap, and stationery
Price Range: $4 for gift wrap to $35 for pieces from the Artisan Line
Mission: Why wear plastic when you can invest in nature? Kenyan artisans collect fallen wood, sustainable grass, and “bush fired” porcelain to create gorgeous baubles you’ll sport again and again. Plus, these local workers are always paid fair trade wages for their hard work.
What You’ll Find: bracelets, necklaces, earrings, embellishments, and home goods
Price Range: $5.95 for clasps to $114.95 for large platters
7. Mata Traders
Mission: Mata Traders is a business by women for women. With flirty, on-trend frocks (they’re a fixture on ModCloth, so that should tell you something!), buying fair trade is easier than ever. Best of all, the Indian women who assemble these garments and accessories are paid a living wage and are given the opportunity to express their opinions in the workplace.
What You’ll Find: apparel including tops, dresses, pants, skirts, and jackets, necklaces, accessories, and home décor
Price Range: $12 for a headband to $98 for a dress
Mission: Fall is the perfect time to stock up on prettily patterned flats, on-trend oxfords, and cozy boots--and now, you can add some color to your shoe stash the ethical way. Osborn footwear is produced in Guatemala using recycled fabrics and fair trade practices.
What You’ll Find: shoes, shoes, and more shoes!
Price Range: $125 to $178
Mission: In the tiny Ethiopian village of Zenabwork, residents struggled to find employment and subsequently, put food on the table. Fortunately, Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu took action by founding a footwear company called soleRebels. When you purchase one of these cozy, colorful pairs, you’re also investing in a community. On average, workers receive wages that are 233 percent above the industry standard.
What You’ll Find: flats, slip-ons, lace-ups, and boots
Price Range: $60 for flats to $95 for boots
10. OKA b.
Mission: Need a reason to splurge on cute shoes for fall? OKA b. has four: Each pair is completely recyclable, waterproof, USA-made, and will leave your savings account intact.
What You’ll Find: thongs, slides, heels, and flats
Price Range: each pair is $45 or under, so forget about taking a hammer to your poor piggy bank
Images courtesy of their respective websites; main image via ModCloth.
The opinions expressed on the BUST blog are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily reflect the position of BUST Magazine or its staff.
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