What is “fair trade” and why do I care so much?
I am passionate about fair trade fashion because it allows me to be stylish without harming others or the planet in the process.
Even as a little girl, I always loved fashion, and I also always loved people and their stories.
People and their stories are always intertwined with our purchases.
Fair trade puts these connections front and center.
I adore shopping in thrift and consignment stores; it’s easy for me to get carried away imagining the woman who owned a dress before it landed in my closet. Did she inherit it from her mother? Did they get into a tiff when the woman said the dress wasn’t her style and tossed it into a donate bag? How did the 10th anniversary ring my husband gifted me with start in a prestigious political family’s jewelry collection but end up in a little vintage boutique in Jerome, Arizona? My imagination runs away with itself.
I sold clothing through a direct sales company for a year, and each time a new order came in, I would spend a long while sorting and hanging all of the new clothes. I found myself wondering who had sewn each garment. Who had boxed it up?
Had the person sewing this top been happy, did she like her creation, or was she frantically trying to get through as many items as possible in order to get paid?
Curiosity got the best of me, and I became really interested in the origins of the items we wear, the items we have come to covet, even the items that sometimes seem almost like disposable clothing to the wearer.
I watched a documentary on Netflix called The True Cost and I realized that my heart, passion and ethics were leading me towards fair trade fashion.
I am honored and delighted to know that I am able to play my own small part in doing fashion differently.
So what does “fair trade” even mean?
The term “fair trade” refers to an approach to business that seeks to provide greater equity to the people farming, crafting or manufacturing the goods that we as the consumers purchase.
The Fair Trade Federation is a community of businesses dedicated to operating according to nine principles. These principles are:
1. Creating Opportunities for Economically and Socially Marginalized Producers – i.e. you can rest easy that the product you are purchasing was not made in a sweatshop, or by children, etc.
2. Develop Transparent and Accountable Relationships. This one is really huge for me. I like to know that I can trust companies that I am doing business with, whether it is as a buyer or as a consultant/seller.
3. Build Capacity. Fair Trade is a means to develop producers’ independence. It isn’t charity. It’s a mutual relationship.
4. Promote Fair Trade. I love this one! I am, as one of my dear friends so lovingly pointed out one day, an “askhole.” I need to know things, it’s in my nature! Customers and producers are encouraged to ask questions about conventional and alternative supply chains and to make informed choices.
5. Pay Promptly and Fairly. Yes, please.
6. Support Safe and Empowering Working Conditions. Fair Trade means a safe and healthy working environment free of forced labor.
7. Ensure the Rights of Children. Fair Trade means that all children have the right to security, education, and play.
8. Cultivate Environmental Stewardship. Members reduce, reuse, reclaim, and recycle materials wherever possible.
9. Respect Cultural Identity. Members balance market needs with producers’ cultural heritage.
Look, the reality of life in the United States for a suburban mama like me is that sometimes I have to make a Target run.
Fair Trade coffee and chocolate have made themselves pretty available to me at my local grocery store, but fair trade clothing and accessories are much harder to find. When I learned about what fair trade is and how I can do my part, especially as a small business owner, I am so very honored and thrilled to be able to offer affordable fashion that is fair trade.
If you’d like to learn more about my ethical fashion community, come find me on Facebook.
If you’d like to join me on my mission, I’d love to have you!