Why Fair Trade Works for Ethical Fashion

I’ve touched on the connection between Fair Trade and Ethical Fashion previously, but now its time we dig a little deeper. When I was in high school I did a full semester long project on fair trade but never read anything on its impact on the fashion industry. Well that was 10 years ago and since then Fair Trade has changed quite a bit.

Fair trade works to build business partnerships where traditional craft artisans are respected in the global marketplace. This ensures a fair wage for a sustainable livelihood. This also allows traditional crafts to flourish in the world of fashion while preserving cultural heritage. Now let’s see exactly what Fair Trade does and how consumers like you can help.
What happens when artisans are not a part of the Fair Trade partnership?
To understand exactly what Fair Trade does in the Ethical Fashion movement, we must see what happens when it is not present.
Artisan crafts are often found widespread in any marketplace tourist find on their travels. While these markets are where the craft industry began, the sales are not typically enough to support a family.
Because of this, artisans have begun seeking international markets to sell their products.
However, the world of global trade is much different than a mom and pop shop on a busy market street.
There are so many pitfalls that can happen to an artisan that is trying to break out into the global market.
Some of the basic things that people often think of are challenges with elevating designs or getting a license to export. But there are often times a lot of bigger brands or smaller brands that don’t know the best ways to partner with artisans to ensure their needs are being met.
This leaves the artists vulnerable to being taken advantage of with even the smallest of orders. I have heard of brands paying late, not paying the correct amount, or simply not paying at all once production was completed.
Working with companies and brands that support Fair Trade means that artisans do not have to worry about issues.
Everything from helping them set up their businesses through capacity building to setting a fair wage, Fair Trade companies have an obligation to their suppliers that they ensure that their partnership works for everyone.
By having Fair Trade companies within the Ethical Fashion movement consumers can rest assured knowing that the product they are purchasing was made fairly and possibly even help develop a new artisan business.
How do Artisans Partner with Fair Trade Companies and Brands?
It may be surprising to learn that even though Fair Trade has been around since the 1940s, there are many artisans who do not know that it exists.
There have been organizations that have worked to promote Fair Trade within more remote communities, but that is just the first step.

It’s one thing for an artisan to learn about the benefits of Fair Trade. It’s a whole other task for them to partner with reputable companies and brands that follow Fair Trade principles.

There are a multitude of organizations globally that connect brands and companies with artisan businesses. One of the largest organizations within the US is the Fair Trade Federation (FTF).

The FTF has a rigorous certification process that routinely checks up on its members to ensure that they are following additional fair trade principles that are tailored to brands. These principles created by FTF are aligned with the WFTO‘s principles.

From here artisans can reach out to these businesses knowing full well that they will have already aligned on their mission and purpose.

After connecting, the typical relationship building,  production visiting development process and other wonderful steps that go in to fashion that will solidify a committed and long-term partnership.

What products can be fair trade AND artisan made?
People typically think of Fair Trade products as being chocolate, coffee, teas and other edible products.  I know I did before I started working for a Fair Trade Jewelry company.
But there has been an increase and handcrafted products over the last few decades.
This is all thanks to companies reaching out to small artisan groups throughout the world wanting to provide a new type of product to customers.
What started out as a movement with maybe a few textile pieces from latin America,  has now reached almost every facet of the marketplace. From shoes and clothes to jewelry,  furniture,  even lingerie, anything can be Far Trade.
There is no end to what products can be artisan made. This means that consumers now have the option to make all of their purchases artisan Fair Trade.
How does Fair Trade move Ethical Fashion forward?
It is interesting to see where Fair Trade and Ethical fashion are intertwined. But how can Fair trade move the Ethical Fashion movement forward?
Fair trade is the starting point to building partnerships in the fashion world. The importance of fair trade organizations acting as a linkage for artisans and brands is in my opinion underrated. Without being able to connect these businesses, the movement would be at a standstill.
In addition, brands that understand the market can provide trend and design assistance among other things to artisan businesses just starting out.
This is a valuable investment in both the skills that go into production, and the businesses themselves.
And investments like these are rarely found in the traditional fashion industry.
Women are at the forefront of the handicraft sector which can move women’s empowerment and equality to higher levels than ever before
Consumers can support these brands by being sure to do their research before making a purchase. With each dollar spent on a Fair Trade and Artisan made product, we can all continue to push the movement into the mainstream.
And besides, the value that a fair trade product provides is much more than anything ever purchased from a target haul.
In summary,  Fair Trade and Ethical Fashion go hand-in-hand.
It serves as an easy way for consumers to know that the labor put into making their new item was done in a way that provided a sustainable livelihood and a flourishing business.
It is another way for us to feel connected through our purchases and no longer need to wonder who made are close.

So what did you think? What other questions do you have about Fair Trade and Ethical Fashion?
Let me know in the comments and be sure to subscribe for catch a future posts that answers YOUR question!!
Happy Shopping!

2 thoughts on “Why Fair Trade Works for Ethical Fashion

  1. Great post! Very informative and definitely puts the vulnerabilities people face at the forefront of the discussion. Everyday consumers, in the US for example, forget that the basic rights we have everyday – whether it is when we go to work, or when we buy something from the store – are not the basic rights afforded to everyone. The Fair Trade Movement is so important because it makes you think more as a consumer about what you’re buying and who your purchase will impact!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s