Ethical Jewellery – How Fair Trade Became Fashionable

Fair trade or ethical jewellery is one of those buzz terms you hear cropping up all over the place these days. London Fashion Week now has a special feature dedicated to ethical fashion design, while Milan has also introduced an ethical show that will feature the latest in fair trade jewellery.

Ethical Fashion describes design and production practices that are governed by a code of conduct covering a range of issues, including working conditions, exploitation, fair trade, sustainable production, the environment, and animal welfare.

Traditionally, these issues were the preserve of the flower power generation. So how did fair trade jewellery enter the mainstream and become fashionable?

– Firstly, greater consumer knowledge has been driving demand for ethically-sourced products. Globalisation has made the world a smaller place, and it’s now much easier to read on the web about how workers are treated in far-off countries and where environmental damage is caused by polluting industries. As awareness has grown, so has demand for ethical jewellery products.

– Fair trade jewellery designers have become more responsive to fashion trends, and in parallel, more professional designers are getting involved in ethical fashion. That has helped raise the quality bar across the ethical jewellery movement, meaning that you can now find jewellery that’s stylish, beautiful, fashionable, design-led…and ethical too. This creates a win-win situation for customers, who get great jewellery that’s also a good deal for the planet and producers.

– Thirdly, rising levels of worry about the environment and our impact on the planet has made being eco-friendly a more mainstream concern, and sparked questions about what we as individuals can do to limit our environmental impact and act more responsibly to help safeguard our environment. This has influenced shopping habits, as consumers think before spending.

– The low costs and disposable nature of much high street fashion means that many thousands of items of clothing and accessories are destined for incinerators or landfill sites. According to Waste Online, the UK alone throws away 1 million tonnes of clothing every year – that’s a lot of waste. The ethical jewellery movement has tapped into the zeitgeist by aiming to produce quality accessories that won’t fall apart after a few months.

– Finally, as fair trade or ethical jewellery brands play a larger role in the market, so the public appetite for this type of conscious consumerism grows, and so the mainstream fashion industry is forced to mend its ways. This virtuous circle of ethical fashion is helping thousands of workers and creating equitable trading relations that span the world.

While fair trade jewellery is now firmly on the fashion radar, it should be stressed that the ethical fashion movement isn’t just a passing fad, and will continue to grow and evolve in the future.

Fashionably Fair Traded Jewelry

Consumers and society in on the whole has begun to consider more closely their purchases and their impacts. The economy has influenced the market, but so has social awareness. Now more than ever, consumers are interested in where their purchases are coming from and who they affect. Often times our purchases have larger implications and repercussions than we may even realize at the time. With environmental degradation at an all time high, people are much more willing than ever before to throw down a few more dollars on products that have social and environmental benefits. Handmade and recycled goods are getting much more attention than they used to. They are no longer seen as cheap, but as inexpensive and beneficial to the environment and to peoples’ lives.

Jewelry permeates almost all societies. In most places jewelry is an expression of art and culture. They are not paid fairly and often have to work unheard of hours in a factory that offers them little benefit and a low wage. For this reason, jewelry consumers are turning to Fair Trade Jewelry. Fair Trade Jewelry is often made sustainably and more importantly, Fair Trade jewelry is true to its name. The trade between the buyer and seller is fair. The producers get what they deserve for their labor and the goods.

Socially conscious jewelry doesn’t have to look any less glamorous than any other types of jewelry. Many people are under the impression that Fair trade and recycled jewelry often uses durable metals like sterling silver. Fair trade offers many styles including Sterling silver jewelry. To be more environmentally conscious, some brands will create new jewelry by melting down metal from necklaces, rings, and bracelets that have an outdated style. The metal is melted down and then redesigned for today’s hottest trends! Exploitation of workers and especially factory workers is still occurring today, but by endorsing and purchasing products that are homemade, locally bought, fair traded, or recycled we can lessen that negative impact.

How to Dress For Less – High Fashion on a Low Budget

Members-only websites

These websites offer customers the chance to be the first at online sales. Once you’ve signed up you’ll be sent an email alerting you to the start of the sale so you can get straight there and start grabbing those bargains before everyone else.

Join a site that offers registration for free. Also, these sites do tend to email quite often so if that sort of thing drives you crazy set up a separate email account.

Head to designer sample-sale fashion site Cocosa to get your hands on designer pieces with up to 50-80% off. This fashion club offers members insider access to premium designer clothes and accessories. Each sale is announced to members in advance by e-mail. Previous collections include Christian Lacroix and Jonathan Saunders.

Koodo is ideal for fashion fans who want big savings on designer clobber. The site is really easy to navigate and when you sign up to become a member you’ll get early access to top sales so you can grab the best bargains before they go. All you have to do is check the sale calendar, select the sales you’re interested in and Koodos will email you 24hrs before it starts.

Another great website is Secret Sales where you can save between 30% and 80% on lots of designer gear by the likes of Christian Dior and Dolce & Gabbana.

Other good websites to sign up to include Fashion Confidential, Catwalk to Closet, Private Outlet and Dress for Less.

Factory outlets

These offer lots of big label names at cheaper prices. The Designer Warehouse Sales, for example, are held over three days, 12 times a year, in Islington, Central London. You could get your hands on catwalk one-offs, showroom samples and make savings of 60% or more on your favourite labels. Join the mailing list to find out in advance when the sales are going to take place.

Sample Sales

There are some amazing bargains to be had in sample sales. You can find out before everyone else when the next sample sale is by checking Dailycandy which lists the venues and times of upcoming sample sales in London.

Other sites such as Samplesaleslondon, Designersales and Stylebible have their own sample sales diaries too so keep an eye on all four to make sure you don’t miss out.

Vintage Savings

Vintage fairs are perfect for saving money while not compromising on style. From whole outfits to smaller accessories, there’s almost guaranteed to be something unique for every budget. Frockme! hosts a vintage fair several times a year at the Chelsea Town Hall, King’s Road, Chelsea. Admission is £4, children under 16 go free and students pay just £2. You’ll find clothes from every era, whether you’re looking for 1920’s flapper dresses, a little eighties number or a classic 1960s piece.

Anita’s Vintage Fashion Fairs organises vintage fairs throughout the year at Battersea Arts Centre and 20th Century Theatre, Notting Hill. Expect around 65 stands in Battersea and 28 stands in Notting Hill, full to the brim with fashion, textiles and accessories dating from the 1800’s to 1970’s. Entry is £4 or £2 for students.

VintageFair – which hosts fairs all over England including Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle and Liverpool – is also worth a look. Click on the links to your nearest location to find out when and where the next event takes place.

For online vintage stores Absolutevintage is a good starting point with lots of accessories, shoes and bags on offer as well as a few dresses. There are detailed descriptions of all the items and although you won’t find any designer pieces it is pretty cheap and there are some gorgeous pieces for anyone on a budget who is looking for that vintage look.

Marthascloset also has some affordable pieces from the 50s right through to the 80s. The sale section at Martha’s Closet is particularly good – you can often find items being offered for under £10.

Pretaportobello sells wares from the ultra trendy Portobello Road. There can be some real treasures and it’s great for finding one-off pieces.

Swap it

WhatsMineIsYours was the first British online fashion swap shop and was founded in 2004 by stylist and personal shopper, Judy Berger. Visitors can swap, buy and sell fashion items making high style affordable and environmentally friendly. There are also boutiques selling the wares of up-and-coming new designers and vintage sellers.

The website now has over 13,000 regular users so there are plenty of items to choose from. There’s nothing to stop you swapping your swaps – in fact, you could keep swapping and get yourself a new dress every couple of weeks!

Don’t buy – borrow instead!

Sites like Girlmeetsdress allow members to rent beautiful designer instead of buying them. All of the items are new or nearly new and with some retailing at thousands of pounds it can be a good way to feel a million dollars without needing the bank balance to match. Handbagsfromheaven works in a similar fashion – opt either for Pay As You Go and hire as and when you like with no commitment, or become a member and get a 15% discount off all prices.

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