Fair Trade Fashion – How Do You Define ‘Fair’?

Buy a pair of jeans, and the chances are they’ll have travelled further across the globe in their short life than you.

The clothing and apparel industry is a complex one. It is now common for a piece of clothing – let’s take that pair of jeans, for example – to be made up of components from five or more countries, often thousands of miles away, before they end up in our high street store where you buy them.

Fair trade fashion aims to create clothing and accessories that take into account their impact on the producers who make the goods at all the different stages of its production. Ethical fashion companies are not engaged in a ‘race to the bottom’ in pursuit of the very cheapest products at the expense of producers’ livelihoods and their environment. Ultimately, this is an international trading system built on equitable relations and fair dealings.

So far, so good. But how do you define the notion of ‘fair’?

Although there is no universally accepted benchmark for what a fair price is, it is generally accepted that producers earning a fair wage are able to live relatively comfortable lives within the context of their local area. This means enough money for housing, a generous amount of food, health care, education for children, and some disposable income.

Commodities such as coffee, tea and fruits offer a very simple economic model. They are traded in commodity markets daily, resulting in a global market price. Importers can simply pay a premium above that market price and they are following the rules set down by the major certification schemes.

Manufactured, of ‘finished’, goods like clothing or jewellery or accessories are much more complicated because components often come from literally dozens of sources. Also, wages, labour laws, and factory conditions are much more difficult to monitor compared to commodity prices. So for example, it becomes very difficult to define what constitutes an ethically-sourced pair of jeans.

That’s why fair trade fashion items are not all certified and stamped yet. It’s not that they are trying to con you. It’s just that the companies are ahead of the certification bodies.

However, as a consumer you can easily identify some key practices and attributes that an fair trade fashion company should pursue if it is genuinely working in an ethical way.

Firstly, the very fact that enterprises are working with value-added goods, like jeans or necklaces, is positive. Although the trade in coffee is fantastic, coffee is just a raw material, the real value of which is gained when you use those beans to make a cappuccino. When you buy a fair trade coffee in London or New York or Paris, the farmer obviously benefits, but the great majority of the price you pay goes to the coffee company, not the farmer in coffee farmer in Ethiopia or Colombia. The value-added element, which is a posh way of explaining how some beans and hot water and milk can be sold for £2.50 or $4, goes into the pockets of European or US companies.

With fair trade fashion, producers are essentially exporting finished products, for which there is a higher added-value, rather than just raw materials. Continuing with the example of the pair of jeans, the producers are exporting a finished pair with pockets, a zipper and button, not just reams of denim in a roll. So they are benefiting by earning more money and gaining more skills. This is a huge benefit to producers in developing countries.

In addition, in the world of fair trade fashion, companies tend to work with eco-friendly products such as organic cotton, organic wool, recycled fabrics and natural dyes. This has huge environmental benefits.

Ethics in fashion is growing, and with more and more top designers becoming involved in the movement, and sustainability growing in importance, this is an issue that isn’t going to disappear. The certification bodies are likely to catch up with the leading companies to introduce some kind of labelling system. And when the storm clouds of the global economy start to move away, this movement will still be there.

Because the bottom line is that the low-cost-at-any-cost global economy just isn’t sustainable.

Your New Year’s Resolution – Invest In Eco Fashion

Every year billions of tons of harmful chemicals are pumped into the atmosphere during the harvesting and manufacture of consumer goods. Western cultures are the biggest polluters because we have created a culture of immediacy and every industry from technology to fashion is constantly reinventing itself. You can take a huge bite out of that by buying eco fashion items.

Eco fashion is, just what it sounds like, fashion items that are eco friendly. Eco fashion items tend to use more natural raw materials and are often manufactured either by hand or on basic machinery in small batches.

In fact, many such producers of eco friendly fashion outsource to or source products from small artisan communities. These artisans take materials that are readily available and using time honored traditions and basic machines such as personal sewing machines turn them into beautiful eco friendly fashion pieces that can’t be distinguished from factory made.

Eco friendly fashion of this sort is not only great for the environment (and your closet) but for the artisans as well. They receive compensation for their time and skills and which provides for their families. In the West, that not may sound exciting to us but many of these artisans are living in what are somewhat unfairly referred to as third world countries where even pennies a day can make a life or death difference.
Take that sentiment to the extreme and you’ve got Fair Trade fashion. Fair Trade fashion defined is fashion accessories and clothing that have earned Fair Trade certification. These products are guaranteed by international organizations to be produced in a humane manner.

That means that the producers of these Fair Trade fashion items get paid more than producers in the same region who sell their finished goods to other buyers. Fair Trade fashion wholesalers and retailers alike agree to abide by a set of strict regulations designed to protect the human rights of the people producing these finished products.

So instead of simply buying a sweater or handbag, you’re actually investing in the very lives and livelihoods of people half a world away. You can (and should) choose where your money goes and doesn’t it make more sense to buy from somebody you know is giving their producers a fair share of the profits? Remember, even pennies a day can be a life or death situation for these folks and if they’re getting paid 30% more to sell to one buyer than another that’s a huge difference.

Make a Hit at State Fairs With Wholesale Western Fashion

Every year, state fairs open their doors to thousands of people looking to eat strange and unhealthy foods and to purchase all kinds of gifts, as well as items for themselves. One traditionally successful type of goods at these fairs is western fashion. By taking advantage of wholesale western fashion, you can set up your very own shop and soon be reselling all types of goods and accessories to a bevy of eager shoppers.

If you ever visit a state fair, you’ll notice one thing immediately: cowboy hats. There’s something about being surrounded by horses and tractors and fried food that makes everyone seem to feel that it’s necessary to be wearing one. Another major seller is jewelry; in essence, the proximity to the farm and ranch lifestyle makes people seem to identify wholeheartedly with the culture and imagery of the west. By taking advantage of wholesale fashion, you can inexpensively stock up on all variety of western fashion goods and pass those savings on to bargain hunting fairgoers.

Beginning in July, there’s a constant string of state fairs all around the country that lasts up until early November. If you amass a collection of items through wholesale western fashion, it’s possible to organize a road trip from fair to fair, providing a fun, interesting, and hopefully profitable late summer and early fall season. With a little bit of research and organization, it’s easy to determine which fairs are best for your goods, which fairs have the lowest vendor rates, and the most efficient route to take between them.

In today’s tough economic times, a bit of creativity goes a long way toward creating supplemental income. By taking advantage of things like wholesale western fashion, you can get your foot in the door of the ripe consumer market of the state fair scene around the country. Hopefully not only will you turn a profit, but you’ll also have a bit of fun in the process.