I’ve been talking a lot about my month of no fashion purchases, but despite taking a break from shopping, I still wholeheartedly believe that fashion can be a force for good in the world.
I love brands that view giving back not as a box to check on a list of corporate social responsibility requirements, but as as something that is integral to the way they conduct business.
So, I thought it would be fun to round up seven fashion brands that I admire, all of which give back specifically by creating sustainable employment opportunities. While I don’t think one-for-one programs are necessarily bad (a la TOMS shoes), I do strongly believe that people want to be self-sufficient, not to simply be given charity products that they may not necessarily need or want. The companies below work to employ and empower at-risk communities through fashion, and, of course, make beautiful products.
ABLE describes “Who they are” as jobs vs. charity. ABLE is a lifestyle brand focused on ending generational poverty by working with women who have often overcome extraordinary circumstances. The company manufactures its products directly in the communities it wishes to impact, empowering women and giving them jobs with dignity. ABLE makes beautiful leather goods, clothing (including ethically-made denim, which is on my closet wants list!), jewelry and accessories.
Krochet Kids started with a simple idea: teaching people to crochet, paying them a fair wage for their products and helping them rise out of generational poverty. Over the last decade, Krochet Kids has employed hundreds of people in Uganda and Peru, going beyond their original crocheted hats. Krochet Kids is a Known Supply brand, which allows consumers to see exactly which maker produced the product they purchased.
Nadaam creates cozy and elegant cashmere products that honor tradition, people and animals. They work with nomadic goat herders and pay them 50% more than traditional traders, and their garments are produced by hand-combing the goats, since shearing can be very stressful for the animal. Almost all cashmere sourced from Mongolia is organic, but not all cashmere is environmentally sustainable. Naadam has created the only cashmere yarn that is Cradle to Cradle certified.
Raven + Lily offers fair trade fashion, accessories, and home furnishings. The brand employs more than 1,500 at-risk women in 10 countries around the world, providing them with a fair-trade wage and access to a safe job with sustainable income. Additionally, the company helps to finance microloans for female entrepreneurs and is a registered B-Corp.
The artisan craft industry is the second-largest employer in the developing world. Soko works with artisans who they view as entrepreneurs, not employees. The brand uses mobile phone technology to connect independent artisan entrepreneurs to Soko and a virtual factory, expanding their production and market reach.
Slumlove Sweater Co. products are ethically produced in Kenya in factories with responsible production practices. In addition to providing fair wages for work, Slumlove contributes to high school scholarships to students living in the world’s largest slum.
Sseko empowers women in both Uganda and the United States through the manufacture and sale of apparel, accessories, handbags and footwear. The brand began as a way to generate income for high potential, talented young women in Uganda to continue on to university. Additionally, the products are sold on Sseko’s website and through direct-selling, offering women in the U.S. an opportunity for flexible and meaningful employment.
What are your favorite brands that give back? Let me know who I missed! xx
*All images are property of the respective brands.