While the outside perspective on fashion tends to be that the industry is filled with shallow, disaffected people who are driven by vanity, the truth is, fashion is a deeply passionate psychological and sociological practice in humanism. Fashion goes beyond mere adornment to act as a self-signifier, and as such, women everywhere are actively seeking fashion that represents their values. We are living in the information age where all of the knowledge in the world is literally available at our fingertips. Because of this, we are able to see the consequences of harmful practices in real-time, which has created a generation of “woke” women who demand transparency from the brands they buy from. We no longer turn a blind eye to the problems of fast fashion, or the terrible treatment of humans in sweatshops – and we’re making this fact obvious by voting with our dollars.
I’ve been writing about fashion for a decade, and from the beginning, I’ve been interested in fashion’s philanthropic efforts, particularly when environmental sustainability is involved. However, back when I started, there were only a handful of online retailers that provided sustainable goods, and their offerings were sub-par. While the idea of creating accessories and clothing out of recycled materials like plastic bags is really cool, the execution of these ideas was unattractive at best. However, over the past ten years, the availability of amazing, luxury products that support human and environmental rights either by donating a portion of proceeds to non-profit organizations or by implementing new sustainable practices has risen drastically. It may sound outrageous to say this out loud, but the reality is: you can change the world by shopping. By investing in products that promote positive practices and give back to the world at large, you are affecting change in the world. On the flip side, purchases of products that cost human lives or damage the environment can cancel out any acts of good you might do by buying from philanthropic brands. By supporting the following brands (and ceasing support of brands that damage the environment and put human lives at risk), you can change the world for the better.
When Jenny Welwert Gil and Caroline Welwert found out that their local fishery created four tons of waste per month, they decided to do something about it. Prior to discovering their amazing Swedish/Sri-Lankan brand Khogy, we had no idea that you could make leather out of fish skin, but Gil and Welwert found a way. The duo repurposed tuna skin from the local fishery, and while it may sound like the oddest material to use, the results were nothing short of astonishing. Their stunning creations come in the form of supple booties, wallets, keychains, and even bags, and they are so beautiful that you’d never guess their source. Khogy’s ethically produced products have drastically minimized waste in the Gampaha region of Sri Lanka and have also been responsible for the gainful employment of numerous families in the region. This is one brand you can feel confident in supporting, and the best part for consumers – beyond that glowing feeling you get when you do something good for the world – is that Khogy offers free worldwide shipping.
Same Sky Jewelry
Over a decade ago, Rwanda was being torn apart by civil war. The atrocities committed there were staggering, and the country is still making efforts to rebuild and heal from them. Same Sky Jewelry launched in order to provide employment and support for women in Rwanda who seek freedom and self-fulfillment. By partnering with and training Rwandan artisans, Same Sky Jewelry is able to pay them 15 to 20 more than the average wage in Sub Saharan Africa, and 100% of proceeds go back into the collective in order to train and employ more artisans. The efforts of Same Sky Jewelry are tremendous, but so are their gorgeous products. In fact, Same Sky Jewelry is so successful with their program that they have gained the support of an international network of celebrities. Their list of supporters include Halle Berry, Jessica Alba, Jennifer Garner, Alicia Keys, and dozens of other stars. If you want to up your arm-party game, Same Sky Jewelry is a great brand to invest in, and your purchase will also go to help sustain and benefit families in Rwanda.
The efforts of Feed Projects are amazing, when you consider that at last count they have provided meals for 94,691,161 people in need throughout the world. If you’re like me, you can never have enough tote bags lying around, but what sets Feed Projects burlap totes apart is the fact that the purchase of just one tote can feed a starving child for an entire year. Not only do the totes directly benefit the needy, but they are also crafted by artisans in third world countries, thereby providing gainful employment and marketable skills.
While ASOS is already one of our favorite destinations to shop online, it helps to know that there are ethically produced selections on the site that give back to people in need. ASOS Africa is one of them, and the site’s charitable line works every season to collaborate with artisans and designers in Africa to create gorgeous, affordable, and wearable collections that celebrate the spirit of the continent. For Spring/Summer 2016, ASOS Africa partnered with Christine Mando (a.k.a. Chichia), for a collection that celebrates East African textiles and prints in modern silhouettes. Each piece is made in Kenya by local craftsmen and meets fair-trade principles. This means that every purchase you make from ASOS Africa not only benefits your wardrobe, but also the indigenous craftsmen of Kenya.
The Brave Collection
Although designer Jessica Hendricks was born in Paris and raised in Manhattan, it was Cambodia that stole her heart. After teaching in Cambodia, Hendricks saw the heart-breaking conditions of families there, and decided to do something tangible and positive to benefit them. She launched The Brave Collection, a gorgeous jewelry line that not only provides jobs for local Cambodian artisans and provides a “free, fair, and dignified work environment where they are paid above average wages and receive benefits such as health insurance and stipends for their children’s education,” but Hendricks also donates 10% of proceeds from each purchase to fight human trafficking.