An Ethical Fashion Shopping Guide
In response to my blog entry on Slow Fashion and Lauren's blog on her Ethical Capsule Wardrobe, we have had numerous people ask how to find ethical companies and what brands we recommend. I must say that there are so many more options today than just 5 years ago, so there is definitely a growing movement and trend towards ethical fashion. It's very exciting! That said, I totally recognize that it can be overwhelming to know where to start if you start to ask the hard questions: Who made my clothes and how were my clothes made? It seems easier to ignore these hard to answer questions and just to continue to feed our addiction to fast and cheap, but its catching up with us, the planet, and the people who are ultimately paying the price for our bargains.
Let's just pause, breath, and admit our problem. As a culture we have an addiction to fast fashion and we need each other to overcome it. Together as women, we especially have a powerful voice to bring ethical fashion to the forefront. We have the resources, the freedom, the creativity, and the choice to bring about change if we take the time and energy to do so.
To give you a starting place for inspiration, I recommend taking some time with two of my favorite resources: the Ethical Fashion Forum (based in London) as well as B Corporation (we are members of the EFF and are a certified B Corp). You can do a lot of research about various fashion companies and their commitments to sustainability as well as their impact on people and the planet. It's a great starting place.
Next, check out the great companies listed on Conscious Co and the Good Trade. These websites offer on-trend references for tons of great like-minded fashion companies! If you are in NYC, you can even visit the current pop-up shop of Conscious Co's curated ethical companies at H+M. I'm not a fan of H+M's fast fashion, but I am a big fan of their recent efforts to offer sustainable options to their customers!
I often visit Etsy to find fantastic "makers". The brass lighting and reclaimed wood tables in the Raven + Lily studio and storefront are all made by "makers" I found on Etsy. And some of the cutest clothes and most original tees I buy for my kids come from Etsy shops. I like supporting emerging designers and local small businesses. Darling Magazine is also soon launching a curated "makers" market on their website. I'm sure its going to be full of incredible designs and wonderful companies.
VINTAGE / RESALE SHOPS:
For the past 20 years some of my favorite places to shop have been vintage and resale stores. I definitely have to have the time to head this direction, but the year our family decided to "buy nothing new" was the year I really had to learn to love thrifting! In Austin, my favorite stores are MOSS, Garment Modern, and Feathers. Most major cities have great vintage and resales shops, but there are also loads of online resale shops like ThredUP.
When I find a brand I like, I try to support them and tell others about them. I hope you might do the same. And when I go to a big chain store and see that they have one fair trade chocolate bar in a sea of other chocolate bars, I buy that fair trade one. I want that big box company to keep supporting ethical brands, so I use my purchasing power to communicate that. If many of our big box groceries now carry fair trade and organic produce because there was a growing consumer demand for it over the past 10 years, then why shouldn't the same be true for fashion? Let's make that happen by using our purchasing power to make a positive difference in the world by curbing our addiction and intentionally supporting companies that care about the stories behind their designs.
Here's my short list of personal favorites in the Ethical Fashion world:
- HELM Boots: USA cobbler-made men shoes. Gorgeous. They are the envy of every man here in Austin. My husband is lucky to be good friends with the founder, and my son owns a one-of-a-kind pair of the "Dax" boots (named after him but a style that never went into production).
- Apolis Global: Hands down my favorite men's ethical fashion company. The founders are two brothers and friends we knew from when we lived in LA. They are at the forefront of well crafted ethical fashion.
- Reformation: A totally sassy and gorgeous line of apparel for women made sustainably in the USA from remnant fabrics. I love the fringe black skirt my husband gave me last year.
- Maiyet: Couture Ethical Fashion. My idols. I love everything about this brand but can afford nothing (except for one excellent pair of boots I bought on sale last season). Their SOHO storefront is worth visiting if you are in NYC. Every item is a modern work of art.
- Fortress of Inca: Beautiful fair trade, artisan made shoes from Peru. The owner is also based here in Austin, and I own 2 pairs of boots that I wear often. The current new spring designs are lovely!
- Tiffany Kunz: Incredibly talented LA based jewelry designer who uses recycled metals and conflict free gems. Her designs are gorgeous. Raven + Lily partners with Tiffany often and she designed our entire Spring '16 and most of our Fall '15 jewelry. Can't wait to share...in the meantime, shop her online store for some incredible pieces you will love for years and years.
- Dean Frederick: Famous, Austin based jewelry designer. He uses conflict free diamonds and only does custom pieces. My husband surprised me several years ago with an updated version of my engagement ring redesigned by Dean (my diamond had fallen off so the ring just sat in a drawer for years till Dean saved the day). Dean has a unique modern version of vintage design that I truly love.
- M.Montague: Beautiful home decor, textiles, and fashion from my dear friend Maryam in Morocco! I spent my 40th birthday at her amazing Peacock Pavillions and have several pieces from her collection in my home and in the Raven + Lily storefront. I also own a 100 year old vintage dress from Yemen found by Maryam. She gives back from all her sales to support Project Soar, a local outreach she started to empower the young girls in her community.
- JMDrygoods: This storefront in Austin sells amazing finds from Mexico and beyond. She has a collaboration with Madewell to support the artisans in Oaxaca. I've purchased several pieces from here for my home and to wear. Its one of my favorite local stores with its own unique style and way of supporting artisans.
Finally, I want you know that I am fully committed to growing the impact of Raven + Lily for good around the world. If you are reading this blog, I assume you are already supporting our brand to some capacity. I'm so grateful for that and I hope you continue to follow our journey, purchase our products, and share our story within your circle of influence. I will do my best to not compromise, and offer designs that are ethically sourced and produced on behalf of preserving the beauty of our planet, and the dignity of artisans in our partnerships.