It is well known that there are massive wage gaps for labour costs in the global textile industry when comparing Western European and North American countries to Southeast Asian and Eastern European countries. According to the latest Werner International Labour Cost Comparison Report, these wage gaps are as large as $50+ per hour ($US) when comparing the top country Switzerland to the bottom country being Bangladesh.
More companies in the textile industry are taking a stand to eliminate this issue, becoming more socially responsible, ensuring fair wages are paid, safe and clean working conditions are provided, offering tools and workshops to improve local communities, and supporting sustainable livlihoods. The following 15 companies are doing their part to change the industry for the better.
Beaumont Organic’s collection features clean, classic and timeless shapes, producing easy to wear pieces that make great statements, or perfect layering pieces. Their extremely soft fabrics are sourced within the UK and EU allowing them to trace the history of the fabric to ensure a harmful process is not undertaken as part of its manufacture.
Founder Hannah Beaumont started the Beaumont Organic Foundation and pledges to donate 1% of its annual profits to the Niusawa School, Taveuni, Fiji. She encountered first hand a country stricken by poverty after living and teaching there in 2002. She admired and respected the happiness and appreciation of the Fijians for all the simple things that Europeans take for granted in life. She now provides them with simple items which we like to call ‘little luxuries’ to make their lives a little better day-by-day.
Former United States President Bill Clinton called Bottletop ‘wonderful and innovative’ and we couldn’t agree more. Their story began with handbags made from upcycled bottle tops in Kenya then to handbags made from upcycled ring pulls in Brazil. Bottletop has since turned into an international best seller through a design collaboration with Mulberry. They are currently working with DKNY, creating a collection of accessories in partnership with the UN. The collection will be launched through a global multimedia campaign and series of consumer facing events in London and NY in 2015.
The creation of Bottletop products enhance the techniques of some of the most highly skilled artisans from around the world and their training programs enable others to join them, supporting themselves and their families in the process. Bottletop has raised £150,000 for education projects in Africa while their core product produced in Salvador, empowers women in one of Brazil’s poorest communities.
Braintree is a natural clothing company with a very simple, yet impactful philosophy – to design and make beautiful, timeless fashion while caring for our environment. They have been advocating eco fibres since their humble beginnings in the mid 1990’s, producing quality affordable garments, always produced ethically and with sustainability in mind. Braintree’s ranges for women and men are made from sustainable fibres such as hemp, bamboo & organic cotton, all of which are good for the environment.
Chopping and changing factories isn’t the Braintree mentality; the ones they currently work with are the same ones they’ve worked with since day one. These continued partnerships means their growth and vision are shared, more jobs are being created, wages are protected, and skills are developed. Everything they do is done with respect for others. This is why Braintree endorses a Code of Conduct approved by the International Labour Organisation and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These organisations help ensure that everyone is treated respectfully, has chosen to work and is paid fairly.
Do You Speak Green? has a dream, one which consists of a world where children would breathe unpolluted air, drink unpolluted water and hear birdsongs in the neighbourhood. They are helping this dream become a reality by producing clothing made from 60 percent organic cotton waste + 40 percent recycled post consumer polyester (PET) bottles certified by Global Recycle Standard.
Do You Speak Green? provides an eco-friendly stylish line of yoga and loungewear created by Fusion Clothing, a sustainable manufacturer based in India. Everything is made in their own Global Organic Textile (GOTS) Certified factory. In addition to their sustainable apparel, they also use oxo-biodegradable bags using d2w technology, ensuring the bag will gradually decompose when exposed to bacteria. Do You Speak Green? is a prime example of feel good fashion.
Elroy was created with a story in mind. They want you to know all about sourcing and the artisans that put each piece together. Their designer works with small developing communities in Indonesia, where she began a sustainable employment project in 2009. The company’s intent is to support fair trade markets and by manufacturing where and how they do, Elroy is helping to alleviate poverty and provide opportunities for those in economically challenged areas.
They are known for soft, luxurious, eco-friendly fabrics and versatile, fun and feminine styles. They have come a long way since their inception in 2007 and now offer a full range of tops, bottoms, dresses, jackets, accessories and sweater knits. Elroy encourages you to share the story, and support what you know.
After watching a documentary on silk production which showed silk worms being boiled alive in order to extract the silk thread, Ethical Silk Co -founder Eva decided to look for an alternative. She eventually found Ahimsa Silk, an eco-friendly silk production process where no animals are harmed, resulting in an eco-friendly, beautifully rich silk.
She then discovered the Himalaya Tailoring Centre unit in Dharmsala, India run by Fairtrade clothing brand, Eternal Creation, a centre employing over 70 staff. Rather than outsource to meet growing demand, the centre’s primary focus is increasing the capacity of the workshop, providing more jobs for the local community and ensuring high quality standards and ethical principles are maintained. Eva now works with Eternal creation as a tailoring unit to make her products as they provide principle wages and working conditions. Eva donates 5 percent of her profits to the centre.
For those who think ethical fashion isn’t as sexy, Gilda & Pearl would like to have a word with you. Every piece of Gilda & Pearl lingerie is ethically and expertly made in their UK atelier. Their silk lingerie and loungewear is cut by hand and made with artisan methods, such as French seaming the silk and using appliqué techniques to apply the lace. From hand pattern drafting to final individual finish and trim, every Gilda & Pearl is eye-popping with detail.
The result of these traditional techniques is an exquisite, luxurious lingerie and loungewear collection which resemble works of art. They have already been listed in the Independent’s Top Fifty Lingerie Brands, the Ethical Consumer Magazine’s Top Ten Underwear Brands and now they conclude our list.
Here Today Here Tomorrow are firm believers of people understanding the importance of knowing how products are made and who made them. They work closely with artisans from the Association for Craft Producers (ACP) in Kathmandu, Nepal, a not-for-profit fair trade organisation certified by the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO). Each product in the collection is handmade and provides the artisan who made it with economic and social support. They provide opportunities for low income, primarily female artisans across 15 different districts of Nepal.
Their products offer a range of hand knitted 100 percent wool clothing and accessories embodying a commitment to sustainable design practices. The knitwear consists of 100 percent sheeps wool which is a biodegradable and highly sustainable fibre. The wool is sourced from New Zealand where the controversial and cruel mulesing method is effectively banned and good animal welfare practices are ensured.
Kuyuihi is one of the pioneers of conscious fashion. They were the first to introduce socially-responsible organic cotton jeans wear and lead the way in creating sustainable fashion from recycled cotton, recycled plastic bottles and alternative materials such as hemp and tencel. They have certainly raised the bar for many of the companies around them.
Kuyichi is committed to transparency, working together with the non-profit organisation MADE-BY, they measure, benchmark, track and credibly communicate their social and environmental sustainability progress. They report this progress through MADE-BY’s publicly available scorecard.
10) Lur Apparel
Lur is a women’s apparel line whose products are dedicated to sustainability and supporting female entrepreneurs. Their apparel is made from 100% recycled materials by blending pre-consumer cotton scraps and post-consumer plastic water bottles.
Lur strives to make a positive difference in the communities in which they operate. They create positive social change by providing educational and vocational opportunities for women and children in need. A portion of their profits go to helping women establish businesses and gain access to education to allow themselves, their families, and their communities the opportunity to rise out of poverty. They give one week of vocational training to a woman of Santa Cruz, Laguna, Guatemala for every item sold on the brand’s website.
MIMCO’s brand philosophy is ‘Accessible Luxury Designed with Quirk’ which core categories consist of handbags, small leather goods, jewellery and shoes. Their social responsibility is female empowerment.
Partnering with the International Trade Centre’s Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI), MIMCO plays an active role in reducing poverty by empowering women through work. By connecting global fashion brands with local African artisans, this partnership offers fair working conditions, gender equality and the opportunity to gain valuable skills that benefit their entire communities.
MIMCO’s Managing Director Cathryn Willis says the collaboration between MIMCO and the EFI brings together the joy of fashion and textiles, while celebrating the very real talent of local Kenyans. MIMCO knows they can’t completely change the way the world operates, but they can do their best to offer women living in poverty and less fortunate circumstances a chance for self-empowerment through raising awareness of their situations and collaborating with empowering institutions, like the Ethical Fashion Initiative.
12) Nudie Jeans
Nudie Jeans don’t believe the words ‘throwaway’ and ‘jeans’ belong in the same sentence. When a pair of jeans become worn out, Nudie Jeans uses them to make patches to extend the life of another pair of jeans or to make something completely different like a bag or shorts.
By handing in your favourite old jeans to one of their stores, you receive 20 percent off a new pair and they put yours back in the shop, using them to create second-hand articles. The repaired jeans have achieved the Swedish ‘Good Environmental Choice’ eco label given by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation.
Nudie Jeans is a member of the Fair Wear Foundation and only work with a handful of partners, all of whom are required to comply with their code of conduct. The Fair Wear Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization striving to improve working conditions in the textile industry, ensuring that everyone across the production chain works under fair conditions.
13) O My Bag
These aren’t your ordinary bags. O My Bag is an eco-friendly brand that produces fairly-made handbags and accessories but does not sacrifice quality and style for principle, because to them, they’re one and the same.
Every O My Bag is created with love and a positive atmosphere in Kolkata, India where fair wages are paid, education and training are offered, and women and minorities are given equal work opportunities. The bags are made from a unique kind of eco leather, which is supplied from local Indian cows and is tanned without harmful chemicals.
By choosing to work with these carefully selected producers in India, O My Bag contributes to fighting poverty and encouraging the empowerment of women. In 2013 they also gave books to students from surrounding villages and to the children of the producer’s employees. In addition, tuition grants were provided for students who did not get these from the government.
14) Pants to Poverty
Pants to Poverty is a British fairtrade and organic underwear brand which was established in 2005 when Nelson Mandela came to the UK and called for a generation to rise up and make poverty history. In England, pants are not trousers but instead, they are underwear. However, more than that, if something is pants, then that means it’s terrible. So ‘Pants to Poverty’ means Poverty is terrible, as well as saying that they are fairtrade and organic underpants.
Fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world but Pants for Poverty works with a farmer organisation called Zameen Organic, ensuring organic and fair practices, where no pesticides are used. All the farming is on rain fed land and their production takes place in a factory featuring water recycling, Azo free dyes, and reduced energy consumption. They also provide real living wage programs and worker development empowering programs, both of which help develop the local community.
15) Study NY
Of the total textile fibre produced, up to 65 percent is lost, post-consumer, to landfill, incineration or composting, which represents between 400,000 and 700,000 tonnes per year in the UK. Of this, at least 50 percent is said to be recyclable. Study NY puts an emphasis on improving this issue as all their garments are manufactured and cut in New York City with the exception of some collaborations in Peru and Mexico City. From field to cutting table, every part of a garment’s process is carefully examined and controlled to be socially and environmentally conscious and their efforts are being noticed. In 2011 Study NY was awarded the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation Grant for sustainable design.
A new initiative from the Brooklyn Fashion Designer Accelerator launched by the Pratt Institute provides over 21,000 square feet of production and work space where NYC designers/makers like Study NY can grow their start-ups into viable businesses, integrating local manufacturing and an ethical supply chain into their bottom line.