Fashion is powerful and has the ability to influence the masses. It can be used for the good of humankind and the earth. The fair trade industry, for example, has produced countless jobs for marginalized individuals across the world. These jobs have lead to sustainable societies and a better world. However, there are many cases such as the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh in April of 2013 that killed 1,133 people and injured over 2,500. This was a preventable tragedy, if the factory managers and large corporations had followed adequate safety procedures.
My name is Katie and I am a supporter and designer of ethical fashion. After working for two years in the fair trade fashion industry, I noticed a lack of well-made and ethical clothing options that were affordable. I was frustrated; I worked for a non-profit and lived on a tight budget, but I did not want to shop at H&M for my next summer dress, so in 2013 I started Passion Lilie. Based in New Orleans, our mission is to empower artisans across the world by creating dignified employment opportunities that give fair wages and support safe and healthy working conditions.
By creating ethically made garments, I am fulfilling what I believe to be my mission in life: to change the world through fashion with Passion Lilie. Yet, the journey from concept to creation is challenging, especially when coordinating with artisans from a different country. Weather, festivals and what I call “India time” are just some of the challenges we face while meeting the hard deadlines of fashion.
The biggest thing I have learned is to adjust my timelines. On every project I allow myself double the amount of time it would take a typical clothing line. Secondly, I focus on creating positive relationships with my artisans. I found that words of encouragement and truly involving the artisans in the production process can significantly increase the quality and the efficiency of their work. Finally, I have learned to trust people and to believe in my product.
You don’t have to be a designer or a business owner to make a change in the world. Every individual has the opportunity to make a stand against fashion that is harmful. And it is simple, I promise. Below are 6 easy ways to support ethical fashion. Even if you only do one item below, you are making a difference!
- Read labels: Chances are very high that if the label says, “Made in China” it was not made ethically. Before you make a purchase, read the company’s website and social media pages. Do they support fair wages, safe working conditions and environmental sustainability? If they don’t talk about their ethical practices, they probably don’t have anything to be proud of.
If the products are made in the United States or fair trade then chances are very high that the producers are receiving a fair wage with safe working conditions.
This handy website: Free 2 Work rates the social and environmental impact of many major brands. Be careful though some companies may have an “A” rating, but if you look closely at their scorecard, they don’t pay fair wages.
- Say no to Walmart: I know that it is very hard to live a life 100% dedicated to fair trade or made in the USA products, because there is not yet enough availability of these products, but there are certain stores that should be avoided, and Walmart is among the worst on my list.
- Buy fair trade, eco or ethical fashion: Today, there is a growing number of fashionable and affordable ethical brands. Check out this guide of social good companies.
- Buy locally made. Fair trade is wonderful, but it is also important to support your neighbor and your local community.
- Say no to fast fashion. Buy less, and invest more in well-made items. Fast fashion creates a huge amount of textile wastage, because garments are tossed out and trashed before they have lived their proper life cycle.
- Recycle: Shop at thrift stores, consignment stores and re-purpose old items when you can. It’s the age of DIY, so there is no excuse if you don’t think you are creative enough, just Google it!
About Passion Lilie –
In 2012, founder Katie Schmidt visited a small workshop in India and was inspired by the ancient Indian artisanal techniques of dyeing and weaving as well as the benefits of fair trade. Born out of a desire to change the fashion industry, Passion Lilie began affordable and accessible for everyone while empowering artisans across the world by creating dignified employment opportunities that give fair wages and safe and healthy working conditions.
“My mission in life is to improve the world I live in, and because of my love for design, I have chosen to do this through fashion.”
–Katie Schmidt, Passion Lilie