Look around your house today. Count how many things are NOT made in China, India, Bangladesh, Cambodia, or Vietnam. Now, compare it to the number of things you own that are produced in those countries. The number will undeniably be astounding. It is safe to say that many of those products were made in factories which operate under abhorrent working conditions and its employees are paid next to nothing ($2 dollars on average for a 12-14 hour day).
It is important to ruminate on these things, but it is even more important to do SOMETHING about it. Whatever that means for you – supporting your local artisans, boycotting goods made in those particular countries, or trying your hand at making more of what you own – do it. For me and my lifestyle, it’s a bit of all of those things, but what I find to be most important is to focus on supporting brands that are socially and environmentally conscious. Over the years I’ve generated a list of companies and non-profits that work to divert away from fast fashion and instead embrace women’s empowerment and craftsmanship – be it from a different culture or place or somewhere familiar. Though the following few companies are only a small preview into the vast world of fair-trade, ethical production, it is a start!
After you dump that recycling into the bin, do you ever think about where it heads off to? Is it being used efficiently? Luckily, Eric Hudson asked himself these exact things; he was curious if these valuable materials available from recyclables were being used to their fullest potential. From this initial phase of exploration, he and his father opened a company, Preserve, and began with one product: a functional, well-designed toothbrush made from all recyclable materials. After this design and intent gained some popularity, the company added more sustainable and functional products to their roster, everything from razors to kitchenware. These products are not only manufactured from recycled and environmentally-friendly materials, but they are also all made here in America. The company also encourages all of their customers to recycle these products once they are done with them, giving them packaging materials or information about drop-off locations. Preserve is an awesome company with sleek, stylish products that will have you confident in the future of recycling!
Matt & Nat
A little different than the others here, Matt & Nat is a accessories-focused company which explores the synergy between MAT(T)erial and NATure, i.e.- they refrain from using leather or any other animal-based materials in their products. Instead, the company is committed to exploring the possibilities available through recyclable materials, such as bike tires, cork, plastic bottles, and cardboard. In fact, 100% of their linings are made from recycled plastic bottles. What does that actually look like, you might ask? About 120,000 recycled bottles a year. Talk about a doozy. Looking at their bags, you wouldn’t even be able to distinguish the difference between a bag of theirs (no animal products used) and another leather bag; the quality is high and the aesthetic is beautiful. So, next time you are trying to decide what your next handbag might be, opt for the sustainable choice and try Matt & Nat.
*To be totally transparent, some of their production has been recently sent off to China, but they have made great strides in building personal relationships with each and every member on their production team.
After her years plugged into the high fashion world, designer Carol Miltimore decided that it was time to step away from that world. She knew that more could be done to steer the world of fashion towards socially conscious practices, and additionally, there were artisan communities with who could be employed to make shift this happen. And, Seek Collective was born. The company works with artisans skilled in hand-block printing, hand loom weaving, and natural dyeing both in northern and central India. Carol works diligently to ensure the groups she works with earn a fair, dignified income and that the communities these artisans come from are also prospering from this work; with the help of Seek Collective’s production, the artisan communities have set up various health and education initiatives for those in the nearby area. A major bonus point — the majority of the silk and cotton fabric and dyes used in their production is organic and non-toxic!
You’ve definitely heard of them before, but including them here is to just hammer into your head just how good they are. Warby Parker is a transformative lifestyle brand and one of the world’s leading socially conscious businesses. The brand offers designer eyewear at an affordable cost and with each pair purchased, a pair will be distributed to someone in need. Each month, the number of glasses is tallied up and then a donation is made to their non-profit partners to source the glasses. Partnering with VisionSpring, Warby Parker trains low-income men and women so that they can then offer eye-exams and sell ultra-affordable glasses to their local communities. They chose this initiative instead of simply donating the glasses because the company wanted to ensure it was a sustainable mission so that a culture of dependency would not develop within the communities they were working in. Cheers to the new wave of aid and development!