Where to find fair trade and Ethically-Sourced clothing
as of 2022: If you’re hunting for environment-friendly clothes to wear to work, check out major brands like Boden, Eileen Fisher, H&M Conscious, Karen Kane, Theory, Hobbs, and Ted Baker — Nordstrom also has a big section devoted to sustainable style! You can also check out smaller brands like Amour Vert, Cuyana, Everlane, Emerson Fry, Grana, reformation and Wallis Evera.
In our first post in our ethical shopping series, we rounded up several clothing brands made in the United States, mostly startups and small and/or independent labels, and in part two, we shared a list of mainstream, more widely available workwear brands that sell clothing made in north america or Europe. Today we’re checking out clothing that’s fair trade certified, as well as clothing not officially considered fair trade but produced much more responsibly or ethically than the average brand.
Of course, when a brand makes admirable claims like those, we as buyers simply have to take their word for it — but I would rather give my business to a company that states that it’s committed to ethical labor practices and fair trade than to one who doesn’t say a word about its products’ origins or production. (Pictured: Brooks brothers stretch wool Sheath Dress, $158.)
Fair trade certification is much more complicated than you might think; there’s more than one certifying organization, and each has a slightly different definition of the term “fair trade.” It’s also possible that we may not be doing as much good as we think by getting these products.
Ndongo Sylla, a former Fairtrade international employee with a PhD in developmental economics, wrote a book called The fair trade Scandal: Marketing poverty to benefit the Rich (excerpt here in The Guardian). In The Economist‘s book review, the reviewer called it “an arduous read” but wrote, “It is hard to dispute [Sylla’s] conclusion that, so far, the fair-trade labelling movement has been much more about easing consciences in rich countries than making major inroads into poverty in the developing world.” (Sigh.)
That said, here are several brands that engage in fair trade:
Fair trade Fashion for Work
Indigenous: Certified as a B Corporation, this California-based company’s clothing — made solely from natural fibers and with environmentally-friendly dyes — is produced through fair trade in South America. The styles are mostly suited to business casual and casual/creative dress codes.
Nomads Clothing: A member of the Ethical fashion Forum and the British association of fair trade Shops, this UK company’s offerings are produced in line with fair trade policies. much of the clothing, which is made from organic cotton and colored with environment-friendly dyes, is work-appropriate, although most of it would be best for company casual and casual/creative offices.
Noonday Collection: A member of the fair trade Federation, this company sources its products from 29 artisan services in 12 countries. It uses jewelry, scarves, and bags, some of which are office-appropriate.
Ten Thousand Villages: The only nonprofit organization on our list, ten Thousand Villages — which was founded in 1946 — has hundreds of brick-and-mortar stores as well as an online storefront. A member of the world fair trade Organization, the company holds fair trade partnerships with artisans around the world and is committed to environmentally-friendly practices. It offers jewelry (tending toward statement pieces) and accessories (as well as gifts and home items).
Imported but Ethically-Made Clothing (may not be “fair trade”)
Accompany: The website for this certified B Corporation tells customers that its mission is to “ensure our merchandise meets the standards in at least one of these three essential areas” — the three being “artisan made,” “fair trade,” and “philanthropic.” Much of Accompany’s offerings are too casual for the office, but there are some workwear possibilities, including some jewelry and scarves.
Brooks Brothers: Brooks brothers holds its producers to strict rules that are explained in detail on its website, and it only deals with direct vendors that meet its Code of Conduct. (Check out our post, “How to build a work wardrobe at… Brooks Brothers.”)
Ethica: This nyc company’s site uses clothing and charm products from ethically-produced, environmentally-friendly brands and lets you shop by category: sustainable, made in the U.S.A., trade not aid, handcrafted, and vegan. (Its comprehensive explanations for each category are here.) much of the clothing isn’t work-appropriate, but numerous of the shoes and bags are.
Naja: Naja’s lingerie (in seven nude-for-you shades), acnull