Fair Trade Jewellery – Why Bother?

Fair trade jewellery does producers a world of good. That’s what the advertisements tell you. But does ethical trade really make a difference? Surely a fashion necklace isn’t going to change the world? Should we really bother buying ethical jewellery?

Traditionally, the fine and fashion jewellery industry has focused on marketing its products by romance and emotion. You fall in love with a fashion necklace or a glittering ring and it makes a beautiful accessory for a party or wedding. Most often, it never crossed our minds where it was made and who created it.

This view is increasingly out of date, where any responsible person realizes that we are all part of one global community that is interdependent. Is that gold ring contributing to environmental degradation in Peru? Is your fashion necklace being made by a Bangladeshi child forced to work in intolerable conditions for a pittance?

Supply chains are becoming increasingly transparent. Before, the old attitude was ‘out of sight, out of mind’ but with globalization, the internet, cheap travel and Facebook, that’s no longer possible or desirable. Many more people are beginning to ask whether fashion jewellery companies that hide their supply chains are doing so for a reason?

Worth it, but not worthy

But the new generation of fair trade jewellery designers who are leading the way by creating eco-friendly and ethical jewellery have realized that preaching to customers won’t get you anywhere.

In fact, the best way to help marginalized or exploited workers in developing countries is to create cutting-edge designs of fashion jewellery that are desirable because they’re stylish, beautiful and on-trend first and foremost. The fact that by purchasing these products means you are helping to build a fairer way of trading is the cherry on the cake.

How a piece of fair trade jewellery is made, whether it’s a fashion necklace or a gemstone ring, is important to the wearer because it’s part and parcel of its story.

The future of ethical jewellery

Of course, fair trade jewellery still only makes up a tiny proportion of the jewellery market, but the ethical jewellery movement is growing fast and gaining fans and space in the mainstream fashion world.

One day soon, it will be socially unacceptable for anyone to purchase jewellery that is not ethically sourced.

Fair Trade Fashion Is Eco Fashion

Fair Trade fashion items like blouses, skirts, and accessories like jewelry and handbags are great because they ensure that a greater portion of the money gets to the people who make the products. However, Fair Trade fashion is also good for the environment.

Don’t believe it? Consider this: the raw materials for most Fair Trade fashion items are cultivated in a sustainable fashion because it makes economic sense for the people harvesting them-slash and burn tactics are just so inefficient. So the next time you’re checking out an article of clothing or an accessory that’s stamped with the Fair Trade logo, you’re also considering and Eco fashion item!

Now, of course, there are obvious exceptions to this rule. Not every Fair Trade item is an eco fashion item, but most are. You simply have to do a little product research to know if you’re getting what you’re paying for. You see, Eco fashion means either that the clothing and accessories you’re purchasing do not harm the environment or that they are manufactured by companies who give back to the environment through purchasing energy credits, paying for tree plantations, or supporting other Earth-Friendly projects.

So, when hunting for Eco friendly fashions, find out where the product is made, by whom, and if possible, how. It may be as simple as reading the label sewn into the garment, reading the mission statement on the storefront’s website, or emailing the distributor (or sometimes the manufacturer directly). Sure it takes a little more effort but Mother Earth will reward you for your time. And if she doesn’t, she will reward your children and theirs.

You see, eco friendly fashion is not only an investment in your social standing, it’s an investment in the human race’s future. In short, forcing manufacturers to embrace Eco friendly fashion (or Earth Friendly fashion to put it another way) is everybody’s responsibility. It sounds melodramatic, I know, but if we don’t start taking responsibility for the future, there won’t be one.

Now that the heavy thinking is done, let me give you a few Earth Friendly fashion tips. Consider recycled items in addition to items manufactured from natural fibers. They not only keep waste out of landfills but they ensure that we’re getting the most bang for a carbon footprint. And remember that Earth Friendly fashion doesn’t have to be earth tones. You can find great items in all sorts of jazzy colors.
So next time you’re shopping, shop with your brain and not just your credit card.

Organic and Fair Trade Fashion – What’s the Big Deal?

The conventional clothing industry is huge at over one trillion in sales annually. To keep this engine running smoothly, the clothing industry has developed the concept of fast fashion. The clothing industry works hard through advertising to ingrain in our minds, the idea that we must upgrade our wardrobe regularly with the latest style and/or seasonal changes. We must do these things or be viewed as behind the times, old fashioned, out of sync, unattractive, etc.

And the clothing companies have made it real easy for us to throw out the “old” and bring in the newest clothing trend by offering up cheap fashion. Heck, when that flashy shirt is only $5 bucks and that complimentary pair of pants is only $10 bucks, why not, right?

But what we don’t realize is that the true cost of these cheap fashions have simply been externalized. What do I mean by that? In order to produce cheap clothing to keep this whole consumerism tread mill going, the clothing industry must find inexpensive manufacturing options.

They do this by outsourcing their production to countries where labor is cheap, labor laws are lacking or non-existent and environmental regulations are minimal. So, let’s say Big Clothing Corporation A goes to a third world country to find a clothing manufacturer. They shop around to find the best price and decide on local manufacturer B. They generally don’t ask questions as they don’t want to know exactly how the manufacturer can possibly produce the clothing order for such a cheap price. Knowing equals guilt right?

Third world manufacturer B can make the clothing so cheaply because they use child labor, pay workers wages that are barely at subsistence level, offer no health care, child care, insurance benefits and have no costs associated with proper disposal of hazardous chemicals such as dyes, formaldehyde, fire retardants, etc or textile waste because they just dump it all untreated into the nearest river or stream.

This is what I mean by externalizing the cost. Big Corporation A now gets their nice new, shiny shirt for $2 which they then turn around and sell to you for $5. But as you hold up the shirt that little voice in your mind asks – how the heck can they sell this for just $5 bucks? They can because the local lakes, rivers and streams and the local work force where that shirt was made took the brunt of the cost. In other words, the cost was externalized.

Do you want to be a part of this tragedy? Because you have read this far, I don’t think you do. So what can we do to effect change? Thankfully, we can do a lot. The fact is that over 70% of our economy is driven by you, by me, your next door neighbor. That’s right, consumerism drives almost three quarters of our economic activity. It is the bread and butter of big corporations.

If you say NO to fast fashion and yes to organic, fair trade clothing, you are making a difference. As more people stand up and say the same thing, your combined voices will force big corporations to change. They will simply have to change or become obsolete. You hold all the cards.

So, what’s your choice? Do you choose organic clothing which is made without the use of harsh chemicals such as pesticides that pollute our environment making our drinking water unsafe, destroying habitat and killing innocent farmers by the thousands? Will you say yes to fair trade clothing which protects workers rights, allowing them to rise out of poverty and become productive and proud members of our global society?

Or do you choose to stay on the consumerism treadmill and keep buying cheap, fast fashion while ignoring the consequences of that decision?