When I am asked which brands are really ethical my first answer is always the same: handcrafters are the most ethical brands. Many times they don’t even know how important is their job for the sustainability of the planet but I cannot imagine a more ethical brand than an handcrafter or an artisan.
Their small production is often on demand then they really know how to avoid overproduction; they carefully choose the most natural sources, which gives quality and sustainability to their products; they produce our clothes and accessories themselves, sometimes with the help of other workers in a very transparent way and without exploitation of people and resources.
I loved what Gaia Segattini said one day about sustainability in fashion: being sustainable as an handcrafter is easy because artisans are sustainable by default, but the real sustainable ones are those who pay their taxes and their providers and workers respecting deadlines and personal needs.
Of course there are more sustainable brands in the world and I have already showed you how to find them (here) but today I want to give you an example of what we can do to support them: just buy from them and reward them for what they do for us and for the planet!
I want to give you an example of an outfit created with pieces from an handcrafter and an ethical brand.
The outfit that I am wearing is: 1. handmade by Madame Ilary, in particular the lovely trousers and turban (I love the combo!) in a floral precious pattern in blue and dark pink that I adore! I paired the combo with 2. a broderie anglaise ivory blouse from the French brand Sézane, one of my favorite ethical brands ever! Rings and earrings are also handmade by amazing handcrafters!
PS. The shoes are second hand from Miu Miu, maybe not necessarily an ethical brand but definitely a piece that I bought used and that I have worn for almost ten years now!
What are your favorite ethical brands? Feel free to share them!
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When it comes to ethical fashion brands, how can we say if a brand is really ethical?
I make a lot of online research every time that I want to buy a piece from a brand that I don’t know well to make sure that their production is made by respecting environment and if it is fair with its workers (one point shouldn’t go without the other).
I can say that it is seriously difficult to understand it, especially because lately many brands are “greenwashing” their activities, considering the high level of awareness around the world on the sustainability of fashion. For this reason you must be very careful but there are a few tips here that can help!
CHECK OUT THE BRAND INTERNET WEBSITE
The easiest way to have an idea about ethical policies of a brand is checking its website and see how much space it dedicates to its sustainability policies. It is a first step but don’t trust entirely what is written on their website. More and more brands are trying to get into the sustainability path only as a way to cover their real practices, trying to convince the growing number of ethically aware customers about their conscious practices. This attitude is called greenwashing and it is becoming very popular especially within fast fashion industry.
STALK THE BRAND ONLINE
The second step is to google the brand online and see what forums or news say about it. If the brand can showcase itself as an ethical brand, it cannot control what other people say about it regarding its practices and its impacts. More and more websites are specialized in sustainable brands analysis as well as forums and blogs. They can give you very interesting hints about the brand you want to buy from.
PAY ATTENTION TO THEIR PARTNERS AND CERTIFICATIONS
Sometimes the brand does not own directly the factories but it relies on local partners to provide factories and workers to the brand. If this can be a very difficult practice to drive out you can learn a lot about the brand practices. Please don’t think that if a brand product is Made in Italy it is automatically “clean”, the “Made in…” tag only makes us aware of the place where the item was sewn. Also, if a brand states that it is “for a good cause” it may not actually be producing items ethically!
A good hint may be if a brand becomes a certified member of one of the fair-trade organizations as it means they have met the required ethical criteria; however this is not a necessary step.
EMAIL THE BRAND
If you are not convinced yet you can still email the brand and directly ask for the information that you need to know or that are not yet clear to you: where are their clothes made, how do they ensure the safety and fair pay of all workers in the supply chain, where information on third-parties can be found etc.
I followed these steps when I decided to buy from Zuri, a young ethical brand founded by two American expats in Nairobi, Sandra Zhao and Ashleigh Gersh Miller. I could appreciate the brand for the locally sourced fabrics and its concrete engagement for sustainability.
All their creations are locally sourced and ethically produced by local handcrafters in Kenya. For example, they source fabrics directly from vendors in the markets, cutting out the middlemen and they partner with SOKO, a company focusing on people and environment.
Zuri’s only produces one dress: the three in one dress. It is available in many different colors and patterns and it can be worn as a dress as well as a jacket and a skirt. I love the easy and simple A-line shape that makes it very versatile and easy to adapt to many different outfit ideas. Versatility of the pieces is also a good indicator of this brand attention to sustainability: producing only one model, which can be worn in different ways, will be definitely worn more and often, reducing the need to buy other pieces, don’t you think?
I am wearing here my favorite Zuri dress in blue and red, definitely one of my favorite pieces from my sustainable closet!
Golden sandals are thrifted Miu Miu, brass hoop earrings are handmade from Metalica Creazioni.
During my last trip to Senegal I decided to spend the last day to a good shopping session in Dakar: we made some of the most important markets to buy Senegalese wax prints and jewels, African homeware and food!
I also decided to visit one of the most interesting stores in Dakar, Sisters of Afrika. I have been following them for a while on Instagram and I loved their prints and shapes so I decided to buy one at the source, in their atelier in Dakar! I didn’t know that much about the brand but I had the chance to find the lovely Khadija who told me a bit about their story and I found it so amazing that I decided to share it with you.
Unfortunately I couldn’t find Hélène Daba, who founded the brand in 2013 in Dakar, but the way she created Sisters of Afrika with her sisters and the incredible blossoming of colors got me addicted immediately. Their slogan is: Par des Femmes, Pour des Femmes (by Women for Women) and the use of traditional African prints such as Bogolan and Thioup (Tye & Dye) mixed with more modern and local shapes made me fall in love!
The brand is very international, proof is the number of customers all around the world, but also very respectful of what “made in Africa “ means: traditionally handmade prints, quality of the fabrics, incredible artistry of the local handcrafters. Sisters of Afrika puts together my favorite things: ethical sources and handwork, African tradition and colorful and flattering shapes!
If you want to know more about the brand I am showing here some more pictures of their collections but you can visit their site to know more and see more pieces or to buy your favorite ones: www.sistersofafrika.fr
As for me I was going to buy both dresses I’m pictured in here but in the end I went for the long Thioup green and orange dress and I can’t wait for spring to proudly wear it!