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October 21, 2014  |  Login
Fair Trade Fashion Fusion: Style and Sustainability
By Marie Oser
 

Fair Trade Fashion introduces an ethical and social perspective into the environmental lexicon and by its very nature tends to be planet friendly. Many Fair Trade products are made by hand, often in producers’ homes or villages. Hand production means that factory-produced CO2 emissions are eliminated from the process.

The Fair Trade Federation (FTF) is part of the global Fair Trade movement and promotes North American organizations committed to Fair Trade. Environmental sustainability is a core tenet of Fair Trade and companies that fail to uphold this principal in their supply chain will not be admitted into the FTF.
The Executive Director of the Fair Trade Federation, Carmen K. Iezzi said, "Under the Federation's Principle of Environmental Stewardship, members must actively consider the implications of their decisions on the environment. For example, many ship products by sea in order to minimize their carbon footprint. They use sustainably harvested, recycled, chemical-free and/or organic materials as often as possible. Some make local deliveries by bicycle or in vans powered by bio-diesel. Throughout the whole supply chain - from their partnerships with artisans and farmers to their operations in North America - they work to reduce, reuse, reclaim and recycle materials wherever possible.”

Certified Fair Trade products must meet the environmental criteria determined by Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International (FLO) FLO sets the standards for International Fair Trade and audits the product supply, point of origin to point of sale. Fair Trade certified environmental standards are the strictest in the industry and with the exception of “Certified Organic,” often exceed all other consumer labeling criteria. Fair Trade certification guarantees that farmers use eco-friendly practices. The result is responsibly-grown products that are healthy for consumers, agricultural workers and for the planet.

Fair Trade Goes Mainstream
Long before “eco-fashion” gained the support of the popular culture, Mennonite volunteers sold handcrafts in the United States produced by disadvantaged people in Puerto Rico. That was 1946 and marked the beginning of the Fair Trade movement, which has grown to a $1.5 Billion industry worldwide, as promoters and distribution networks have become more organized and sophisticated. The endeavor begun by visionary pioneers more than a half century ago has now evolved into Ten Thousand Villages, a network of 156 retail outlets in the U.S. dedicated to increasing the livelihood of tens of thousands of artisans in 38 countries.


Indigenous Designs has been weaving together a commitment to sustainability and social justice since Scott Leonard and Matt Reynolds founded the apparel company in 1994.  Inspired by the rich culture and distinctive knitting techniques of local artisans in South America, Indigenous grass roots marketing and design processes have been the subject of case studies and news reports. Wall Street Journal writer Gwendolyn Bounds credits their success to savvy business sense,  "Having a do-good message but not beating people over the head with it has helped Indigenous Designs to survive and segue into mainstream retail.”  Indigenous apparel is hand knit with organic fibers by Fair Trade artisans in 275 knitting groups, where previously, many of the artisans knit with bicycle spokes and bartered sweaters for food.

Allan Schwarz, the Fair Trade designer behind the a.d. schwarz line of elegant jewelry and African Zen style furniture, is helping the residents of Southern Africa's Miombo region create businesses while protecting the forests. Applying his skills as architect, master carpenter, artist and designer, Allan has created a forest management plan that balances timber harvesting with replanting. He trains workers in sustainable, onsite, value added production activities that generate income while contributing to the management of the forest.  ....read more

 
 
 
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