Where to Find Fair Trade and Ethically-Sourced Clothing

Ethical Shopping | CorporetteIn 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. 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 looking at clothing that’s fair trade certified, as well as clothing not officially considered fair trade but produced more responsibly or ethically than the average brand.

Of course, when a brand makes admirable claims like those, we as shoppers must simply take their word for it — but I would rather give my business to a company that explicitly details their (supposed) commitment 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 Wool Stretch Small Windowpane Circle Skirt, $168.)

Fair trade certification is 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 buying these products. Ndongo Sylla, a former Fairtrade International employee (who has a PhD in developmental economics), wrote a book last year 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 more about easing consciences in rich countries than making serious inroads into poverty in the developing world.” (Sigh.)

That said, here are several brands that engage in fair trade:

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Workwear Made in the USA

Made in USA Workwear | Corporette

Big thanks to Kate for our next post on ethical shopping: workwear brands made in the United States, Canada, and Europe! Readers, how important is ethical shopping to you? Do you have any favorite workwear brands that are made in North America or Europe? – Kat

We introduced our ongoing series of posts on ethical shopping with a roundup of several brands that are made in the United States, mostly small and/or independent labels, and startups — like Dobbin, Bailey44, and Zady. Today we’re sharing a list of bigger, mainstream brands for workwear — names you’re more likely to recognize — whose clothing is entirely, mostly, or partially made in North America or Europe. (As several readers correctly pointed out, the U.S. doesn’t have a monopoly on ethically-produced clothing.) And here’s our guide to fair trade and ethically-sourced clothing.

Looking at a company’s website, it can often be difficult or impossible to find out where the clothing is made, so we hope this list will be helpful and save you some time as you shop for workwear that’s ethically produced and easily accessible to the average shopper. (Pictured: Karen Kane A-Line Jersey Dress, available at Nordstrom for $89.)

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“Made in USA,” Ethical Shopping, and Slow Fashion

Pleione Pleat Back Woven Print Top | CorporetteJohn Oliver’s recent segment on Last Week Tonight, his HBO show, has brought “fast fashion” back into the news — two years after the horrifying Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,100 people. (The factory was linked to several well known U.S. and European clothing brands.) If you want to make ethical shopping choices, avoid contributing to sweatshop labor, and buy “Made in U.S.A.,” where do you start? Reader M wonders…

I am curious if you have written a post about domestic made corporate wear, shoes, handbags etc. I tried to search the blog but I didn’t find anything. I am very interested in having quality non-China made items. I love your blog and the helpful suggestions you offer.

It can be tough to find clothing and accessories that are made domestically — in other words, under U.S. labor and environmental laws. Of the clothing and shoes sold in this country, more than 97% is made overseas. In 1991, the figure was 44%.

We haven’t really covered this topic before (although commenters have been discussing it). This is the first in a series of posts about ethical shopping choices — we also plan to cover:

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