What is Responsible Fashion?
Written by: Kaylie O’Connor
It is 8:50 am and you’re already a few hours into your shift. The air in the factory is stifled and the work stations are crowded. You’re thirsty, but your desire to stay under the angry factory owner’s radar is greater than your desire for water. You distract yourself by thinking about your family back home. It’s been almost a year since you’ve seen them. The feeling of homesickness strikes you. You think about your children and how they’ve had to grow up without you. You think of your parents trying to raise little ones in their old age. Your parents are barely able to stay on top of their debts between what they sell in the markets and the earnings you send home. Suddenly, your thoughts are cut short as you hear something cracking. What was that? You look around thinking something might have gone wrong with a different machine. You hear the sound again, this time from the upper corner of the room. You look up as the first brick comes crashing down.
On April 24, 2013, the Rana Plaza Factory collapsed in Dhaka District, Bangladesh. Over 1,100 people died and over 2,500 were injured: most were women and children whose situations were very similar to the character described above. The building conditions of the factory were poor. The workers did NOT have access to an emergency escape, open windows for fresh air, bathroom or lunch breaks and were living on an average of 60 cents per day.
This collapse was not only devastating to the local community, but also opened the eyes of consumers worldwide, thus beginning the responsible fashion movement.
So what is responsible fashion? Responsible fashion (otherwise known as slow fashion) is based off of the idea of transparency in the fashion world. It is the idea that consumers (especially American consumers) have power in their purchases and should give their money to companies that have practices in place that the consumer supports. Making sure that workers have livable wages, have breaks during their shifts, and are not physically or verbally abused at work are just the basics of a company practicing responsible fashion. Some offer their workers a chance at higher education, some teach their female workers self-defense classes, and others use giveback programs to support the communities surrounding their factories.
How do we find companies who support responsible fashion? I remember struggling with this when I transitioned to a slow fashion lifestyle almost two years ago. There are many nationwide companies you can shop from (Patagonia, Eileen Fischer, Tribe Alive, Everlane, People Tree), but I wanted to highlight a few local options you can utilize:
1. Spoils of Wear ( @spoilsofwear ): Owned by Jill Erickson, this St. Paul gem is a staple for those who love patterns and prints. With a variety of one-of-a-kind pieces, bubbly conversation and a few pugs to pet, you always leave Spoils of Wear with a smile on your face. Plus, menswear was just added to the shop, so now everyone can buy ethical!
2. Way The Label (@waythelabel): Started by University of Minnesota grads Heidi Woelfle, Regena Yu and Abby Zamis, Way The Label was created for the Minneapolis minimalist. Using sustainable practices and classic silhouettes, you can rest assured that your purchase will last for years to come!
3. The Fitting Room (@thefittingroommpls ): Recently opened in June, The Fitting Room is your one-stop-shop for buying ethical. With designers like Joeleen Torvick, Alma Mia, Foat Design and Gina Mount Jewelry, Kimberly Jurek-Valanzasca has opened a space for local creatives to get their name out to the public.
4. Karma Boutique (@karmasaintpaul ): With a desire to impact the community, Jesse and Wynn Barber reinvented Karma Boutique back in 2015 and joined the Selby at Snelling Business Association which gives back to non-profit organizations. A portion of every purchase you make will go to changing someone’s life for good!
5. Strey Designs (@strey_designs ): If ethically produced bags are more your style, then look no further than Sarah Butala’s company Strey Designs. She combines detailed (almost artwork-like) designs with multi-purpose function. Almost all of her bags can be worn multiple ways, like the bag I am wearing that can transform from a backpack to a crossbody in one pull of the strap!
Kaylie O’Connor is a sustainable + ethical fashion blogger. With her passion fashion and a determination to live ethically, Kaylie is changing the world one reader at a time. For more tips and tricks on how to live ethically, check out the Winter issue of The Volk (available Dec.1st). In the meantime, be sure to follow Kaylie @theswelteringsweater