10 Ethical Fashion & Beauty Brands that Progress Women’s Economic Power
I took my two little sons along to the Canberra sister event in solidarity with the Women’s March in the US. It was inspiring to be a part of the global sisterhood that stood up expressed our anger. (And I very much enjoy being a feminist leader for my little boys) But after the energy that went into the Women’s March across the globe this past weekend it is important not to lose sight of the long game. This global activism is only the beginning. Women’s rights are under attack across the globe. Trump is not an anomaly. Women’s rights have come under sustained attack, precisely because we have achieved so much in the 20th Century. But as Madonna quoted in her speech in Washington “it is always darkest before the dawn”. We have to keep up hope that progress will continue. But we can only keep that hope up if every single one of us continues to fight for progress.
One small yet important way that you can support the fight is to support women-owned ethical fashion labels. This supports women’s right and economic progress in a few ways. Firstly, women own businesses at lower rates that men, and they have less access to capital (bank loans or investors) than men. In the US, women own only 31% of the businesses and only one in five companies worth over $1 million are owned by women. In Australia, 34% of businesses are owned by women. In the EU, women account for only 29% of business owners. In China, however, women own 55% of the businesses, although they are barely represented in the ownership of large companies and have less access to capital than men. In Bangladesh, less than 2% of the businesses have at least one female owner, due to the tradition that assets are usually held by the male head of household. By supporting women-owned companies, you are using your money to promote the advancement of women businesses, increasing women’s economic power.
Secondly, the fashion industry is one that largely employs women, which can be a very important economic opportunity for women, who are often concentrated in the informal sector. However, most fashion is produced in poor conditions that exploit women’s labour, and sexual harassment is commonplace. By choosing to purchase ethical fashion brands, you will ensure that your purchase is providing a meaningful and empowering economic opportunity for women, and also ensure that your money does not contribute to the exploitation and harassment of women.
Thirdly, many ethical fashion brands owned by women are also social enterprises that have a strong feminist mission. These feminist ethical fashion brands choose to work in a way that give their garment workers autonomy, decision making power and control over when and where they work.
So here are 10 women-owned ethical fashion and beauty brands that you can support with your feminist dollar:
*just a heads up- some of these links are affiliate links. Should you click the link and make a purchase, this blog may receive a small commission. This helps to fund my activism. Thanks for your support!
1. Amour Vert
Founded by Linda Balti, this sustainable fashion brand is manufactured in the US, providing safe working conditions for their garment workers and building local manufacturing.
2. People Tree
This UK brand was founded by Safia Minney, British born woman with Mauritian heritage. People Tree are pioneers of fair trade fashion, and their entire range is fair trade certified, working with producers across the globe. Fair-trade collectives are usually community run, allowing producers (largely women) to have a say in how they work, and how the profits will be used to benefit the community.
3. Yak My Body
Yak My Body is a range of natural soap products produced in Tibet, by a social enterprise that is owned and founded by a Tibetan friend of mine. This social enterprise is entirely owned and run by Tibetan women, with the mission to enable Tibetan women to generate additional income from their traditional herding lifestyle. By supporting women to earn an income, it also allows them to grow their status and power in the traditionally patriarchal society.
Co-founded by 3 Australian women who worked in international development, the Fabric Social is one of my favourite fashion social enterprises. A feminist organisation through-and-through this social enterprise works with women artisans in conflict-affected regions in South and South-East Asia, using fashion as a method to wage peace. Conflict is one of the biggest causes of poverty, and poverty is one of the biggest drivers of conflict. The Fabric Social works with traditional artisans, who determine how much they will produce and what price they will sell it to The Fabric Social for, meaning that the artisans have complete control over how they work and how much their work is worth. The Fabric Social also contributes a percentage of their profits to mine clearing in South-East Asia where people are routinely killed and disabled by the remnants of the Vietnam War.
5. Bead & Reel
Bead & Reel is a vegan sustainable fashion boutique founded by LA-based Sica Schmitz. Sica makes it easy to shop with your ethics, with a beautifully curated selection of ethical and sustainable fashion garments from careful selected labels. She stocks a huge range of ethical garments from female-owned fashion labels which are easily searchable, meaning you can support two female ethical fashion entrepreneurs with one purchase!
Founded by US couple Rachel and Barrett Ward, FashionABLE exists to enable positive economic opportunities for women in the developing world. As opposed to charity, which is useful for alleviating crisis in the shorter term, economic opportunities for women are shown to be highly effective for alleviating household poverty over the longer term and reducing the rates of inter-generational poverty. FashionABLE provide an opportunity to make an impact on global poverty with your purchase. As a certified B Corp, FashionABLE have been confirmed to have a positive impact through their work.
Arture stands for Art + Nature, and this label produces a range of vegan accessories including handbags and wallets. Owned and operated in India, this brand was founded by two young Indian women Keshsa and Shivani. Their range is ethically produced in India, and ships worldwide. If we are to promote genuine global equality and sisterhood, it is important that we decolonise our economic system. Supporting local women entrepreneurs in developing nations is one important way that we can do this.
Founded by US expat Liz Bohannon, Sseko provides employment opportunities for women in Uganda, with a particular focus on enabling young women to earn enough money to pay for university. Sseko started 4 years ago, employing just 4 women. Today they employ over 50 women. Every single woman who has graduated from Sseko has gone on to university, with some already having graduated. Choosing to purchase your shoes or handbag from Sseko helps to reduce the gender gap in access to university and allow talented young women the opportunity to pursue her career dreams and overcome inter-generational poverty.
After working in Cambodia in the not-for-profit sector, US born Tavie Meier came to believe that there was a better way to reduce poverty. She founded her ethical fashion business MadeFAIR to provide sustainable ongoing economic development in the developing world. MadeFAIR stock ethically-made clothing, shoes, jewellery and accessories to enable you to contribute to a fairer global economy.
Co-founded in Australia by Hannah Parris and Elena Antoniou, A Mighty Good Undies has the goal of providing everyone with access to affordable Fair-trade organic underwear. A Mighty Good Undies are manufactured in India, where workers receive a fair wage and additional fair-trade premiums contribute to sustainable community development such as health care development of educational facilities. The undies even come with a carbon offset!
This might be only a small act of solidarity, but the choices we make on a daily basis add up to a big impact. Make your daily impact a feminist impact!