Friday, December 3, 2010

Fair Trade USA Launches First Ethical Fashion Certification

Fair trade
USA Launches First Ethical Fashion Certification
Fair Trade Certification program for apparel and linens - just in time for the holidays! A full range of Fair Trade CertifiedTM clothing items is now available in the United States as part of our two-year pilot test of the program.

Before now there was no easy way for American consumers to walk into a store and choose an ethical tee over one made abroad in a sweatshop. Fair Trade USA’s Fair Trade Certified label changes that as it helps consumers and companies create jobs and sustainable livelihoods for garment workers and cotton farmers in India, Latin America and Africa:

■Consumers, for the first time, can vote with their dollars for better factory working conditions by choosing Fair Trade Certified apparel.
■Factory workers receive direct economic benefits through a Fair Trade premium, between one and 10 percent of the cost of the garment, potentially doubling their earnings on a per-product basis.
■Workers have a voice in the workplace through grievance channels, protection for freedom of association, and rights training.
■Cotton farmers receive a guaranteed minimum price to protect them from price fluctuations as well as community investment premiums on every pound of cotton.
This isn’t hippie fashion. Fair Trade is runway ready with great looks like celebrity-designed Fair Trade CertifiedTM graphic tees by Project Runway’s Korto Momolu and the up-and-coming fashion house Bacca da Silva from Liberty & Justice, boxers and luscious 100 percent organic women’s undies from newcomer Good & Fair, and tees from sustainability pioneer PrAna.

Ethical shoppers can opt for fair-trade certified fashions this season — although MNN's lifestyle blogger isn't too impressed by the current selection.
Want your organic cotton party dress made with fair labor too? Just in time for the holidays, fair trade certified clothing’s finally coming to the U.S. market. Now you no longer have to worry if your pesticide-free top was made via slave-like labor.

Of course, clothing marketed as fair trade has been around for a while — some made by serious fair labor advocates who worked directly with farmers and workers to ensure ethical practices, others simply touted as “fairly made” by shady entrepreneurs taking advantage of the lack of a third-party certification system. Without a certification label, shoppers could ask if the companies were members of the Fair Trade Federation — or just take sometimes-greenwashing companies at their word.

Now, you can just look for the fair trade certification label — which ensures a guaranteed minimum price for cotton farmers, better factory working conditions, fair trade premiums for factory workers (between one and 10 percent of the cost of the garment), and other benefits.

And better yet, five companies already have fair trade-certified lines you can shop from for the holidays!

However, don’t expect to find a hot party dress that’s fair trad-certified this year. So far, the fair trade-certified clothing options cover only the basics — plain T-shirts, hoodies, briefs and boxers. I love the eco-ethical mission of both Maggie’s Organics and Hae Now — and I even like Maggie’s Organics socks — but those two companies basically define what I call the eco-frumpy style. Good and Fair Clothing looks a tad sleeker — but only offers men’s style T-shirts and underwear. I had high hopes for Liberty & Justice, which apparently offers celeb-designed T-shirts, but I wasn’t able to find any to shop for online.
That left me with just Tompkins Point Apparel — which only makes men’s polo shirts! These do look pretty nice though! Maybe the eco-ethical brand will give Lacoste a run for their money. The organic and fair trade-certified shirts cost $50 each.

Options will get better come spring of 2011, when six more apparel companies are expected to start offering fair trade-certified clothes. Do you think you’ll be shopping fair trade fashions for the holidays? Do today’s fair trade fashions look stylish enough for you — or do you too hope for more style and less frump?

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