Ethical FashionOperating under a set of core ethics, sustainable fashion brands eliminate harsh impacts on the environment while also providing safe workplaces and fair wages for the individuals making the products, the majority of whom are women. U.N. Women says increasing female employment “boosts productivity, increases economic diversification and income equality.” This is a major step forward to the alleviation of global poverty in developing nations. Keep reading to learn more about these five top ethical fashion brands.

5 Ethical Fashion Brands Focused on Poverty Reduction

  1. ABLE
    This brand focuses on providing ethical fashion by supporting economic opportunities for women in an effort to eradicate poverty. After seeing firsthand the effects of generational poverty in Ethiopia, Barrett Ward, ABLES’s founder, created the company to give “women an opportunity to earn a living, empowering them to end the cycle of poverty.” With 45 million women employed in the fashion industry, ABLE sees the investment in women as a necessary business strategy to bolster communities and economies worldwide. The company is proud that 98 percent of its employees are women and challenges the culture of the fashion industry by publishing wages, an act of transparency directly attributed to the protection and empowerment of the women it invests in.
  2. Parker Clay
    Parker Clay is a company that values timeless craftsmanship in order to provide quality leather goods to its consumers and economic opportunities for its artisans. But at its core, the founders saw an “opportunity to empower vulnerable women through enterprise” after learning that many women and girls are targets for prostitution and human trafficking in Ethiopia. In fact, in the country’s capital, around 150,000 work in the commercial sex industry.

    Parker Clay partners with Ellilta – Women At Risk, a nonprofit based in Ethiopia that helps women from being lured into prostitution or trafficking. Many of the women supported by this organization work at Ellilta Products where Parker Clay sources its blankets. Providing women with an opportunity to work is more than just a job, Parker Clay believes it is the start to social and economic stability.

  3. KNOWN SUPPLY
    By reimagining the process of apparel production, KNOWN SUPPLY works “with underserved populations … to show the powerful impact clothing purchases can have” by supporting the women who make the clothes in more than one way. KNOWN SUPPLY chooses to celebrate each maker by “humanizing” each product with signatures.

    The company also provides consumers with clear information about the country where each ethical fashion good is made, accompanied by a gallery of the women who make them. This feature gives consumers a look into the lives and communities being directly impacted by their purchases.

  4. Carry117
    At Carry117, providing economic empowerment to at-risk women is a necessary foundation for sustainable development. This brand, based in Korah, Ethiopia — a place where disease and poverty run rampant — believes that when women are empowered, families are strengthened. Their goal is to give these individuals “a hand up out of poverty, with a unified desire to bring change to the community.”
  5. Anchal Project
    In 2010, Colleen Clines, Co-Founder and CEO of Anchal, was inspired to start the company after a trip to India where she learned about “the extreme oppression women faced as commercial sex workers.” Today, the nonprofit not only sells fair-trade goods made of artwork and textiles significant to the artisans’ journey to empowerment but also provides holistic opportunities for the artisans to stay empowered in their communities.

Danyella Wilder
Photo: Flickr

Virgil Abloh
Virgil Abloh—designer, disc jockey, engineer and architect—has made major strides in the fashion world. His designs have also helped bring awareness and assistance to people in need.

Who is Virgil Abloh?

Virgil Abloh was appointed Louis Vuitton’s men’s artistic director in March 2018. Prior to his appointment, Abloh was running his own clothing line called Off-White. He launched Off-White in 2013 as a follow up to his streetwear project, Pyrex Vision, which he had started at Kanye West’s design agency, DONDA. His career as a designer serves as an homage to his mother, who used to be a seamstress, despite receiving a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s in architecture.

Abloh’s Philanthropic Efforts for Solar Power

Abloh participated in the Copenhagen International Fashion Fair – Spring/Summer 2019 Edition by joining model Naomi Campbell, graphic designer Peter Saville and photographer Nick Knight in bringing awareness to the Little Sun Foundation, a program focused on the use of solar power. He designed a poster in which the main focus was a solar-powered lamp that comes with a strap so that it can be removed from its stand and worn around the neck like a torch.

This lamp is especially important in areas like sub-Saharan Africa, where electricity is not readily available. People usually light their homes with kerosene lamps, which release toxic fumes that are extremely detrimental to the environment and those around it. When kerosene lamps are replaced with solar-powered lamps, users notice improvements in their health, which also results in better school attendance for school-age children.

The Little Sun Foundation was founded by artist, Olafur Eliasson, whose goal is to provide solar energy to those communities that lack electricity. The foundation also trains youth through solar-education programs. The programs “aim to provide children with tools and knowledge that empower them to shape a sustainable future for themselves and for the planet,” the foundation’s website says.

Without proper lighting, refugee camps can seem like a scary and dangerous place to live, especially for women and children. Wearing the solar-powered lamp helps users feel more at peace about their surroundings. Not to mention, the lamps provide extra light to students who need it to perform well on their homework.

Abloh’s Philanthropic Efforts for Children of War

Abloh contributed his talents in FAMILY’s creative charity initiative to design a graphic t-shirt collection with proceeds going to War Child. War Child is an organization that provides education and a safe space for children and families who have been displaced by war. They also train victims of war to be able to provide for themselves after suffering the loss of their homes and jobs. Their services are offered in Uganda, Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Jordan.

With his role at Louis Vuitton, Abloh hopes to accomplish great things, not just in the fashion industry, but in an ever-changing, diverse society.

“I want to use Louis Vuitton’s history with travel to really look at different cultures around the world to help make all our humanity visible. When creativity melds together with global issues, I believe you can bring the world together,” Abloh said.

– Sareen Mekhitarian
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

fast fashion and poverty
In recent years, brands like Zara, Topshop, Uniqlo, H&M and Forever 21 have come under fire for creating fast fashion. Fast fashion products are clothing and accessories that companies price significantly lower than the competition, produce more quickly and make of lower quality. Like many products, the world’s poor produces fast fashion, and thus, helps continue the cycle of poverty. Here are three facts about fast fashion and poverty.

Sweatshops

People create fast fashion in dangerous sweatshops. To provide cheap, ever-changing inventories for customers, fast fashion companies perpetuate fast fashion and poverty by relying on factories in countries with poverty wages, where safety, sustainable practices and suitable working conditions are nearly nonexistent.

One such factory complex was Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, where the collapsing of a building in 2013 killed over 1,100 people and injured thousands more. Rana Plaza housed five garment factories that manufactured products for almost 30 major European and North American fashion companies.

Today, however, there has been an increasing demand for company transparency and ethical manufacturing practices. In the wake of the Rana Plaza Tragedy, the Bangladeshi government has sought to improve safety measures in garment factories and had 38 people charged with murder in 2016 for their roles in the building collapse. Along with the Bangladeshi government’s efforts, companies and trade unions signed two major safety agreements: the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. Brands like Nike and Patagonia committed to adhering to higher transparency standards after the tragedy.

Environmental Impact

The business model of fast fashion companies emerged from the idea that consumers always want to stay on top of trends, and thus, will buy new clothes as trends change. To change trends more quickly, fast fashion brands release new clothing once a week or more, which creates a great deal of waste. Instead of the Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer clothing seasons that were once prevalent, fast fashion companies have created 52 micro-seasons.

Since the clothes are only trendy for one week or less, companies do not create them to last. Often, fast fashion clothing falls apart in the washing machine or dryer after only one or two wears. If the clothing falls apart in one wash and was no longer trendy anyway, consumers automatically go back out to buy new, cheap pieces from the fast fashion brands. The clothing is so cheap to buy that consumers may not realize that they are spending more money in the long run in terms of cost-per-wear on a fast fashion garment compared to a more high-quality one.

The destroyed and unwearable fast fashion, which contributes to nearly 70 pounds of textile waste per person, per year in the United States, ends up in U.S. landfills or ships, along with other garbage, to developing countries. Many of these developing countries do not have the capacity to deal with all of this additional waste, and therefore, cannot prevent pollution or other waste-related problems.

To combat the issue of the fast-fashion causes, retailers like Asos and Gap, along with dozens of others, signed the 2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment in 2017; the Commitment encourages brands to use monofibers instead of mixed-fiber and synthetic fabrics. These practices make it easier for people to recycle fabrics and garments going forward.

Chemicals in Clothes

Fast fashion products often contain lead to create bold colors and shiny accessories. Vinyl and plastic products that are red, green, orange and yellow are more likely to have high contamination than products in darker or more muted hues.

Even in low concentrations, lead is extremely dangerous to human health. When it comes to fast fashion merchandise, experts are concerned that these products will leave microscopic particles of lead and other chemicals on consumers’ hands; without proper sanitation practices, these particles can end up on food, drink and other accessories, which can create an environment for repeated exposure.

The Dangers of Lead

Lead contamination, even at low levels, can cause kidney failure, nervous system issues and cardiovascular risks. Lead accumulation in bones and tissues can also cause reproductive issues in women, such as infertility; lead released during pregnancy puts both the mother and fetus in danger. Many experts, considering these risks, have stated that there is no safe level of lead contamination.

The women and children charged with producing these garments and accessories are in danger of lead contamination, just like the women purchasing and wearing these products. For these workers, treatments for health conditions related to lead contamination are either too costly to afford or unavailable. Often, workers may die from complications related to lead contamination in the products they manufacture.

To combat these problems, the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) is fighting against fast fashion companies to eliminate lead contamination on clothing and accessories. In 2010, the CEH sued retailers regarding toxins in accessories; since then, the CEH has been testing accessories sold in-store and online by fast fashion brands for lead contamination.

As more disturbing facts come to light about the fast fashion industry, consumers continue to demand change. With the rise of ethical fashion brands and the increased popularity of secondhand shopping, both fast fashion and poverty may disappear in the future.

– Shania Kennedy
Photo: Pixabay

People Tree FoundationWithin the last two decades, the fashion industry has become increasingly cheap and accessible. The term fast fashion refers to rapidly and cheaply produced apparel that cycles out according to ever-changing trends. This term has been integrated into most fashion brands’ profit-oriented business models and has negatively impacted impoverished communities in developing countries.

Fast fashion brands often exploit poor countries for cheap labor, and many supply chains that are connected with big-name brands do not provide safe working conditions or sufficient living wages. For example, nine out of 10 fashion workers in Bangladesh cannot afford enough food for their families.

The People Tree Foundation

However, People Tree is defying the harmful practices of the fashion industry. People Tree is a fair trade brand, based in London and Tokyo, which takes a more people-oriented approach to fashion. People Tree’s work focuses on promoting sustainability, empowering women and improving conditions in poor communities. This fair trade brand is dedicated to producing ethically-made and sustainable clothing by using environmentally friendly materials and implementing good working conditions. People Tree refers to their practices as “slow fashion.”

People Tree is not just a fashion brand; it also works alongside an independent charity called the People Tree Foundation. The foundation works to accomplish three main goals: reduce poverty, protect the environment and spread awareness about fair trade. To reach these goals, People Tree raises funds to provide education and training to people in developing countries, protect the environment by using organic materials and campaigning to raise awareness about sustainable and ethical fashion.

The People Tree Foundation works in countries that are vulnerable to exploitation such as Nepal, Bangladesh, India and Kenya. These countries are susceptible to the injustices of fast fashion because the garment industry dominates their economy and comprises the majority of jobs. The foundation is involved with a variety of fair trade projects in these developing countries that aim to empower artisan groups in small communities.

In 2015, the People Tree Foundation generated more than £10,000 from sales and donations. The funds raised for that year were donated to projects such as Thanapara Swallows. Thanapara Swallows is a nongovernmental organization in Bangladesh committed to educating and training the poor population and creating health awareness and self-employment opportunities. Thanapara Swallows built a school in Bangladesh that educates nearly 300 students who are getting five years of primary education, and People Tree supports 50 percent of their school’s running costs.

Other Sustainable Solutions

In the fight against fast fashion, People Tree is not alone. Many fair trade organizations and brands have been on a rise in popularity. For example, the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), which People Tree is a member of, is among the organizations leading the movement toward ethical and sustainable fashion.

The WTFO has over 330 Fair Trade Enterprise members and over 70 supporting organizations that are committed to abiding by fair trade practices, including respecting the environment, ensuring gender equality, providing fair wages and good working conditions and ensuring opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers. The WTFO has impacted over 965,700 livelihoods by creating a fair trade standard for brands to follow. Brands verified are by the WTFO through peer reviews and independent audits.

Ultimately, the future of fashion remains in the hands of the consumer. Making conscious purchases makes the world one step closer to making the production of apparel more sustainable and humane. Other ways to practice sustainability include reducing consumption by buying only what you need, buying only secondhand clothing and researching the companies behind products online or on the website and mobile app Good On You.

– Louise Macaraniag
Photo: Media Server


Chicago-based fair trade fashion company Mata Traders, all began when three women went on a trip to India. Mata Traders now provides a steady income for many women who find themselves in poor conditions in India and Nepal. The name is a nod to the universal power within us all, the power of the female, as Mata means mother in the Hindi language.

The company’s selection is entirely for women by women, spanning all types of clothing and accessories. All the patterns seen on Mata Traders goods are its own design creations. In production, the designs utilize the processes of block printing and screen-printing, which have been widely practiced art forms in India for centuries. Everything Mata Traders sells is handmade, whether it is a pair of earrings or a dress.

The company partners with cooperatives in the region, which are practically operating as a type of social service. This means that women members are provided with a variety of health, social and educational resources. Mata Traders founder Maureen Dunn says it also provides “healthcare, daycare and scholarships for the women’s children, paid maternity leave, retirement pensions, vision testing: all part of the membership package. Social workers on staff assist the women in addressing their personal needs, from opening a bank account to situations of domestic violence and dealing with HIV/AIDS.”

Women are paid by each individual piece they create and play a role in deciding the prices for which items sell. The Huffington Post recently named Mata Traders one of the top five brands that are empowering women. Mata Traders products are now sold in every U.S. state, online and in many countries around the world.

Shannon Elder

Photo: Flickr

 Fashion and Ethical Fashion
The fashion industry is having a dramatic impact on the environment and on the lives of people around the world, predominantly those in poverty. Fashion can be bucketed into two categories: fast and ethical. To the regular consumer in the United States or in Europe, it might be hard to know the difference between the two.

We are living in a world of fast fashion, a term Merriam-Webster defines as, “an approach to the design, creation and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers.” Some of the large-scale fast fashion brands include H&M, Levis and Nike. With fashion trends changing quicker and fashion seasons getting shorter, cheap clothing is being poorly made to purposely not last.

With these big brands producing so much clothing at such a fast rate, there are more and more amounts of clothing going to thrift stores. Thrift stores can’t keep up either, though. What many don’t know is that about 40 percent of donated clothes end up getting baled up and sent to different countries overseas. In New York City, most donated clothes end up making their way to Africa.

Besides the overwhelming amount of tangible fabric leftovers, fast fashion is having a dramatic impact on the people who make our clothing. Garment workers are practically invisible, with 97 percent of our clothes being made overseas in developing countries.

Workers in the fashion industry are exploited; they receive extremely low wages while working in inadequate conditions. About 40 million people around the world (85 percent who are women) create clothes. In 2013, an eight-story garment factory called Rana Plaza collapsed in Bangladesh killing 1,135 people and injuring around 2,500. The average monthly income for a garment worker in Bangladesh is only 68 dollars.

With such problematic issues surrounding the fashion industry, it is increasingly important consumers make responsible and sustainable purchases. Ethical fashion has gained popularity as many companies and organizations are adopting fair-trade and other responsible business practices.

The United Nations’ Ethical Fashion Initiative is just one of many such initiatives. Seeing fashion as a means for development, this initiative upholds that, “in all things, people need to come first.” This initiative also stresses the significance of “fair supply chains” and “dignified working conditions” that do not involve “any form of labor exploitation.”

There are many people who put work into creating the things we purchase. There is fast fashion and ethical fashion – it is our choice which one to support.

Shannon Elder

Photo: Flickr

Fast Fashion
The fashion industry used to be “four seasons in a year; now it may be up to 11, 15 or more.” This phenomenon is resulting in “fast fashion.” Currently valued at $1.2 trillion, with more than $250 billion spent in the U.S. alone, the fashion industry has exploded as increased wages have increased demand. With this overload in consumption, there is inevitably much waste which damages the environment and exploits poor workers.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 15.1 million tons of textile were created in 2013. More than three out of every four garments has been incinerated or put in landfills. Traditionally, the U.S. has tried to reduce waste by selling used clothing to countries such as Pakistan, India, and Russia. With the strong dollar and increasing availability of cheap clothing from Asia, however, demand for secondhand clothing has decreased. As a result,  large amounts of waste needed to be taken care of.

The fast fashion industry also imposes an immense burden on the environment. The industry produces “10 [percent] of global carbon emissions and remains the second largest industrial polluter, second only to oil.” Producers consume nearly 70 million barrels of oil a year in just the production of polyester fiber and dump 1.7 million tons of dyeing chemicals into the environment. The industry also goes through an estimated 1.5 to 2.4 trillion gallons of fresh water a year, polluting much of it and damaging both human health and the environment.

While recent progress has created worker empowerment, the use of cheap labor in the fashion industry has been marred by tragedy. In 2013, a garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people. Like other countries experiencing immense poverty, Bangladesh would “see its economy collapse” without the textiles industry. Brands such as Gap, Adidas and H&M have also been criticized for using child labor, paying wages of 50 cents per hour and demanding 10-hour shifts. With other options only as good as intensive agricultural work, many uneducated women find these abusive jobs as their best options. Workers also have had very little leverage in negotiating their working terms and so have less job security.

As all these issues continue to be exposed, however, progress will continue to be made. Since the factory collapse, registered trade unions in Bangladesh have increased from three to 120 and wages nearly doubled. As consumers have grown warier, smaller brands have emerged to promote the “slow fashion movement,” where people shop for quality over quantity and buy products made of sustainable materials. Larger brands have also sought change. H&M and Patagonia launched trade-back programs where customers can send in unwanted clothing that will be recycled and sold again. Nike has also worked to eliminate child labor and improve working conditions.

Although it is always great to see businesses take the initiative in improving the fast fashion industry, the ultimate dictator of change is the customer. Customers are the deciding factor in what companies produce. If the purchasing culture changes to one where customers primarily value how companies have treated its workers and the environment, then the necessary change will follow.

Henry Gao

Photo: Flickr

Garment IndustryThe fashion tastes of consumers in advanced nations can have serious impacts on the well-being of workers that manufacture clothing products in developing nations.

Not only are these workers often paid unfair wages, but they also often suffer from extremely unsafe working conditions. In 2013, for instance, the collapse of a poorly-built factory in Bangladesh killed over 1,000 people, according to The Guardian.

Bangladesh, like many other developing countries, is highly dependent on the garment industry. This means that companies who fail to treat workers respectfully can defend themselves against critics by claiming they provide jobs to people who would not otherwise be able to work.

There is some sense to such a claim. According to The Guardian, 80 percent of Bangladesh’s GDP relies on the ready-made garment industry.

Nevertheless, it is certainly possible for garment companies to do more, both to protect workers as well as to support support development of the economies and societies in which those workers live.

One company that has proven to be true is People Tree, a London and Tokyo-based brand that aims to be 100 percent Fair Trade throughout its supply chain.

People Tree has attracted the attention of The Guardian, The Telegraph and other prominent publications for its commitment to Fair Trade policy.

In 2013, it became the first clothing company in the world to receive the product mark of the World Fair Trade Organization.

On its website, People Tree states that “people and the planet are central to everything we do.”

Central to its business model is what the People Tree calls “Slow Fashion,” which is a philosophy that rebels against the high-speed mode of trade that is standard in the fashion industry. It is that rushed mentality that leads to socially and environmentally hazardous practices.

As People Tree’s website defines it, “Slow Fashion means standing up against exploitation, family separation, slum cities and pollution—all the things that make fast fashion so successful.”

With regard to the environment, People Tree engages in a number of sustainable practices ranging from the use of certified organic cotton to dyeing with safe and azo-free chemicals. Products are sourced locally and from recycled material when possible. Once the products are made, People Tree prioritizes shipping by sea over shipping by air, thereby reducing the company’s impact on global warming.

Perhaps most importantly, People Tree’s fabric is woven by hand. Specifically, by the hands of real people whom the company strives to pay well and treat with dignity.

Indeed, one of the reasons People Tree cares so much about environmental friendliness is that it understands the effect pollution has on the environments in which their workers live. Environmentally conscious practices lead to sustainable development and happier workers, which in turn lead to higher productivity and more business, according to the company.

People Tree makes 50 percent advance payments on orders so that farmers and producers can more easily finance Fair Trade. And it manages its Collections so that workers will have enough time to produce garments by hand without being crunched, which the company says “is rare in the fashion industry.”

People Tree goes beyond paying fair wages and maintaining safe conditions, however. In some communities, it provides clean water and offers free education to poor families. In many cases, People Tree partners with organizations that empower disadvantaged workers, such as women and the physically disabled.

A new precedent has been established for the garment industry, as social business and corporate responsibility become increasingly popular in other industries. People Tree’s success demonstrates the potential for companies to think beyond profit and consider the wider impact business can have on impoverished communities in developing countries.

Joe D’Amore

Sources: Telegraph 1, Telegraph 2, People Tree, The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2
Photo: Flickr

Ellen_DeGeneres
Famous YouTuber Zoe Sugg, also known as Zoella, and Talk Show Host Ellen DeGeneres have teamed up with Gap to release a new line of clothing for female empowerment.

The clothing line, called Gapkids x ED, encourages women of any age to feel strong and to voice their opinions. DeGeneres’ clothing brand, ED, has worked with Gap to combine comfy fabric and trendy styles with motivational quotes and symbols that inspire courage and confidence.

To show her support for the campaign, called GIRL, Sugg took a few minutes out of one of her vlog videos to flash one of her favorite t-shirts from the line. The British 25-year-old donned the GapKids x ED Energy Bolt Tee while introducing her involvement in GIRL to her nine million subscribers.

“This was something totally different, and I really, really loved this campaign. And I really wanted to get behind it and share it with you guys,” Sugg said in the video.

Expressing her backing for GIRL, DeGeneres said that one of the reasons she joined the campaign was because she shares some of the same ideals as Gap.

“Gap has always encouraged people to be themselves, and I love that they have the same values that I have; to be true to who you are and to wear cute pants,” DeGeneres said.

Not only do Gap and DeGeneres believe in sporting fashionable trousers, but they also think that self-image is a key step in female empowerment. DeGeneres said that she knows from experience that being true to yourself is important for growing and changing and that this campaign is demonstrating this notion by shining a light on real girls doing unique things.

GIRL focuses on three talented girls who each have something different to offer and demonstrate. The webpage for GIRL hosts three videos of each girl. Alexey, a young, bold and strong drummer, can be seen expertly beating her drum set. When asked what advice she has for girls, the little rocker gave a mature statement.

“Just follow what your heart says, and you can achieve it,” the 12-year-old said.

The other two girls featured by GIRL can also be seen in videos on the webpage. Torrae, a nine-year-old robotic hand technician, said that she is powerful because of her imagination. Twelve-year-old entrepreneur, Asia, started her own company when she was five and plans to start classes teaching kids her age about business.

Asia has big plans for her future. In her video, she proudly said that she wants to be a dancer, a singer, a rapper, a college graduate and the president of the United States.

Another girl representing the influence of personal voice is Sugg. With more than 700 million views on both of her YouTube channels combined, Sugg has been able to reach girls from all across the globe with her take on feminism in her fashion, beauty and life videos.

“So often, you can kind of get swept up in this world where you feel inferior or you feel like you should be doing something specific or you feel like you’re not doing something right. And it’s just a whole campaign basically to support girls to be who they are, and to be who they want to be. And I just think that that’s really amazing” Sugg said.

Like Sugg has done with her YouTube videos, DeGeneres said that this campaign has the ability to “break the internet.” GIRL encourages wearers of the brand to take selfies of themselves in the clothes and to share the pictures, as well as speak their views of feminism and equal rights.

DeGeneres added that there is also a collection by Gap x ED because they “believe in equal opportunity cuteness.”

Fallon Lineberger

Sources: Gap 1, Gap 2, Paste Magazine, YouTube 1, YouTube 2
Photo: Google Images

5 Fashion Designers Who Help Fight Poverty- BORGEN
For those who live in extreme poverty, clothing is a means of protection. For fashion designers, clothing is identity. Fashion is a way to show the world personality, demeanor, and creativity. Not only do these fashion designers help clothe those who cannot afford their products, but they also help save lives of those in poverty.

These are five fashion designers who help fight poverty.

1. Michael Kors

In his signature all-black attire donning shades from his own brand, Michael Kors sits next to actress Kate Hudson, both flashing their stylish and opulent wrist watches. This advertisement was made to promote Kors’ charity and raise awareness for the charity’s cause.

Watch Hunger Stop is more than a play on words, it is a charity created by the famous fashion designer that has provided 10 million nutritious meals to children in need. Kors’ campaign features a lookbook of his notorious “Kors style” watches, with a big watch face and thick metal band. With the purchase of any of the watches, one hundred meals are donated to hungry children.

Because of his impact, Kors was recently named a U.N. World Food Programme Ambassador for those who do not have the voice to take action against poverty.

His unique and masterful watch design features a map of the world he is helping to save on the watches’ faces. To learn more about Watch Hunger Stop, visit this link.

2. Gucci

This high fashion brand is another designer that uses its products to promote change.

With its eloquently crafted and luxurious jewelry, Gucci extends to all forms of fashion, unique and classic. To raise awareness and support for earthquake relief efforts in Japan, Gucci created a piece of jewelry that crosses boundaries greater than fashion.

This limited edition silver chain bracelet can help save the lives of those suffering from displacement and disaster-related health problems. All of the proceeds from the sales of this bracelet benefit the Japanese Red Cross Society to support the victims of the Higashi Nihon Dai-Shinsai earthquake and tsunami.

When one wears the bracelet, he or she emits sympathy for Japan because of the hint of red and white that recalls the colors of the Japanese flag. Simultaneously, the wearer is showing that he or she cares because of the medal the bracelet carries which says “Gucci loves you.”

The fashion brand has also created a handbag that benefits UNICEF in support of the Schools for Africa and Schools for Asia initiatives.

3. Versace

One of the most famous fashion designers of all time, Donatella Versace, also feels for people affected by natural disasters.

Her Versace One Foundation supports those affected by the Sichuan province earthquakes in China. The brand provides art supplies to encourage creativity and teamwork for children living near the disaster area.

Versace created colorful handbags that incorporate child-like drawings on the fabric, seemingly hinting at the reason for the creation of the bags. Fifty percent of the proceeds of these couple-hundred dollar bags go to this foundation.

4. Kate Spade New York

This fashion designer chose clothing instead of jewelry to show her humanitarian side. Kate Spade’s Spring 2014 collection helped create jobs for a community of 20,000 people.

The name of the collection, “On Purpose,” serves a powerful purpose for women in Rwanda. The brand teamed up with the locals to help educate artisans in the community about marketing for the betterment of their businesses.

“On Purpose” targeted a collection of mostly female workers, forging equality and creating a different work dynamic for the people in Rwanda.

5. Kenneth Cole

Moved by the AIDS outbreak in the 1980s, fashion designer Kenneth Cole joined the amfAR board. He was later elected as chairman of the executive committee.

His classic and simple fashion brand helps to provide most of the creative advertising for the HIV/AIDS research and awareness that amfAR uses. According to amfAR, Cole has “initiated public awareness efforts annually since 1985.”

With his famous “We All Have AIDS” campaign, Cole employed key entertainment, political, social and scientific leaders to help change the social stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS victims.

Cole’s help has moved amfAR to a different stage, carrying the hope of finding cures for life-threatening diseases.

There are many more fashion designers like these who use their celebrity power to enhance the lives of those in poverty. Henceforth, it can be said that fashion, like the clothing mentioned earlier, can be a means for protection from hunger, disaster, inequality and disease.

Fallon Lineberger

Sources: amfAR, Destination Kors 1, Destination Kors 2, Gucci, In Style, More.com
Photo: EMC Blue