Others are increasingly holding businesses accountable for their practices. Accountability—in regards to environmental impact, gender equality and racial representation—is rising within all industries. The fashion industry is no exception. Fast fashion brands like Uniqlo and the recently bankrupt Forever21 continue to confront criticism. These companies and others have disastrous environmental impacts and use inhumane working conditions and wages. It is increasingly difficult to find fashion brands fighting poverty.
Fortunately, the industry is starting to change. Ethical brands are on the rise, with some even building business models that fight against global poverty. These business models safely employ women and men in impoverished countries. But being a conscious consumer is also trendy: a 2019 McKinsey report found that two-thirds of global consumers admitted a brand’s stance on social and environmental issues influenced whether they purchased from that brand. From everyday shopping staples to high-end fashion pieces, ethical approaches to fashion transform the industry and improve the lives of those who work for these companies. Here are three ethical fashion brands fighting poverty.
Indego Africa aims to alleviate poverty for women and their families through artisan employment and entrepreneurial education. The brand teaches women to intricately weave baskets and bags. Founder Matthew Mitro lived in Nigeria for six years. His inspiration drew on his work with Nigerian women and thus started Indego Africa in 2007. Employing over 1,200 artisans, the brand has extended its impact into Rwanda and Ghana. According to its 2018-2019 Annual and Social Impact Report, 90% of artisans employed through Indego Africa could pay for all or most of their children’s education.
Production occurs in Rwanda and Ghana. All of the company’s profits go towards business and vocational programs to educate Indego Africa’s employees and young adults, particularly young women, in nearby communities. Indigo Africa designs its programs to cater to the large demographic of unemployed young adults. By fostering educational platforms in areas like technology, business and leadership, Indego Africa carves out a clear path to economic independence for young women in Africa.
Gift of Hope
Gift of Hope supplies handmade goods to buyers, as well as hope to Haitian children who became orphans when their families can no longer afford to care for them. Founder Mallery Neptune first visited Haiti when she was 16, but it was not until she turned 20 that she founded the Haiti Foundation Against Poverty in 2007. The program started with a focus on sponsoring children and providing food for the elderly. By 2010, it expanded into the Gift of Hope project, a program designed to create jobs for Haitian mothers. In Haiti, women struggle to secure stable and sustainable employment and therefore disproportionately experience poverty.
As an extension of the Haiti Foundation Against Poverty, Gift of Hope employs over 70 jewelry-makers, seamstresses and other Haitian artisans. The nonprofit employs impoverished women who have lost their children to poverty (or are at risk of doing so) and pays them three times more than the minimum wage. This practice draws individuals and their families out of poverty. Every purchase with Gift of Hope saves a child from orphan-hood, reuniting families.
Fashion label Carcel is proof that high-end fashion brands can too adopt ethical practice within their supply chains. Headed by Veronica D’Souza, the Danish company works with incarcerated women in Peru and Thailand where the poverty rates as of 2018 are 22% and 9.85%, respectively. Oftentimes the company’s employees have been imprisoned for human trafficking and drug-related crimes, but D’Souza believes they fell onto these paths because they could not escape the cycle of poverty.
Carcel works with the National Prison System in Peru and the Ministry of Justice in Thailand. They give 27 women the opportunity to hone local craftsmanship. In conjunction with mastering clothes-making techniques, Carcel offers instructional programs on managing cash, financial literacy and English. These programs equip women with educational tools to secure financial stability. Upon their release from prison, women have the skills they need to avoid re-incarceration or falling back into poverty. Fashion brands fighting poverty are increasingly popular, giving hope for improving the lives of thousands of workers worldwide.
– Grace Mayer