“Go sweatshop free!” Tell me how many times you’ve seen that while shopping.
There’s a growing movement to purchase clothing that has been produced in ethical environments, where workers (predominantly women and children) operate in a safe and comfortable environment and are paid a fair wage. Unfortunately, we can’t be sure that every brand is sweatshop free — you never know where your cotton is sourced, and sweatshop labor could be anywhere in the factory chain. An internal investigation may not always produce results that we’d like to hear, since people are unable to survey every single factory and those who are surveyed might not truthfully report back.
For those who are still looking to shop ethically, though, there are brands that do their best to minimize harmful impact on garment workers. While they might not be your style or in your budget, they’re certainly places to consider if you ever find yourself hunting for goods that might do your conscience some, well, good.
This clothing brand is possibly one of the most popular sweatshop-free brands. It is well-known for its manufacturing model and constant push to be as transparent as possible in their goals, making it one of the easiest ways to embrace a sweatshop-free clothing line. On their website, Everlane states that they spend a good chunk of time sourcing factories internationally that adhere to their code of conduct.
It might be more expensive than you’re used to paying for (I can’t deny that I’m a sucker for mall brand buy-one, get-one sales too), but it’s worth it. Their clothing skews toward a classic silhouette and workwear.
You’ve likely heard about how brands try to stick with the “made in America” label in order to prove to consumers that they indeed operate in sweatshop-free conditions. It might seem a little nationalistic, especially because domestic sweatshop labor still exists. That being said, brands like The Reformation prove that they are able to pay their workers a living wage and minimize the harm done on the environment.
In addition to sourcing labor ethically, they’ve made a commitment to minimizing the environmental impact of being a fast fashion clothing retailer in the current day, which probably sits well with folks concerned about going green.
Talk about shopping direct from the source! Many shops on Etsy are run by fashion designers who create their own patterns. Others might sell vintage goods produced when sweatshop labor wasn’t so abundant. Thrifting your clothing, or purchasing goods secondhand, is also a good way of minimizing the impact done on the clothing food chain as you wear perfectly good clothes.
There’s a wide variety of clothing on the website, and you get the peace of mind of knowing exactly who you’re purchasing clothing from. Bonus: you get to wear unique, often one-of-a-kind clothing.
We’re only sampling three ways to keep an eye on your impact in the clothing labor world, but there are many more choices out there for you to shop ethically, tuned to your tastes. After all, if that’s the impact you want to make (or minimize) in the world, there are boundless opportunities for you to do it.