Buyer Beware of "Fair-Trade"
Why must we, as consumers, be aware of the term Fair-Trade?
Because the consumers have spoken! And this is an AMAZING step in the fight in the fashion industry for fair labor practices. Companies are taking notice of shoppers requests and are wanting to do something about it!
This is good news, right? The answer is complicated. But, YES, we are so glad that we are starting to make a difference in the industry. But people are sneaky and tricky with their words. There are a lot of false promises and sins of omission when a revolution starts to take shape. And that is what is happening with the term fair-trade.
In the environmentalists world, there is term called greenwashing. It's basically when a company makes misleading promises about their product in order to attract attention from the consumers who are environmentally conscious.
When looking at an alternative looking product, you may assume it must be environmentally friendly. The marketers are assuming you will take one look at the packaging and product and make the purchase because it makes you feel good that you are purchasing a natural product that is also good for the environment. Companies are making the consumers feel like a more conscientious shopper because they have bought this "natural" product. They are assuming you won't be doing your research. But they are telling us half-truths and we are reacting emotionally. We feel like we are making the moral choice by picking the "environmentally friendly" items and maybe later realize we were kind of duped. We could say it's better than nothing and I suppose that's true. Or it's a step in the right direction? Again, we are getting companies to take notice - but we must demand more than the baby steps that these companies are taking. We must keep them accountable because of course it is easier for them to do as little as it takes to satisfy their consumers. But we are smarter than that and we deserve more.
If we are seeing greenwashing all over the place, you know it is happening in fashion as well. Although I suppose it wouldn't necessarily qualify as greenwashing, maybe we should coin a term? While we are working on that, we can also work on how to beware of companies who are using our own words against us.
If a company is claiming to be fair-trade then they should be willing to be transparent about their practices. We want clear and concise answers readily available to us. When we see factory info clearly on a companies website, then it is easier to believe what they are saying. No sneakiness! (Check out how Everlane shows their factories - insert heart emoji here!!)
Right now there is an in-house Target brand called Universal Thread. They claim to have Fair-Trade denim. Kimberly and I spotted it this summer and were so excited! We tried it on along with a ton of Universal Thread's other clothing items. It wasn't until we were in the dressing room when we looked closer at the marketing. Universal Thread does in fact carry fair-trade denim. HOWEVER, they only carry a handful of pieces that are certified. The signage was next to the two pairs of denim that were certified and then there were other products on the table that were not certified. This was confusing and hear me when I say - INTENTIONAL!!! They are using the marketing to catch our attention and then not clarifying that the only products that are fair-trade is the two washes of denim. We were so frustrated and disillusioned by their marketing sneakiness that we put everything back and walked away.
There have been several times I have sat down to try to figure out this particular line at Target. I would see it as such a win if we could get a company like Target behind our mission for fair-trade clothing! The label itself claims to be manufactured in a, "fair-trade certified factory". After some digging around and research I have found that it is trustworthy and most likely manufactured in the same factories as Everlane, J.Crew/Madewell and has also produced clothing for brands such as Eileen Fisher. The past several years this particular factory has become fair-trade certified as well as become part of an official marketing campaign with Everlane.
Friends, our words and actions are making a difference! We must continue the process of holding companies accountable and seeing their follow through. Beware of tricky words and sneaky marketing campaigns. Let's do our research and demand more for the sake of the individuals making our clothes on the other side of the world!