Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Fair Trade Clothing - Style Meets Substance

FairtradeImage by soundslogical via FlickrBy Joan Rasch

Fair trade clothing is not commonly found in stores, but the concept is gaining popularity with consumers who are mindful of affecting change through our spending choices. By purchasing clothing that is made under Fair Trade conditions, we directly impact the lives of producer communities around the globe. Fair Trade clothing offers a high-quality and fashionable alternative to the mass-produced garments that are made at low costs by paying the producers unlivable wages.

Mass-produced items dominate our life ... from the clothes we wear to the food we eat, and the methods of this mass-production take a heavy toll on our health and on the health of the environment. In order to maintain low production costs, manufacturing units rely on cheap raw materials and even cheaper labor. Competitive trade has given rise to the use of cheap labor that is available in developing countries in order to manufacture the products at a fraction of the cost that it would be in a developed nation.

While some of the price disparities can be attributed to the differences in currency values, most of the difference is because of the availability of surplus and cheap labor. The result for manufacturers is maximum profits for minimum investments. For consumers, the result is that we get accustomed to unrealistically low prices which do not take into account the costs of this exploitation, in terms of human and environmental health.

This is where the concept of fair trade takes an entirely different approach. Fair trade companies are committed to equality rather than exploitation, and preservation rather than degradation. These trade products are made in healthy working environments and the producers are paid a fair and livable wage for their work.

The high quality, natural raw materials used in this trade production are healthier for the environment, the people making the products, and the people using the products. Further, many fair trade companies also reinvest in the producer communities through micro-finance, education, and health care programs.

There is often a misconception that fair trade clothing is expensive and not stylish. While the increased costs of production do result in a slightly higher price for consumers, the benefits are well worth it. Firstly, the product is made with textiles that are often hand-woven, hand block-printed and hand-embroidered. This means that great care and artistic skill has gone into making each piece, resulting in a garment that has far more value and exclusive style than what is typically available in the market. It also means that each piece is made of components that are hand-crafted by artisan communities, providing them with a sustainable livelihood and ensuring that their craft will be passed down to future generations.

By purchasing fair trade clothing you directly help to keep these artisan communities intact and self reliant. You help to make the world a better place, while also making your wardrobe more exciting!

This article has been written by an expert working with Sevya, an organization that sells fair trade clothing and wholesale fair trade products made by artisan groups in India.

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