It's no secret that many apparel companies use underpaid and often exploit workers to produce the clothing they sell. If this is no secret, why do people continue supporting brands and companies that use unethical labor practices to increase their profits? While some people shop fast fashion without understanding the full consequences of fast fashion, the majority of customers are simply shopping within their budgets. Studies have shown that people want to invest in ethical fashion, but rarely do because they think prices are out of their reach. In this article, I will discuss three ways in which you can source ethically produced clothing at very affordable price points.
As a designer that produces made to measure dresses ranging between several hundred to several thousand, I'll be the first to say that my brand is ethical in terms of its labor practices, but not always affordable to the average consumer. Here's why: I refuse to hire anyone that isn't paid at least minimum wage- this includes interns. The only time I will consider working with someone and not paying them if it's a collaboration that's mutually beneficial. This firm labor policy combined with luxury materials results in many of my individually made dresses being out of the price range for many people. However, the Peony Scarf and the Splash of Ink Scarf have been favorites for people that aren't ready to invest in a dress.
Despite many Kate Stoltz pieces being in a higher price range, a lot of my readers ask for more affordable options. Because of this, I actively seek to work with brands that have discovered ways to produce ethically produced, affordable clothing. I believe that ethically produced, beautiful clothing should and is readily available. Finding great ethical brands selling at affordable price points can be tricky, especially when you don't want to sacrifice quality in either materials or craftsmanship. However, these three options are here for individuals that are willing to invest a little extra time in improving the future of fashion and humanity.
The first option: Ethically produced brands that source directly from artisans living in developing countries while ensuring worker safety, fair wages and fair treatment. I recently worked with Fuchsia Shoes- a sustainable footwear brand with flats made individually by hand in Sangla Hill, Pakistan. (Full disclosure: we collaborated with a project exclusively for Instagram, but I am including them in this article because I found their story so inspiring and their products to be incredibly well crafted).
There are several things Fuchsia Shoes is doing that I found to be worth noting. First: they work with experienced artisans that take pride in their craftsmanship, resulting in well made products that feel and look as good as top designer brands. Second: they ensure these artisans are paid fair wages, resulting in a healthier community, happier workers and safer environments. Third, they source their leathers from animals bred for meat production which results in less waste from food consumption byproducts.
There are many companies with similar structures to Fuchsia Shoes, such as Mayan Hands (a source for table runners and napkins made by Guatemalan weavers) . In addition, there are companies that source directly from artisans around the world such as Mayet (modern artisan clothing) and Mochi (boho clothing).
The second option: Vintage Designer Apparel. Buying clothing that has been used before is now thankfully socially acceptable and even applauded within the fashion industry. As we are increasingly aware of the consequences of fast fashion, it is now more fashionable and admirable to wear vintage clothes than it is to wear fast fashion. There are endless sources to shop from; your local thrift store, online shopping website such as ThredUp, Crossroads, Buffalo Exchange, Beacon's Closet and even Goodwill.
Finding a great pair of designer heels or your favorite designer's dress in the middle of a rack of fast fashion knockoffs will never get old. My personal best find was a pair of barely worn Yves Saint Laurent heels with satin bows in the back for less than $100. I went to a popular Parisian vintage shop, where the YSL shoes were only one pair among rows of designer shoes, stuffed in the midst of crammed racks of designer jackets, couture dresses, designer handbags- most in mint condition. I still wear the YSL heels and get compliments every time.
The third option: Renting. You can now rent pants, shirts, shoes, jewelry and dresses at very affordable price points. Yes, you'll only wear the piece once or twice, but it's a great way to dress up for an occasion without straining your budget. Rent the Runway is one of the most popular shopping platforms you can rent from, but there are other great resources competing for your business. Poshare, Le Tote, Armoire, Style Lend, and Charlotte's Closet are only a few of the fashion rental websites worth checking out.
In conclusion, ethically produced fashion is here for everyone. It's just up to us to put a little extra time into seeking it out. Trust me, its worth it.
Read about our new peony silk scarf, which was made in Italy here: Peonies on Carrara Marble Scarf