Shopping with a Conscience: Where and How

Most of you know that I have been on a journey of learning how to make my purchases matter for the last 3 years or so.  I have learned so much since becoming a Noonday Collection ambassador 2 years ago.   So, I thought it was time to share a bit about what I have learned!

When I first started thinking about shopping fair trade, I looked into a company and saw a shirt that sells for something like 300 dollars.  It was a t-shirt.  A plain one, at that.  No print, no pocket, nada extra.  Fair trade seemed impossible and I didn't know how to sew my own clothes (still don't know how). I didn't want to contribute to any companies who were known for incredibly awful working conditions or even child and slave labor.  The thought made me sick and every time I felt like I "needed" a new piece of clothing, I couldn't get some of the faces of those I had learned about who are vulnerable, out of my mind.

It came down to this for me:  I cannot say I have a heart to help the poor, cry about orphans and be disgusted by slavery and sex trafficking on Sunday, and then go shop for a cheap new shirt the following Friday just because I dislike how my clothes fit and think I need something new that fast fashion can provide.  Read more on the topic of the fast fashion industry and what fast fashion is, here.

So, my first step in this fair-trade journey was an adjustment on the way I thought about "needing" new clothing or accessories.   If I tell myself that I "need" something new that's also cheap, and that I have a right to buy things that way....I am also telling myself that my "need" to feel nice in something new is just as okay as it is for another mother like me, or child for that matter, to work 18 hrs a day in unbelievably incomprehensible conditions...Ouch.

My second step was learning from fellow Noonday ambassadors who had started this journey of purchasing with purpose before me.  They weren't shopping for $300 t-shirts.   I started following Brandi over at The Fairtrade Fashionistas and asked her lots of questions.  Through her, I learned about so many new companies with not only beautiful things to buy, but heart and action behind it.  Her blog is so fun -you should definitely check it out!!

My third step:  I took a year where I committed to not buy any clothes from companies who had a grade lower than a B on Free2Work and to mostly shop fair trade and learn about fair trade.  I didn't do this perfectly and sometimes it was more complicated to figure out than I realized, but mostly, it was way easier than I thought it would be.

Here are a some of the companies I  love and have purchased from or have on my wish list:

Symbology Clothing - I am in love with my shirt from Symbology (pictured below) and have been eyeing some of their headbands for forever.   I was lucky enough to snag this shirt when it was on sale!  But there are still some great sale items on the site.  I am always in want of headbands but afraid they won't work since I have the thickest head of hair, ever.  That's why YOU should buy one!    And, Symbology has graciously given a 30% off discount for those of you reading this little blog of mine if you shop there through this weekend (you have until Sunday).  Please, go shop there today and use this code to get this awesome discount:  tasharocks  
As a side note, they are going to be getting their new fall order in soon and I am positive that it is going to be gorgeous...

Raven and Lily - Coolest bags, journals and tees.
One Mango Tree - adorable clothing and bags and accessories.  They are also having a summer sale right now!
Mata Traders - lots of fun skirts and dresses and accessories...and they are also having a summer sale.
The Root Collective - cutest flats ever.  I am saving for a pair of these.
Nisolo - beautifully made mens and women's shoes.
Elegantees - a huge selection of t-shirts and dresses that help women who were former victims of trafficking.
The Sparrow Studio - pillows, home accessories, decor and the like - all gorgeous and a fellow Noonday ambassador started and runs this co-op that's based in Rwanda and employs women who were former victims of trafficking.
Feel Good Collections - this online company is newer and was started by the sweetest girl, Erin, who I met at a trunk show last year.  She has a heart for fair trade and started this company because of it.
ByTavi -I love this organization.  They are doing amazing things.  They sell adorable scarves, bags, mens ties and women's clothing.
OriginalFuzz - any guitar players out there?  Original Fuzz has straps, gear bags and cables.  My hubby has a strap from them and he loves it.
Joyn -adorable bags, clutches, home decor!  I just heard about this one from my friend Heidi today as I was admiring her purse!  So, I added it to the list!

I mentioned Free2Work above - it is a great resource and they also have an app you can use on your phone while shopping.  You can scan a barcode to find out how the product you are interested in is graded on a lot of different levels, from how transparent the company is to workplace conditions for employees, etc.

Oh and, as a disclaimer,  I have not figured out how to shop fair trade/ethically made children's clothing well.  This is an area I am hoping to grow in and it has posed a challenge for me, our budget and the fact that children grow so quickly... I would welcome any advice or tips from those of you who are pros here...But one new company that has popped up and that I am super excited about is Wildly Co - please shop there and buy each of your littles a t-shirt.  They aren't $300 and they are so cute and ethically made. Here is one of our very favorites:

A few final tips on shopping with a conscience..

Look at tags and try to find products that were made in the USA.  Thankfully, I have found a lot of clothes that are adorable and affordable this way.  Many local boutiques and even places like Nordstrom Rack and Evereve carry pieces that come from companies who make their clothing stateside. Stitch Fix is another fun way to shop with a personal stylist and you can request clothing that is made in the USA in your fix (that arrives on your doorstep)!  I don't do this often but have loved the 3 fixes I've gotten in the past.  Everlane is also another company that offers more transparency about the factories they use and you can buy items that were made in LA as well.

Thrifting and resale shops are great ways to refresh your wardrobe sustainably.  I follow lots of resale shops on Instagram and I am a part of clothing swaps/resale via social media.  I have sold clothes and added to my wardrobe this way and it is affordable, not to mention profitable if you want to sell some of your own items. Two of my favorite Instagram shops are #denimandstripes and #liliesofthefield.  Check them out!

Also, if you haven't hosted a Noonday Collection trunk show - do it!  It's really fun and you can earn lots of free goodies by doing so - not to mention you will be an advocate and voice for your friends and community on this very subject by opening up your home and hosting.  It's a win-win.  Get in touch with me if you are local, and if you aren't, go online here and Noonday will help you find an ambassador near you.

Do whatever you can to grow in delayed gratification when it comes to shopping - well, for anything really.  My husband is a rockstar at this and he has taught me so much in this area and continues to.  I try to and have to remind myself often that buying something shouldn't really ever have to be quick or treated like an emergency.  If pieces and purchases cost more when bought fairly and ethically, it's okay because having to wait or save up or just buy less is worth the lives that are affected it by.

And finally, just get creative.  Think about how to wear clothes you think you are tired of, in new confident in your own personal style or take time to figure out what your own personal style is.  Do not believe you have to follow trends that change weekly, especially when those weekly changes are made by fashion industries who only care about the bottom line.

None of this is a perfect solution, but becoming aware is imperative and sharing your honest journey in it is equally so.  This is a community thing, in my opinion.  And while we don't want to go around making people feel guilty for their purchases, it shouldn't be a secret that we care about people and believe they matter wherever they are born.  Shopping with a conscience makes a global impact. It will also change your heart.

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