Fair Fashion: Germany's Promising Up-and-Comers

These fair trade fashion labels make it easy to look good and do good at the same time.

by Paige Bradley, September 21, 2015

Fair Fashion: What and Why?

You may have heard the phrase “fair trade” bouncing around quite a bit lately. From coffee to condoms, fair trade businesses produce sustainable, high-quality, environmentally friendly goods, all the while improving the lives of the workers, farmers, and consumers. This market-based approach is particularly well suited to the fashion industry, which, as it stands now, is rife with unsafe working conditions, worker exploitation in the form of harassment, unregulated hours, and child labor, and environmentally detrimental practices. As such, we believe a drastic transformation of the apparel and accessory industries – including the implementation of responsible sourcing practices, environmentally friendly production decisions, and freedom from intimidation and abuse for workers – is not only an ideal, but a necessity.

"A drastic transformation of the apparel and accessory industries is not only an ideal, but a necessity."

Thanks to fair trade fashion brands, this bright future is within our reach. Protecting both the planet and its hard-working inhabitants, fair trade entrepreneurs have become significant players in the ever-evolving conversation surrounding the creation and maintenance of tangible change in the fashion industry. Labor abuse and fatal work-related tragedies will fall to the wayside as increasingly conscious consumers push for fair pay, equal rights for workers, and ecological production strategies. Below we provide you a rundown of some of Germany’s most promising change-makers in the worlds of shoes, apparel, and accessories.

(And, just because you asked: no. None of the stores mentioned in this article are paying us anything. We are doing this because we love fair fashion.)

Jyoti – Fair Works

jyoti

Jyoti - Fair Works is a German-Indian social enterprise that works to empower Indian women through the production of fair-trade apparel and accessories. Offering disadvantaged individuals an agreeable working environment, freedom from harassment, independence from restrictive, unregulated working schedules, and the living standard improvements that accompany access to education and job stability, Jyoti – Fair Works claims to be committed to fairness for both seamstress and customer, transparency in the textile value chain, and a love and respect for humankind. Enabling Indian women to create and sustain self-determined lives, the company prides itself on providing fair wages and crafting goods from recycled, eco-friendly, and equitably produced materials, using the earnings to fund literacy programs that emphasize women’s rights, labor regulations, and the provision of health insurance.

Read the full Jyoti - Fair Works story, and browse their collection of crafts, here.

Karma Chakhs

CHAKHS_6

Karma Chakhs encourages you to fight back against the exploitative methods and implications of standard mass production in a globalized supply chain by co-designing and co-producing sneakers with a high eco-social impact. Karma Chakhs believes in empowering individuals to push for higher ethical standards, one shoe at a time. Way to put the power in the hands of the consumer! Partnering with producers in India and Pakistan whose fair and sustainable practices fall directly in line with their mission - to produce shoes with a popular design, but without the ecologically and socially detrimental effects associated with standard production methods - the team over at Karma Chakhs consider themselves a beacon of hope for sustainable consumerism. Keep your eye out for the third generation of project managers, who have recently founded the Karma Academy Berlin, a public benefit association aimed at informing customers about the benefits of conscious consumption and sustainable production channels.

Shoemates

Shoe Mates Photo

Shoemates – founded by friends Marc and Obaid - operates on the philosophy “get one, give one.” That is, for every pair of shoes sold, Shoemates donates a pair to an Afghani school child, between the ages of 5 and 15, in need. Not only are the donated shoes made of breathable, durable leather, but also each is padded and stitched for lightweight, long-lasting support. Hoping to strengthen the Afghani economy, the company sources the donated shoes from Afghanistan, where their local partners hand the shoes directly from the manufacturer to the children who need them most. Why shoes, you ask? To protect the feet against the infection and disease that accompanies cuts and scrapes from the dirty, bumpy roads schoolchildren must walk each day. Fighting poverty and deadly infirmity abroad? Now that's a slam dunk.

Selfnation

self nation

Committed to sourcing the denim in a manner that is both environmentally and socially conscious, Selfnation prides itself on its local production and custom approach (each pair of jean is made specially for the customer). With short transport routes – the materials are imported from just north of Milan and the jeans themselves are produced in Germany and Switzerland - the company seeks to create and maintain employment opportunities in Europe while protecting both the natural environment and the rights of local workers. At the core of Selfnation’s mission lies a dedication to quality, appreciation for the unique, and conscious consumerism.

Brush up on the Selfnation story, and browse their collection, here.

Folkdays

150304_FOLKDAYS_SS151653

Folkdays produces high quality, handmade, fair trade accessories from original sources in more than 10 developing countries across the globe. Made for consumers who appreciate a forward-thinking, equitable, and socially conscious lifestyle, the company seeks out handcrafts with authentic back-stories, combining traditional craft style with modern simplicity for a look that’s truly innovative, refreshing, and aesthetically pleasing. Folkdays focuses on artisans who are experts in their respective crafts, working to create and sustain equal and lasting partnerships, purchasing and selling their products at a fair price while keeping the traditions of their work alive and providing them with increased income that can help foster the financial stability of their entire community.

Spy - and buy! - the entire Folkdays collection here.

 ArmedAngels

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 12.18.11 PM

“Organic is not a trend, but an attitude!” the ArmedAngels website proclaims. Environmentally friendly production - aimed at protecting both man and nature – paired with high quality and a trendy aesthetic, are how this company claims they intend to change the world; one tee at a time! Not merely a fashion label, it boasts, ArmedAngels markets itself as a reminder that the textile industry can produce beautiful, wearable products without child labor, worker exploitation, ecological damage, or the perpetuation of social inequality. Providing an alternative to starvation wages, ArmedAngels ensures safe and fair working conditions for all its employees, as well as fun, fashionable apparel for all.

EKN Footwear

EKN Shoes

Produced in a small factory near the city of Porto, Portugal – a country which derives more than 70% of its energy from renewable resources – EKN footwear employs only 70 local workers, each deeply committed to the high ethical and non-toxic manufacturing standards of the factory. Not only are the work hours reasonable and the factory policies non-discriminatory - EKN footwear claims - but also the working environment itself is safe, hygienic, and supports the recycling of almost all the factory-produced waste. In addition, EKN uses only environmentally conscious materials, sourcing organic, recycled, and sometimes vegan cork and leathers locally from Porto and its surrounding areas as often as possible, and otherwise from the larger Portugal region. Recognizing sustainability as a "journey," the company constantly strives to shrink its carbon footprint and find breathable, vegan alternatives to leather for their future lines.