By Lola Connelly
I admit. I am that friend that always wears black. Whether it’s summer or winter, you guessed it… I’m wearing black. And whilst this may not seem like the most adventurous fashion choice, it empowers me to be confident in myself. It makes me happy. Despite being at home, and wanting to live in comfy clothing, I will make the effort and ‘dress up’ my ethical black clothes. Why? Because first of all, looking good for yourself is as good a reason as any. But secondly, our actions are ultimately defined by whether we feel empowered and confident in our clothing.
The clothing we wear and who made it can change our thoughts and actions as individuals. So, don’t be afraid to embrace your characteristics and wear what makes you feel strong and positive. And at the end of the day, through both societal and cultural expectations, being a woman is exhausting. Therefore, find what makes you feel truly liberated, with the freedom to love and empower yourself.
Fashion is more than just clothes. As consumers we have the power to bring about change to disadvantaged women and ask the questions:
- Who made my clothes?
- Are they paid a fair wage?
- Are they in a safe environment?
The fact you are here on KeiSei with us shows you have an interest towards the ethical lifestyle.
And you may already understand the preexisting disempowerment fast fashion has towards
women. Fast fashion is above all, a feminist issue. And we would like to bring about female empowerment on both ends of the equation rather than exploitation.
Empower female workers
The majority of the world’s garments are made by women in developing countries such as Bangladesh, India and Romania, to name a few. And according to Labour Behind the Label these workers usually earn less than a third to take care of their families and basic everyday needs. When it comes to empowering women out of systemic poverty for instance, a living wage is recognised as a human right. Not the minimum wage so many women endure within fast fashion.
Fashion can be a powerful feminist force. As a result, ethical businesses paying their workers a living wage is just one way to empower female workers. And ultimately yourself. Furthermore, women not only transform their sense of worth, but spend their money to transform their communities and quality of life for their children:
“Ending all discrimination against women and girls is not only a basic human right, it’s crucial for sustainable future; it’s proven that empowering women and girls helps economic growth and development.”
One ethical fashion brand paying their workers a living wage is ABLE. ABLE empowers women
who have come out of the sex industry in Ethiopia and to those in disadvantaged communities. Through education and training, womens quality of life dramatically improves. ABLE believes, through creating transformative opportunities for these women, children and communities will thrive. In addition, ABLE even publishes their wages on a system called ACCOUNTABLE. Transparency is most importantly a powerful step for both consumers and producers. It allows us to view female workers as valuable, connect our purchases with a human face and know where our clothing comes from.
So what does ethical empowerment look like?
First of all, try to not purchase clothing from any fast fashion retailers or brands who are known to exploit third world labour and not pay workers a living wage. It can, however, be hard to reveal which brands are ethical and which are greenwashing. I personally rely on the app ‘Good On You’. Here you’ll find thousands of brands on how they manage labour, environment and animal products. So you can shop ethically and sustainably with peace of mind.
Yet, empowerment for a woman does not end with a fair living wage.
Empowerment also means working in a safe factory. With ventilation, access to water and fair hours. Sexual harassment and being exposed to chemicals is also disputed. Above all, breaking the cycle of poverty gives women the opportunity to invest in themselves. As they gain access to healthcare, legal protection, finances and a voice.
How Fairtrade empowers women
Fairtrade consists of six standards to promote gender equality, in addition to providing a connection to the person wearing it to the person who made it:
- Standards that don’t discriminate
- Fairtrade Gender Strategy trains women to lead
- Funding local women’s initiatives through The Fairtrade Premium. This can involve
access to childcare or extra training
- Challenge current gender gap and empower women to be independent, away from their husbands and fathers
- Breaks down the stereotype of “women’s work”
- Fairtrade pushes for workers rights and to dismantle inequality
6 Inspirational B-Corp Fashion Brands
Similarly GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) allows for safe working conditions and fair
living wages for all of their employees. To become GOTS certified everything from
environmental to social criteria (chemical inputs and the treatment of workers) is evaluated. It is
also mandatory that they meet all of the criteria. Some social criteria includes:
- Employment is freely chosen
- No discrimination
- No child labour
- Occupational Health and Safety (OHS)
International Womens Day
When you support the women making your clothes, you can empower yourself. You are the catalyst for change. Do you have a specific outfit which makes you feel empowered?