Every Label Tells A Story: Crafting the New Normal in Fashion

By Denise Horton, Founder & CEO, Beautifuli.com

Every Label Tells A Story:
Crafting the New Normal in Fashion

Was it Machu Picchu? Or maybe Kilimanjaro? Perhaps my first trip to Asia?
I’m not exactly sure when it really hit me…the devastating impact of industry on our environment and its citizens.

But, an idea started to form one day. I had just come home from grocery shopping where I had obsessed over the labels on five different brands of cereal – which one was the healthiest for my family (sound familiar)? Later that week, as I folded laundry, I noticed it – a label: “Made in China. 50% Polyester; 50% Acrylic”. And then it struck me: Every label tells a story. Should I be reading clothes labels the same way I do food?

And that was my aha! moment – if I care so much about what I put IN my body, shouldn’t I care more about what I put ON my body?

So, my journey of discovery started. I read books and blogs about sustainable textiles and fair trade manufacturing. I was alarmed to learn that the fashion industry is the 2nd most polluting industry in the world to big oil. It uses more water than any other industry except agriculture. The apparel industry employs 1/6th of the world’s workers…often with little concern for their rights or working conditions. Child labor? Sweatshops? All very prevalent in an industry that is one of the most impactful in our world – in more ways than one.

I discovered over 200 apparel, jewelry, handbag, shoe and accessory designers who are producing incredibly stylish as well as sustainable goods. Then, the opportunity came into focus for me. Why not launch a design collective showcasing the rising stars of eco-design? Leverage the power of the web and social media to showcase curated fashion from around the world, educate women about the issues and make ultra-chic sustainable, fair trade fashion… the new normal.

Many designers find working to the standards of fair trade and sustainability a restriction. Ours turn a seeming limitation…into inspiration. Driven by true creativity, eco-designers work harder. They’re tuned into workers because these designers respect and honor craft skills. They look for every opportunity to work sustainably — from the way fabrics are dyed to where the smallest embellishment is sourced. And, knowing the backstories behind many of our labels today, they’re focused on altering the old rules.

If we can help these designers generate more demand for their collections, they can hire more people locally —New York City’s Garment District, Los Angeles, London, Scotland, Peru – wherever their “local” happens to be. Fair trade at its best. Workers trained, compensated fairly and treated with respect for their expertise and hard work.

The Beautifuli.com collection will showcase leading designers such as Tara St James, EDUN, H. Fredriksson, Isoude, Samantha Pleet, Monique Pean, Carrie Parry and Gretchen Jones.

Is it time to expect more from the fashion industry? To know that our products are made sustainably? We think so. Indeed, two visionary companies are making significant investments in sustainable, fair trade design today:

  • PPR Group, with brands like Gucci, Stella McCartney and Puma, has initiated the process of Social Accountability 8000 certification. SA 8000 requires PPR and its suppliers to respect nine criteria relating to child labor, forced labor, health and safety, freedom of association and collective bargaining, discrimination, disciplinary practices, working hours, remuneration and management systems, and to set up a specific management system for the purpose of continually improving working conditions.
  • Patagonia’s The Footprint Chronicles, an interactive map pinpointing each of their factories and textile mills around the world, lets users view information such as the proportion of male to female workers, average age, what products are produced at the facility, languages spoken, and the address – corporate transparency at its finest.

The Footprint Chronicles: Credit Patagonia.com

Editor’s Note:

Beautifuli.com will launch in early 2013. In the meantime you can connect with Beautifuli.com on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Tumblr

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One Response

  1. Denise, this piece really resonated with me. For exactly the same reasons, I left my corporate job 3.5 years ago to try to translate the Fair Trade concept that’s been so successful in food to fashion. We’ve learned a lot on the journey and one challenge (among many) has been how to support small but committed designers. I’d love to share ideas with you!

    Director, Apparel & Linens
    Fair Trade USA


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