Responsible Travel Challenge: Ethical Travel Fashion


To help you become a more responsible traveler in 2018 I've launched a monthly series of Responsible Travel Challenges. Each month will focus on an ethical change you can make to your travel style that will benefit the communities you visit and ultimately our precious planet. Each detailed guide will contain specific tips on how to be a more responsible traveler. Adhere to these suggestions to make an impact as you travel.


AUGUST RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL CHALLENGE: ETHICAL FASHION AND SHOPPING WHILE TRAVELING


If you’re a new reader here at Miss Filatelista you may not know that in my previous career in New York City I was a strategic brand developer for international fashion brands. Many of my clients at the time were starting to focus on CSR, or corporate social responsibility, by implementing more sustainability in their collections. Some gave a percentage of proceeds to various charities throughout the year, a few of my clients' introduced products made of eco-friendly fabrics, and others had collections made at UN-verified textile facilities. At the time I thought these efforts were incredible but I’ve since learned how damaging the fashion industry is to the environment and clothing producers. A 10% bounce back to a charity doesn’t counteract the damage mainstream brands are contributing to environmental and social sustainability. 

The Fashion Revolution movement poses the question #whomademyclothes? The organization launched after the senseless tragedy of the Rana Plaza Factory collapse five years ago which killed 1,130 Bangladeshi garment workers and injured many more. Fashion Revolution was formed to demand a fairer and safer fashion industry because ‘no one should die for fashion.’ It takes 2,720 liters of water to make a single t-shirt, the amount of water most people drink in 3 years. 

Fortunately, in the three years since I stepped away from the fashion industry in NYC, there’s been a massive surge in consumer demand for ethically sourced clothing and accessories. Around the globe, there are countless brands dedicated to manufacturing using sustainable methods, empowering marginalized women through job creation, or using all-natural eco-friendly products. As with any movement, the sector of ethical fashion is quickly getting oversaturated so it’s important to support brands that are transparent and upfront about their efforts to be sustainable. 

As travelers, we can make a direct impact on the global arts and crafts industry which was valued at US $526.5 Billion in 2017 by opting to purchase sustainable clothing whenever possible. Through purchasing products from ethical brands at home and purchasing fair trade items while traveling you can support artisans who handcraft goods that help preserve their heritage while generating local income. The August Responsible Travel Challenge is all about ethical fashion brands and overseas shopping. 

When you’re traveling long-term overseas pack as little as possible. There’s literally no point in investing in ultra-expensive clothing items as you’re going to destroy it quickly through constant use. Do invest in good footwear and undergarments, as those can be harder to source overseas. You’ll probably be able to update and replace your clothing on the road from almost anywhere in the world. Before you head off on your trip you can pick up on a few of my favorite ethical fashion items to make your trip more stylish and sustainable.

ETHICALLY PRODUCED DRESSES FROM POÈME



I’m head over heels in love with Poème Clothing. It’s my dream fashion collection complete with dresses that boast beautiful patterns, luxuriously soft fabrics, and best of all, a dedication to paying fair wages. Poème pieces are handmade in Bali by a local family of artisans that have been creating clothing for over 40-years and are experts in their craft. Poème chose to collaborate with the Indonesian artisans due to the quality of the work and their fair working conditions–Poème even provides employees with three months of paid maternity leave!


I was gifted the Poème Celeste wrap dress and have barely taken it off! I love the mix-and-match clash of the prints that infuse floral and paisley elements. It’s also seriously one of the softest things I own as the fabric is a sublime lightweight rayon which makes it easy to roll it up tightly–it hardly takes up any space in my backpack. I’ve spun around in my Poème dress all over Southeast Asia from temple hopping in Chiang Mai, Thailand to running around the sand dunes of Mui Ne, Vietnam.

HANDMADE BRACELETS WITH A PURPOSE FROM WAKAMI



Almost every long-term traveler you’ll meet will be wearing a stack of bracelets that they’ve collected from far-off places, myself included. I wear bracelets that were blessings from Buddhist monks given to me in Thailand and Myanmar, the Tri Datu bracelet of the Balinese, and a handcrafted bracelet from social enterprise Pomelo in Yangon, Myanmar. 

When I learned about Wakami I was so thrilled to find more meaningful bracelets to add to my arm candy. Wakami is an international jewelry brand that works with rural Guatemalan female artisans to create bracelets with purpose. The accessory collection is making a difference in the lives of these rural artisan women by paying them a sustainable wage and supporting their ventures into creating their own businesses to sell the jewelry they create. Out of around 500 producers, 20 women have gone on to launch their own businesses after receiving training from Wakami!

I was gifted a kit of beautiful bracelets, each will tells a different story which is told on the beautiful paper packaging that holds each piece. My favorite is from the story of earth collection, which includes six bracelets and reads, “once upon a time, the earth was created. Then the sun, the stars, water and air, plants and animals, boys and girls were created, but something was missing, a connection between them all...therefore LOVE was created, connecting everything on EARTH!”

Miss Filatelista readers can enjoy an exclusive 10% discount by using the code LOLA24 whenever you make a purchase at WakamiGlobal.com!


ECO-FRIENDLY LINGERIE WITH A CAUSE FROM MADI APPAREL


There are so many reasons why MADI Apparel is my favorite underwear brand. For starters, the ingenious brand is born and bred in my hometown of Kansas City from a lovely mother-daughter duo. MADI, which stands for make a different intimates, boasts an inventive sustainable design, ethical manufacturing, supports women’s empowerment, and makes a social impact. 

The intimates collection is both environmentally and socially sustainable as the product are made of natural bamboo knit viscose fabric and hand sewn lace. The bamboo is luxuriously soft and incredibly durable making these cozy undies long-lasting which also reduces their negative impact on the environment.

MADI also operates a jobs-training program for at-risk women in Kansas City in order to teach them how to sew and develop skills to find work in the garment industry and take the first steps towards financial independence and security. The beneficiaries craft the MADI collection and receive a fair wage for their services. This keeps production stateside and reduces the environmental impact of importing products and exporting wages from job creation. MADI is entirely full-circle.


I visited the showroom when I paid a visit to Kansas City earlier this year and was gifted the Hendricks bamboo bralette and panty set in black. I wear these intimates as often as possible, they’re the softest underwear I own and make me feel nearly-naked as there’s no elastic or synthetic fibers. The natural fabric also dries incredibly fast making these great undergarments for full-time travelers like myself!

MADI operates on a BOGO system, buy one, give one. They do so in order to help alleviate shelters from one of their most urgent needs. As you can imagine, shelters receive many lightly used clothing donations, but not undergarments. MADI is committed to donating a new pair of underwear to women in domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, and rape crisis centers around the world for each garment sold. 

WHY ETHICAL FASHION MATTERS


Shopping local will direct your spending into the community you’re visiting. It’s also much more cost efficient to shop abroad as you’ll pay less on initial baggage fees and locally produced clothing is generally must less expensive than shopping at traditional stores in western countries. By packing less you’ll have room to shop until you drop at local vintage stores, markets, or even custom design your own pieces at a tailor. Locally made products are significantly better for the environment as they have zero shipping miles and usually won’t be wrapped in plastic. 

The best part about shopping local for clothing as you travel is having the chance to embrace colors, textiles, and styles that you wouldn’t have access to at home. My wardrobe changed drastically when I was living in India for 6 months. In order to adhere to cultural norms and not draw unwanted attention to myself, it was recommended that I wore traditional clothing. Shopping for vibrant saris, kurtas, and other traditional India dresses was such a thrill! I hadn’t worn so much color as a child and was reintroduced to the joy of dressing, something I’d lost along the way during my career in the NYC fashion industry where I just wore all black all the time. 

RESPONSIBLE SHOPPING TIPS


When you’re shopping, whether at home or while traveling, keep fabrics in mind. Natural fibers are best as they’re the least impactful on the environment. Bamboo, in particular, is a great choice as it is one of the fastest growing plants in the world and needs very little to grow in abundance. Other fabrics to look for when selecting sustainable textiles are linen, cotton, and even pineapple!

If you’re uncertain that a brand you love at home is dedicated to sustainable business practices and fair wages for their workers check to see if they’re a member of the World Fair Trade Organization which ensures that clothing producers provide safe working conditions and fair pay. Many social enterprises will also advertise the WFTO logo to notify customers that their products are certified. Fair Trade certification can be expensive so don’t rule a small business out if they don’t have the affiliation. Many social enterprises, NGOs and artisan co-ops probably won’t have the verification but are still creating ethical goods. 

When you’re traveling shop for authentic souvenirs produced by grassroots charities that provide vocational training to underprivileged women in sewing and clothing manufacturing. Your purchase will help provide job opportunities for artisans and preserving cultural traditions. 

Never buy souvenirs made from the products of endangered animals such as ivory (made from elephant tusk), skins, feathers, and shells. Instead, opt for mementos made from local renewable resources such as coconut shell products. 

Keep in mind that it’s never acceptable to haggle over handmade goods. Respect set prices and simply put something down if it’s over your budget. There’s nothing cool about saving a few bucks on a handcrafted necklace, that money could equate to family meals for a week in some places.

USE THE EXTRA SPACE IN YOUR LUGGAGE FOR GOOD


Since you’re going to pack light you’ll have the chance to pack a few items that could drastically help others. Pack for a Purpose was created to empower travelers to give back to the community their visiting by sourcing needed items to bring with them on their trip. Pack for a Purpose is a 501(c)3-listed charitable organization with the ingenious slogan: Small Space + Little Effort = Big Impact. 

Take a look at the current needs in the place you’re visiting by browsing the destination list on Pack for a Purpose. There you’ll be able to see what local projects are in need of at the moment. Head out and pick up the items and then drop off the donation during your travels! It’s really that simple and impactful.

Where have you purchased ethical fashion? Tell us about your favorite sustainable brands or artisan made cratfs in the comments!

Thank you Poème, Wakami, and MADI for gifting me your beautiful ethical goods. This post contains affiliate links. Please read the Miss Filatelista disclosure policy for more information.

2 comments:

  1. Digging this post Lola. More folks think through purchases these days to buy ethically; especially with food and fashion. From buying locally sourced stuff, to going plastic free, to purchasing clothes responsibly, I dig travelers being more aware of how their spending affects other humans and the environment.

    Ryan

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