Sometimes it starts with a simple statement and small action to help things change. And there seems to be a trend there: A few really cool fashion lines have started to pay attention to poor countries’s manufacturing abilities, and use them as part of their mission statement. It’s shifting the focus away from aid onto trade, a pro-active approach to ethical business.
I talked about lemlem earlier this year, launched by top model Liya Kebede. For women and kids, the collections are beautiful, ethical and inspire us to discover more about Ethiopia, its culture and traditions, the hard work of the women handweaving lemlem’s beautiful pieces. This is what Liya wanted to achieve (click here for a video interview of Liya Kebede) and it’s exciting to see her succeed as the brand is now sold at Barneys, Liberty, Matches, Bon Marche, Net a Porter… (photos above)
There’s another rising star in the market, Edun. Similarly launched by a high-profile woman (Ali Hewson, Bono’s wife), it’s all organic and beautifully made in Africa: see the video statement here. As Bono said it in a recent interview ” Changes come in tiny steps before it makes a big jump… Shopping is becoming a political act”. The printed tee-shirts are particularly strong pieces. I have been wearing my black roaring lion tee shirt all spring and I just love hearing Amalya do her Roaaar each time I put it on. Edun has now launched a set of tees where the prints are designed by the children from Bidii School in Kibera, Kenya (the second largest slum in Africa). All profits go to that charity. Not only are they perfectly cut and soft, but they are also great at raising awareness. Mission accomplished. Almost. (LVMH just bought a 49% stake in Edun, and the super talented Sharon Wauchob has recently been appointed head designer. Stay tuned).
On a different level but nonetheless equally impactful are Toms Shoes. The statement: One for One ie. for each pair purchased, one is donated to a child in need. I am just back from New York and literally bought three pairs (one for my husband, one for each of my brothers) because they look so cool AND I felt good about my purchases. Isn’t it the point? The founder Blake Mycoskie (he made it to the top 50 of GQ’s most influential men of the year) started the business in 2006 and since then 600,000 pairs of shoes have been donated. They’re sold all over now including at Whole Foods (however, they are not easily found yet in Europe). An achievement that has inspired other companies (Ralph Lauren, Elements skateboards) to join the One for One movement.
I find these stories very inspirational and will be on the lookout for more. Not only from an ethical business standpoint, but also because they help explain to our children where things that they wear come from, how they’re made, how they’ve traveled to our closets.