• Sabrina Ramkhelawan

Fair Trade Brand Spotlight: Alternative Apparel

"Alternative Apparel is a brand that specializes in sustainable and eco-friendly practices. Alternative’s Design Studio is located in Atlanta with an additional showroom in New York City. Corporate headquarters are also in Atlanta, Georgia. Our retail stores are located at Abbot Kinney in Los Angeles, Hayes Valley in San Francisco, and Soho in New York City."

First off, if you know me and follow me on Instagram @flauntyourfancy, you know that I specialize in promoting ethically and sustainably made fashion brands.

My goal is to do the research for my readers - so they can be better conscious consumers. I want to help you feel confident that your purchases did not come at the expense of someone else's quality of life or at the expense of causing harm to our natural environment.

There is no Planet B, folks! We need to take care of our neighbors and the place we call home.

However, this is proving a more difficult/complicated/nuanced task than I originally thought.

Sustainable - Fair Trade Fashion is now a HUGE HOT TOPIC. People care and the fashion industry is starting to realize that they have to step up their game. Fast Fashion Brands are releasing sustainably made clothing lines. So now even brands more well known for being sustainable/ethical brands like TOM's and Patagonia are being put under the microscope for scrutiny.

The issue of sustainable and ethical fashion is STILL so complicated. And I am learning that very quickly. Brands can say that they are sustainable, fair trade etc. But does that actually mean they are?? Not necessarily.

I've even come across other blogs and media outlets that promote sustainable, ethical brands. I've trusted a few of them without doing my own research and ended up feeling silly after the fact.

Wording is key, people. Pay attention to how brands use words to outline their mission statements, goals, policies...

Remake.com is a non-profit that specializes in promoting sustainable brands that have been evaluated by Remake's specific criteria.

See full sustainable brands list here: http://remake.world/sustainable-brands/

One of the brands off that list was Alternative Apparel. Remake says "Alternative Apparel offers minimalist basics like tees and tanks, distressed denim, and hoodies, many of which are Fair Trade and WRAP certified."

The key here - "many of which"

"We do not do our own manufacturing, we outsource this across multiple vendors and countries internationally. For us to claim Fair Trade certification on our various products, our manufacturing partners must be certified as Fair Trade. While we are currently not working with vendors that are certified Fair Trade manufacturers, we are looking into how we can add these partners to our manufacturing roster in the future." - https://www.alternativeapparel.com/support/faqs#products

It's CONFUSING RIGHT?! I mean, come on - that really threw me! Just goes to show the extent of the learning process that is Sustainable Fashion.

(This is NOT to say I don't approve of the brand. This is for the sake of transparency. I definitely do not want to mislead anyone of spread false information. My readers and this cause are important to me. This just shows how deep we all need to dig.)

I think this is a GREAT BRAND. (And they are still WRAP certified which follow almost the exact principles laid out by Fair Trade Association.) They are transparent in explaining why they are not officially fair trade certified, but how they still are committed to maintaining those same standards and values. They use organic materials in their products and are clear in their mission statement to be a sustainable brand. We should still reward brands for doing good and promoting conscious consumerism.

My point is again - awareness. I'll say it again. Conscious Consumerism.

It's a big term with a simple concept.

Be critical. Be skeptical. Ask Questions. #whomademyclothes

Fair Trade standards need to be implemented at every point in the process. And if you're a larger company with a bigger demand, chances are you outsourced some of your processes to meet that demand. For example, if you are following fair trade standards at 9/10 steps in the process - you are still not fair trade certified. Make sense? We do our best and some things are out of our control. For now at least. Let's keep moving on...

SO -

What is Fair Trade?

"Based on the simple idea that the products we buy and sell are connected to the livelihoods of others, Fair Trade is a way to make a conscious choice for a better world. A choice for Fair Trade Certified™ goods is a choice to support responsible companies, empower farmers, workers, and fishermen, and protect the environment." - https://www.fairtradecertified.org/why-fair-trade

Fair Trade Criteria

1. Income Sustainability

2. Empowerment

3. Individual and Community Well-Being

4. Environmental Stewardship

Products: Debut Eco-Gauze Turtleneck (White Mist, XS)

Fit: Tight - More of a layering piece. Think chunky cardigan.

There are different standards depending on what industry you're discussing: Agriculture, Seafood, Apparel, Homegoods. https://www.fairtradecertified.org/sites/default/files/filemanager/documents/AHG%20Factory/FTUSA_STD_AHGFactory_EN_1.3.0.pdf

To sum up the standards listed in the document linked above:

1. There needs to be a commitment to 'corporate social responsibility' outlined in the company's mission statement and everyone in the company - at all levels on the production chain - must be reached/introduced to Fair Trade Standards.

2. Fair Trade Officers must be appointed and held accountable for implementation of Fair Trade Standards.

3. There needs to be an HR person appointed that specializes in managing compliance with Fair Trade Standards through regular internal audits.

4. HR must present a written policy outlining worker's compensation: when they will get paid, how they will get paid, wages, overtime, bonuses, schedules, workers hours, rights to vacation, sick or maternity leave

5. Workers have to know their rights.

6. Access to primary education for workers families.

7. Transparency - Workers are allowed to participate freely and provide honest feedback during audits.

8. Existence of Fair Trade Committee (FTC) or workers union with workers comprising the majority of the FTC.

9. Legal body is established to represent workers of the factory.

10. Workplace is free from abuse: Physical, psychological, harassment

None of which seems unreasonable to me and pretty standard workplace guidelines in NYC. It's almost unbelievable to think people are denied these basic items.

How does Alternative Apparel embrace Fair Trade and Sustainability?

1. WRAP-certified: follow the basic principles of Fair Trade Certification and the criteria outlined above.

2. Require their partners follow guidelines of the Fair Labor Association and Workplace Code of Conduct

3. Fashion Revolution #whomademyclothes - Movement that demands greater transparency in fashion supply chain.

4. Environmental Sustainability: Clothes are made with organic & recyclable materials, low-impact dyes and water conserving washes.

SO - Let me know what you think. Do you agree with my assessment that this company is still 'good'? Or are you just tired of my lists :P

Feel free to shoot me an email at Sabrina@flauntyourfancy.com

If you like this post, please also consider subscribing to my site to receive e-mail notifications when I upload a new blog post! Also, if you're not already follow me on Instagram and/or facebook for daily outfit inspiration, sustainable small business highlights, and pictures of me exploring NYC.


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