In anticipation of Black Friday and the kickoff of the holiday season next week, I’m starting a little series called Helpful Holiday, in which I share a few of my faaaaaaaavorite thiiiiiiiiiiiings (singing and dancing in the Alps optional) for your consideration as holiday (or anytime!) gifts. This week’s installment is about Fair Trade.*
(*I am using a broadish definition of fair trade to include items produced under humane and just working conditions, as well as items made from upcycled or sustainably sourced materials and companies whose mission, vision, and values resonate with the ideals of mindful manufacturing even if they aren’t strictly fair trade. For more information on Fair Trade certification, click here.)
I had always associated fair trade clothing with really expensive and scratchy sweaters made of Peruvian alpaca hair or purses made of knotted plastic shopping bags and pop can tabs, neither of which were *really* my ham. (I once typed “This is my ham,” instead of “This is my jam,” and I’m trying to make it a thing, okay?) But lately I’ve discovered several cool companies making accessories that I would (and do) actually wear. (There are no clothing brands here because I’ve actually elected not to purchase any new clothing at all for awhile. My closet is a disaster zone of maternity clothing, non-maternity clothing, and clothing for all four Ohio seasons that I am likely to encounter in a week. Plus Tiny Boss doesn’t care that my uniform is currently “leggings and t-shirts that are
probably hopefully clean.” My friend Angie has a list of gifts that give back including ethical clothing on her blog, Hometown Honey.)
rePURPOSE Accessories is one of my new favorite companies because their production cycle does good from start to finish. They buy clothing from local thrift stores, which reduces the impact of sweatshop textile production and may keep those fabrics out of the landfill, and sew them into super comfy headbands and hair wraps. Since the onset of motherhood and particularly after the Postpartum Nuclear Fallout Hair Loss of September 2016, I have a newfound appreciation of headbands. rePURPOSE headbands are somehow magically able to keep my hair out of my face (though not fully out of my child’s grasp) without pulling on my fragile postpartum hair like regular hair ties or pinching my head like traditional elastic headbands. In addition to being made of sustainable fabric, these accessories are handmade by refugee women and 100% of profits are donated to The Exodus Road, Make Way Partners, and The Thirst Project. The headbands are comfy, cute, and come in a multitude of styles to fit any fashion statement. In fact, I love them so much that I’ve got a few to give away…see details at the end of the post!
The Tote Project was featured on my blog launch giveaway last month. Their fair trade, organic cotton tote bags and zipper pouches are handmade in a fair trade factory in India by women exiting the sex trade. 20% of their profits to Two Wings to support survivors of human trafficking in the United States as they pursue their dreams. While I’ve only seen their tote bag in person, the zipper pouches look super cute. How perfect would this one be for stashing pens and pencils for school?
The Shine Project is not strictly fair trade but their mission and model are so cool I had to include them. Based in Phoenix, AZ, The Shine Project employs inner city high school students to make simple jewelry with positive messages. Having taught in urban (and rural) schools where many students do not attend or finish college, I love the multidimensional aspect of this company’s work. It’s not just lack of financial resources preventing students from starting or finishing a college degree; it’s lack of cultural capital when they get to campus (they feel like no one else grew up in poverty and don’t always know the systems for navigating college life such as financial aid, tutoring, time management, etc.) and lack of role models or support from home. The students earn scholarships for college and also gain real-life job experience and a community of encouragement to stay in school. I love their sweet little mantra rings and might put one on my Christmas list this year, since rings seem to be the only piece of jewelry I am capable of wearing that doesn’t pose a severe baby-pulling hazard.
Bequest Gifting Studio is a fun local company I just learned about. (Like, literally today.) Angela curates luxury gift boxes for weddings and corporate events but you can also buy them for special individuals in your life. The Go-Getter box features nontoxic 8-free nail polish and an organic face mask, as well as cute stationery and sweet treats.
Ohiyo Chocolate is another local brand I learned about recently (i.e. last night) which is fortunate because no gift list is complete without chocolate! I am…not fancy when it comes to food, but I wanted to write a poem about each of the two bites I tried. These chocolate bars are made with fair trade organic cocoa beans and no fillers or additives and they. taste. amazing. I am not usually a fan of dark chocolate like my husband is, and it took me a few seconds to realize the magical fruity and citrus notes were just from the chocolate. Nomnomnomnom.
Sseko Designs is here as a sightly shameless bit of self-promotion. I’ll keep it short and just say that all items are handmade from genuine leather and other materials sourced locally in Uganda. Our women earn above fair trade wages, matching scholarships for college, comprehensive health insurance and paid maternity leave, as well as job and other skills training. Shop the exclusive holiday collection here and stay tuned to my Instagram and Facebook page for Black Friday, Small Biz Saturday, and Giving Tuesday specials! Disclaimer: As a Sseko Fellow, I do earn commission on purchases affiliated with my link.
A few months ago I won a gift card to RePURPOSE Accessories through a contest on their Instagram feed. (Woohoooooo because I never win anything!) I got some goodies to share with my esteemed readers because even I cannot *possibly* use half a dozen headbands. Enter to win one by leaving a comment here about a favorite gift you’ve received, then head over to my Instagram and Facebook page for more opportunities!