NEW YORK CITY — Dressing yourself in ethically made fashions need not mean swapping your sharp city style for crunchy designs that belong on a 1970s commune.
With the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse on April 24 — a date recently christened as Fashion Revolution Day in remembrance of the tragedy — it’s a good time to reflect on how far the style of kindly made goods and clothing have come.
Bangladeshi building Rana Plaza housed several clothing factories used by fashion companies such as Joe Fresh and J.C. Penny. It disintegrated in 2013, killing more than 1,100 workers. As Fashion Revolution Day, the anniversary is meant to turn the thoughts of shoppers to #WhoMadeMyClothes.
In New York there are plenty of big-hearted stores and brands that have made worker rights and the environment, whether stateside or abroad, a core part of their business model.
Here are some local brands and shops that offer clothes that will help you look good and support good with your dollars:
KAIGHT opened in 2006 making it a trailblazer in the city’s sustainable clothing scene. Sustainable clothing covers both worker rights as well as the environment. The store focuses on clothing that is locally produced, is fair-trade certified, uses reclaimed or organic material or leaves zero waste.
Ankle Wrap Sandal from KAIGHT for $189
This sandal is from brand Capri.Positano and is handmade by artisan shoemakers in Italy. No mass production here.
Tote from KAIGHT for $368
Buying goods from countries with well-developed and policed labor laws, such as Canada, goes a long way towards styling yourself with ethical fashion. This tote is from Erin Templton and is handmade in Canada.
The motto at online store Modavanti is “life, consciously styled.” Its purpose is to help shoppers find ethically made and environmentally sound clothing using a system of badges, each of which indicates if an item is “Made in the U.S," “Artisan” or “Eco-friendly.” The online store stocks both men and women’s clothing as well as shoes, accessories and grooming products.
Men’s Boot from Modvanti.com for $178
The Emilio Chukka Boot by Nisolo is handmade by Peruvian artisans. The style is designed to fit in with your boardroom attire as well as your weekend jeans.
Necklace from Modavanti for $49.20
This dagger necklace from UNA is made from landmines and unexploded ordinances once used in the civil war in Cambodia. This piece is certified by Modavanti as artisan made in a fair trade workplace.
The founder and creative director of Bhoomki, Swati Argade, has years of experience in the ethical fashion industry. She guarantees that the purchase of any product from her store — Bhoomki sells both fashion and home wares — ensures that workers will receive a fair wage in a humane workplace. Her products are also made with a minimal environmental footprint.
Silk Top from Bhoomki for $185
The top is from Seek Collective, which uses artisans in India who work with natural dyes and organic materials.
“Bhoomki loves Seek Collective for their environmentally and socially conscious design and commitment to sustaining artisan communities,” Argade wrote in an email to DNAinfo.
Pencil Skirt from Bhoomki for $148
Along with sourcing ethically made brands, Argade also has her own label. Whenever possible, her designs are made in New York City. If not, they are constructed overseas in child-free factories. This skirt was produced in a New York City factory with cotton hand-woven in India.
Basket from Bhoomki from $30 depending on size
Bhoomki stocks a range of baskets and bowls that are made by workers in Senegal through the brand Swahili. Not only is the brand committed to fair wages with human working conditions, Swahili also incorporates recycled materials into its design. This basket uses cattail grass with threads made from recycled plastic.
The San Francisco-based Everlane is part fashion and part tech startup that has brought some interesting, albeit extreme, concepts to the sustainable fashion scene. Going by its “radical transparency” anthem, Everlane gives you the full story on every factory it uses around the world, how they found it and why they chose to use it. Everlane’s line is full of no-fuss basics at reasonable prices.
Men’s shirt from Everlane.com for $55
This slim-fit poplin shirt is 100 percent cotton. Another aspect of Everlane’s “radical transparency” is its detailed breakdown of production costs for each item. This shirt cost $6.30 in labor expenses, $13.30 for materials, $1.20 hardware, $4.10 in duties and $1.55 in transport for a total cost of $26. The rest is markup.
Bag from Everlane.com for $95
The understated style of the Twill Weekender is also practical. The cotton exterior is water-resistant, with tough leather straps and gunmetal feet. The bag is made in a factory in Dongguan, China, which is owned by “Mr. Hong,” according to the Everlane website. Click here for a photo tour of the factory.
Reformation, which opened in 2009, runs its own factory in L.A rather than outsourcing. The company uses both sustainable and vintage fabrics to reduce the environmental impact of its clothes.
The Avery Dress is a great contender for summer weddings and all those garden parties you will be invited to. The plunging neckline is offset by girly cape sleeves and the dress is made from 100 percent viscose.
Alternative Apparel’s factories are aligned with the Fair Labor Association Workplace Code of Conduct. It sets a high bar for factories in order to weed out worker abuse and child labor, giving all workers the right of association and collective bargaining in a workplace that does not tolerate harassment or discrimination. The company's fabrics and production techniques are environmentally friendly to minimize the impact on surrounding communities.
Tank Top for $58 from Alternative Apparel
Alternative Apparel is a destination for basics such as T-shirts, sweat pants and shorts.
Shorts from Alternative Apparel for $54
These sporty yet comfortable shorts are made from a cotton and polyester blend.