When it comes to women's rights and the clothing industry - we want our fashion slow and our gender equality fast! According to Fashion Revolution, "the garment industry is and has historically been one of the most female-dominated industries in the world." So, when it comes to choosing what to put in our closets, we should keep the women making our clothing and the conditions they're working in, front of mind.
Startlingly, if we keep to business as usual, the World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap won't close entirely until 2186. It's hard not to feel discouraged when you're faced with disparity. You can make a difference by supporting fashion brands that are empowering women throughout their supply chain.
Here are 5 brands empowering women and creating beautiful fashion:
Raven + Lily
Raven + Lily, a Texas-based brand, is on a mission to alleviate poverty amongst women by giving them access to a sustainable income. To do this, they work closely with local artisan groups of at-risk women based in countries such as the US, Pakistan, Haiti, Malaysia and Guatemala.
Raven + Lily is a certified B Corporation, focused on alleviating poverty among women by providing fair trade wages, a safe job, a sustainable income, healthcare and education. Shopping ethically with Raven + Lily means you're helping to empower over 1,500 female artisans.
Mayamiko produces clothing, homewares and accessories that are made ethically by women in Malawi. Their aesthetic fuses contemporary design with traditional African techniques. All their prints are sourced by a local cooperative of women traders.
This brand is a leading advocate for better labour rights and has created the Mayamiko Trust, a charity which works in the community to train and empower disadvantaged women. One of the charity's projects, the Mayamiko Lab, was designed to provide skills training, education, nutrition, sanitation and promote fairer trade practices.
Jewellery brand Same Sky creates employment opportunities for women experiencing poverty, with collectives in Rwanda and the USA. They work with a wide range of women including HIV-positive survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and those previously incarcerated women New Jersey.
Their Rwandan artisans earn 15 to 20 times more than the average wage in Sub-Saharan Africa, and 100% of the brand's proceeds are reinvested to train and employ more women.
UK fashion brand People Tree has been an entirely Fair Trade business for over 25 years, working with mostly female producers around the world. The brand empowers women by giving them control over how they work, as well as how proceeds are used to benefit their communities.
Over the past 10 years, People Tree has partnered with Agrocel to grow organic cotton. At Agrocel, women are paid the same as men and given paid maternity leave. "Farmers are paid a premium for organic and Fair Trade cotton...[which] support a savings scheme for female farmers that trains women in financial literacy, helping them save and plan for the future."
American lingerie brand Naja is all about empowering women, from the makers to the wearers. They employ single mothers and female heads of households who are paid above market wages, provided with health benefits and child education stipends.
Naja has also implemented flexible work policies to make it easier for women to balance work and childcare. Every child of a Naja garment worker receives books, school supplies, uniforms and all school meals paid by Naja.
Mata Traders is a small brand which works with Fair Trade cooperatives aiming to reduce the impact of poverty and empower women in India and Nepal. These artisan cooperatives provide services such as health care, paid maternity leave, retirement pensions, and daycare.
Mata Traders pride themselves on giving women the opportunity to develop confidence and leadership skills at work. The female artisans within their co-ops are paid per piece and have "control in determining the piece rate, and as the cooperatives are worker-owned organizations, they receive a share of the profits."
Brands in this article have been rated as Good or Great in the Good On You ethical fashion app. You can check it out here: www.goodonyou.eco
Other brands worth checking out:
- ReCreate provides employment for women in Dey Tmey, a disadvantaged community in Cambodia
- The Social Outfit employs and trains women from refugee and new migrant communities
- Mettle - Fair Trade works with Cambodian co-ops to create fair trade accessories
- Faire Collection is a jewellery label creating positive change in impoverished communities