The term fairtrade may conjure images of chocolate bars and bags of coffee, but fairtrade fashion may be the next ethical movement to sweep the globe. The heartbreaking Rana Plaza tragedy in 2013 brought to light the horrible working conditions and dangers of the fast fashion world. The global spotlight on the devastating and despicable practices that brought about the disaster provided a global platform for the growing slow fashion movement.

Over the past two years, citizens around the globe have come together to promote awareness through the social media campaign Fashion Revolution Day, hosted by the Ethical Fashion Forum, and by funding initiatives like Andrew Morgan’s The True Cost, a documentary exposing the environmental and social dangers of the fast fashion industry. Even mainstream media outlets like the Wall Street Journal are reporting the wave of fairtrade products hitting big box stores in response to the high demand for more ethical options.

As awareness increases, more and more people are looking for alternative solutions to the despicable and devastating practices of the fast fashion industry. As a result, there’s been a social movement for more ethical, environmentally friendly, and socially responsible clothing, including a call for fairtrade fashion.

Clearing up Confusion About Fairtrade Clothing

As we celebrate World Fair Trade Month this October, we thought we’d take the opportunity to clarify some of the differences and similarities between fairtrade fashion and the more common fairtrade food products people tend to be more familiar with. Unlike commodity markets like coffee and chocolate, many people are confused about how exactly clothing is deemed fairtrade. First, it’s important to note difference in language in the world of sustainable fashion—not all clothing that is described as ethical or sustainable is fairtrade; there’s even a very distinct difference between the terms fair trade and fairtrade. Fairtrade is a label trademarked by Fairtrade International, who Dhana Inc. partners with to ensure that the cotton used in our clothing meets the Fairtrade Standards of the leading global certification organization.

Clothing that carries the FAIRTRADE Mark is made with cotton that has been produced by small farm organizations that have received at least the Fairtrade Minimum Price and the Fairtrade Premium for investing in their community. The process is similar to chocolate and coffee; a crop must be harvested, in this case cotton, and then must be processed into a final good. Fairtrade clothing actually has three touchpoints that are evaluated prior to being awarded the Fairtrade label.

The People who Benefit from Fairtrade

Cotton producers who participate in the fairtrade economy are usually small, solo farms or part of a small, community farmer organization. These cotton producers also must meet Fairtrade's other economic, environmental and social standards, ensuring compliance with the world’s leading fairtrade organization.

Cotton traders, or anyone that handles and sells the cotton on Fairtrade terms, must also comply with standards for how the product is purchased and handled. Fairtrade monitors and measures cotton traders with other sustainability initiatives, such as SA8000 or WFTO, as well as ensuring they are comply with ILO Conventions and other sustainability initiatives, such as SA8000 or WFTO.

In addition, Fairtrade also certifies factories as abiding by fairtrade standards. Dhana’s partner, Mandala Apparels is one of those factories. This way we ensure that our entire supply chain is certified fairtrade through Fairtrade International and Fairtrade America, and we can confidently promise our customers that we’ve done all we can to honor the planet and the people involved in creating our clothing.