“Sustainable fashion” is an umbrella term used to describe the movement that’s working toward a more ethical and eco-friendly fashion industry. Stemming from this term, so many different labels to describe sustainable fashion have hit the market. There’s ethical fashion, vegan fashion, fair fashion, vintage fashion, green fashion — the list seems to keep growing! We want to focus on one of these labels today: fair fashion. If you’ve ever had trouble distinguishing fair fashion from the rest, we’re here to help clear up the confusion.

First things first, fair fashion derives from “fair trade.” According to the Fair Trade World Organization, fair trade is a trading partnership based on dialogue, transparency, and respect that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers — especially in the South. The South refers to developing countries usually located in the southern hemisphere. 

Fair fashion has one goal: To uphold cultural techniques and empower indigenous communities, who are often marginalized, by introducing them to the global fashion market. In these communities, creating garments is often done by women, who have a plethora of knowledge on the techniques and designs behind their local textiles, but men, of course, are also an amazing source of knowledge. This is often a woman’s only way to earn a living.

Fair fashion aims to give these women and men a voice, safe working conditions, and a living wage — simple necessities that are, unfortunately, a luxury for millions of garment workers around the world. Another issue in the garment industry is modern slavery, which is very much still alive and well. According to the Global Slavery Index’s 2018 report, $127.7 billion worth of garments are at risk of including modern slavery in their supply chains. Through imports, developed countries are taking part in trapping nearly 40.3 million people in modern slavery, 71 percent of whom are women. Let’s not forget the sad fact that children are also at risk of being part of modern slavery. In fact, nearly one in four victims of modern slavery is a child. 

If you’re looking to be part of the change, start researching before you shop. Does your favorite clothing store follow any legislation regarding modern slavery and transparency? Does it make a statement that dislodges any form of modern slavery from its supply chain? Does it explicitly say it pays its employees a fair and living wage? 

There is one way to make buying fair fashion an easy one-stop-shop: purchasing clothing that is certified fair trade. There is a common misconception that fair trade clothing is what you get when you combine your stereotypical hippie with recycled textiles, but every day, more brands are taking note of customer demand for stylish but ethical clothing. For comfy basics that are certified trade, check out PACT. Not only do they care about the people behind their product, but they’re making sure your clothes are ultra-comfortable and chemical-free. If you’re looking for stylish, modern shoes, Nisolo makes shopping ethically a cinch with its hyper-transparent business model and fair wages.

As we mentioned at the beginning, there are so many ways to shop sustainably. If your interests lean more toward the handcrafted and artisan-made, shopping fair fashion is definitely the way to go. The best part is, so many of these brands share the positive impact that you’re making when you choose fair fashion. You’re making a difference in the lives of those who put time and skill into your clothing. 

Each time you wear fair fashion, you wear artisans’ stories. Wear them proudly and spread the word to make their voices heard.