By Amma Okobea
I’m just going to say it: fashion is a feminist issue. Not just because women buy and wear more clothes than men, but because 80% of garment workers are women. These women form the real backbone of the fashion industry, but they are often neglected and mistreated in the world of fast fashion. However, there is hope. Ethical fashion brands are taking the lead in empowering the women behind the labels like never before – and guess what? Most owners of ethical fashion brands are indeed, women.
But that being said, some fashion houses support women more than others. Here, I’ve found five sustainable feminist fashion brands with great ethics in terms of helping women get ahead. They deserve our support!
1. My Sister
The team at ethical fashion brand My Sister call themselves “badass feminists who are tired of exploitation” – a sentiment that’s clearly seen through not only their comfortable, female-friendly fashion, but also in their ethics. Launched in 2015, their main mission is to support sex trafficked victims. Each purchase of their items backs up care programs and provides growth opportunities for survivors of sexual exploitation. With their collections literally making statements like “People First” or “Badass Feminist,” you’re sure to feel empowered wearing My Sister, while empowering other women.
Here’s a wonderful proposition: wear Sseko and you can send a girl to college. This ethical fashion brand produces apparel, footwear, leather bags and accessories and hires women in Uganda to make them. This enables the garment workers to earn good money – and Sseko ensures that it directly goes towards their college educations, allowing these women to get out of the factories and pursue their dreams. .Sseko designs and sources ethically made products from East Africa, and through their educational mission, they’re ultimately helping break the cycle of poverty many women are stuck in.
Ethically made and female owned in Malawi, Mayamiko is an ethical fashion brand that was founded by Paola Masperi as a charity to give creative business training and opportunities to disadvantaged communities in the developing world. But over time, she realised that more than aid, women really wanted the chance to earn a decent wage for themselves – so Paola decided to partner with artisans in Malawi to create Mayamiko.
Today, besides being known for their chic styles created from sustainable textiles, the brand is lauded for the Mayamiko Trust, which trains and empowers disadvantaged African women in order for them to earn a decent, independent living. Another project of theirs is the Mayamiko Lab, which has the rather ambitious mission of providing skills training, education, nutrition and sanitation in Malawian communities, whilst also promoting Fair Trade practices in Malawian communities.
This cheeky American ethical fashion lingerie brand is empowering women on so many levels. Naja employs single mothers and women so that they can provide for their families thanks to above-market wages, health care benefits and child education assistance. The brand also aims to break the lingerie market trend of objectifying women for the male gaze and instead empower women to feel sexy, courageous and smart through lingerie made by women, for women.
5. Mata Traders
Ethical fashion brand Mata Traders is putting smiles across the faces of female artisans in Nepal and India by providing empowering work. The label has joined up with multiple Fair-Trade cooperatives with the goal of reducing the impact of poverty in these countries. Services such as health care, paid maternity leave, retirement pensions and even daycare are being provided to these female garment workers, who are able to thrive while looking after their families. And did I mention: those women are creating some seriously cute jewellery and dresses?