Clothes Fashion

The Sustainable Sisterhood! Women Friendly Fashion Brands

By Coral Brown

Action stations! American Mother’s Day is on the horizon (Sunday 8th May, to be exact – it’s earlier in the UK), and luckily there’s enough time to find her something fancier than the usual flowers and chocolates combo package. Something she can cherish, treasure for years to come, and show off to her friends. Something like jewellery.

Of course, in the dawning era of conscious capitalism, what we buy is a vote for the kind of world we want to live in, so carefully selecting what you buy is important for achieving positive change. That’s why the brands we’ve chosen for this gift guide are not only environmentally conscious, but socially conscious too, employing and empowering women from disadvantaged backgrounds to create jewellery that looks good and does good. It’s a win-win situation.

Whilst charity is commendable, social enterprise goes one step further by training, employing and empowering women in need, giving them a hand up instead of a handout. Socially conscious brands therefore offer more sustainable solutions, as the skills and training these women receive have a long lasting impact in their lives.

So without further ado, allow us to introduce you to 8 ethical women friendly fashion brands that  not only provide wonderful goods for Mother’s Day gifts, but wonderful initiatives for women, making Mother’s Day every day.

1. SeeMe

SeeMe‘s jewellery would suit a minimalist mum down to the ground. Their jewellery, characterised by sparse oversized love hearts and stars hanging on long Venetian chains, is ideally matched with high-necked tees or loose fitting shirts. Of course, the hearts lend themselves well to the sentimental spirit of Mother’s Day. And your mum won’t be the only woman you make happy with this necklace. The women who crafted this jewellery were victims of violence, but have now trained as artisans in Turkey and Tunisia, earning their own income without needing support. Investing in a heart from SeeMe will do your heart good.

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2. Vavavida

Vavavida has an eclectic collection of designs, ranging from metallic statement necklaces, to rustic dark wood earrings, to colourful chunky beaded bracelets. What’s interesting about this brand is that each piece has its own tale to tell. The Orissa necklace, for example, is handcrafted by mostly women artisans working in a co-operative in India being paid fair trade wages. Plus, since this co-operative began, the artisans from this co-operative have been able to keep their children in schools longer. It’s encouraging to know that already, significant improvements in the standard of living have been made by this enterprise. The cherry on the cake is that with every purchase, Vavavida invests in initiatives that further empower women to elevate  themselves out of poverty.

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3. Lemlem

Founded by model Liya Kebede,  Lemlem–which means to bloom or flourish–preserves and sells the art of Ethiopian weaving through scarves, apparel and accessories. Through e-commerce, Lemlem is able to bring the beauty of Ethiopia‘s bold and bright weaving across the world while providing jobs for the women who are creating these clothes and textiles and preserving the nation’s handcrafted art. This loose fitting, artisanal clothing suits moms of all shapes and sizes.

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4. Made

Changing lives through safe, sustainable employment is Made’s forte. This brand has a star-studded list of collaborators, including Louis Vuitton, Tommy Hilfiger and Edun, and they’re also available at ASOS, making them perhaps the most well-known of the socially conscious jewellers. Their group of sixty (mainly female) artisans in Kenya create subtle pieces using locally sourced reclaimed brass, ticking both the ethical and sustainable boxes. And perhaps equally importantly, they have cutting edge designs to match their social credentials. Their bold spike collar necklace would make the perfect centrepiece to a plain maxi dress, whereas the elegant simplicity of the triangular studs could easily be worn every day, depending on your mum’s tastes.

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5. Raven + Lily

This commendable brand was named the Best in the World in Community Impact in 2015, and given the Sustainable Brand Leader for Jewellery Award by the Ethical Fashion Forum to boot. Raven + Lily employs 1,500 at-risk women to alleviate them out of poverty and into a more secure future for themselves and their families, giving them access to a stable income, healthcare, training and education. Their fashion basics and jewellery is clean and simple, with their latest collection playing on the motif of abstract wisps of gold. The mismatched wisp earrings, for example, have balanced versatility and originality perfectly, making them easy to match with every outfit but unique enough to garner compliments.

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6. Purpose

We all need Purpose in our lives, and I’m not talking existentially (although that’s also desirable). Their delicate chains and subtle pendants are the ultimate in understated jewellery, whilst their brighter beaded necklaces are a very pretty treat for the eyes. And their prettiness extends beyond their appearance to their production as well. All of Purpose’s jewellery is made by survivors of modern-day slavery in India, and 100% of the proceeds go to providing education, health and dental care to young women rescued from sex-trafficking. Each and every piece of jewellery is hand-signed by the woman who made it, building an instant connection between the maker and the wearer, in the spirit of transparency.

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7. Akola Project

From gathering the raw materials to creating the jewellery to distribution, Akola involve and empower women and communities in need. The level of thoughtful detail in the model of this brand deserves a hearty round of applause. Women are given training in customer service, inventory management and leadership to further their skills, as well as programs for personal development, in health, wellness and savings. And it’s already been a huge success. So far, over 400 women have been employed and empowered with access to resources to provide for over 3,000 disadvantaged children. And to top it all off, the simple prettiness of the jewellery makes it totally buyable in its own right, with styles so varied that you’re guaranteed to find Mother’s Day treasure amongst their designs.

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8. Beulah London

This British based luxury brand with a conscience makes gorgeous dresses from lush materials that any glam mom would love – but their mission goes beyond dressing beautiful women in beautiful clothing.  Beulah is passionate about providing  employment for trafficked or vulnerable women. For example, one project they  have partnered with is the fairtrade business Freeset, which offers jobs  to women trapped in Kolkata’s sex trade. You can buy the canvas bags made by the women here.Alongside the label’s commercial operation sits the Beulah Trust, a charitable foundation with a clear goal of supporting projects and initiatives that create sustainable livelihoods for victims of trafficking.

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9.  Mamahuhu

It’s not only the luxuriously handmade look and feel of these  shoes that we  love. The story behind each shoe will also warm as a mom’s heart. And that’s because  Mamahuhu empowers unemployed artisans in challenged areas of Colombia  to become sustainable business owners and job creators. Rather than surviving on charity and donations, the artisans build their own life, with that all important sense of accomplishment.
And Mamahuhu ensures that the workshops hire as many female employees as possible, because there are few good jobs available to women in these areas. In addition to being paid a liveable wage, artisans also have flexible work hours, which every mom knows is a huge help in balancing both work and private life.
Chere Di Boscio
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