About four years ago the world was shaken by the collapse of a factory producing fast fashion in Bangladesh. Sometimes it takes a terrible thing to wake people up and make them realize we need to be doing better. Since then there has been a huge growth in the number of companies trying to change the way we produce and consume fashion. The nonprofit organization Fair Trade USA has attempted to set a standard for ethical fashion brands by setting over 334 criteria for a product to be certified as “Fair Trade”.
Despite the growth of such companies – and the overall increase in awareness of the harm caused by the fast fashion industry (on workers and the planet) – it’s often hard to know where to start buying ethically. This is especially true if you don’t have the money for $300 earrings that you know were made by your neighbor out of locally sourced silver, which we’re not sure where you’d even get that.
Here are 10 ethically conscious accessory brands even a college student can afford.
The “Glam V Cuff” was made in collaboration with Pencils of Promise in an effort to raise awareness and funds for educational empowerment. Photo from Shopsoko.com
Founded in 2012, Soko believes that innovation can empower women, connect markets, and foster opportunities that ultimately change lives. Based in Portland Oregon, this jewelry company partners with over 1000 artisans from all over the world to create beautiful pieces made of natural and up-cycled materials.
Price: $20 – $250
This Chevron necklace, available in both bronze and silver, was made in Uganda with locally sourced materials. Photo from musanaintl.com
Musana hopes to empower women and create a generation of change by providing opportunities for their children. They employ mothers in Uganda and provide education, healthcare, and community development while giving them the tools to break the cycle of poverty.
Price: $20 – $60
These brass bangles are hand-stamped with personalized messages. Photo from theshineproject.com
The Shine Project works to help at-risk youth in America by employing them and instilling in them the values of self-reliance and hard work. All of the employees are paid fair wages and many are first generation students are working to become nurses, writers, and engineers.
Price: $20 – $60
These brass earrings with a glass triangle were handmade in the Peruvian Andes. Photo from meridianlee.com
Meridian Lee works with women who have escaped human trafficking to help transform their lives, the lives of their families, and strengthen their communities. All jewelry, bags, and scarves are made in the homes or small workshops of these women and are made using traditional techniques and locally sourced materials.
Price: $30 – $195
The “Black Star Necklace” is made from ethically sourced cow bone, brass and a handcrafted hook and eye clasp. Photo from Malena.com
Created by human rights lawyer Flynn Coleman, Malena partners with artisans around the world and gives them the opportunity to share their skills and crafts, as well as their stories, within a global market.
Price $10 – $170
The “Margret” bracelet is handcrafted in Zirobwe Uganda, made of colored beads that are 100% recycled paper. Photo from tribeandglory.com
Tribe + Glory works with Empower a Child to provide active measures of hope and opportunity to the women of Zirobwe, Uganda.
Price: $10 – $45
The “Blessed Angel Wings” necklace is made in Perth, Australia of laser cut wood. Photo from onehappyleaf.com
All of the designs from One Happy Leaf are made by an environmental scientist in Perth, Australia named Anna Anagno. She makes every piece by laser cutting organic, eco-friendly bamboo because she believes that we can live well and look beautiful without harming the world.
Price: $12 – $80
The “Gargantilla Mini Acacia” necklace is made of gold-plated, hammered brass. Photo from projectjunglechick.com
Founded in 2008, Project Jungle Chick is a platform for Venezuelan artisans to sell sustainable and ethical accessories. They partner with many different designers, at no cost, thus helping strengthen the local economy and artisanal community.
Price: (all prices in the Venezuelan Bolívar).