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Sponsored feature: presented by B Corps
For decades now, the fashion industry has been under fire for the working conditions it provides manufacturing labourers around the world in order to offer western shoppers lower prices. The backlash against “fast fashion” has been driven by increasing consumer demand for transparent, sustainable and environmentally friendly practices.
Those are lofty goals for a globally interconnected industry that has been racing towards the bottom for so long. And yet a number of inspiring companies – including some right here in Toronto – are leading the way to transforming fashion into a mutually beneficial ecosystem of designers, manufacturers and point-of-sale vendors.
We’ve put together a list of companies that are part of this movement, and each one featured here is a certified B Corp (like NOW Magazine!) – which means their company-wide practices have been assessed on a standardized scale to ensure a commitment to bringing about positive change through business.
Who: This Toronto-based apparel company exclusively uses Egyptian cotton in its clothing products. For each garment designed in Toronto, they source cotton directly from farmers and utilize local labour in the Nile Delta area for cutting and sewing.
Impact: Last year, Kotn made a Black Friday statement about building a school in Egypt instead of offering consumers discounted prices. They’re planning to construct a second school this year with more than $50,000 they raised from four days of sales.
Who: Sourcing its leather from sub-Saharan Africa, this Oakville-based footwear and bag company seeks to support workers’ rights and environmental integrity. Manufacturing is done in Ethiopia, rubber is sourced from Liberia and Kenya (among others), the machinery from South Africa and the product labels come from Mauritius.
Impact: Oliberté’s factory in Addis Ababa employs 70 locals, 60 per cent of whom are women. Because the company owns the factory instead of outsourcing to low-bids from contractors, there is a greater investment in worker conditions and sustainable practices.
Who: Located in Toronto, LeDaveed sells luxury leather bags that are made in Canada using materials sourced from Germany and Switzerland. Montreal’s Rayata Accessories takes care of the manufacturing and the lining is a certified organic textile from India.
Impact: LeDaveed’s “Nixberg Null” leather requires 80 per cent less water in its manufacturing compared to traditional leather, thereby putting less strain on the local environment and producing less waste.
Who: This sock company based in New York has a proposition similar to the one popularized by Toms shoes: buy a pair of socks and they’ll give a pair to someone in need. The reasoning behind this is the company’s research indicating that socks are the most commonly requested product at homeless shelters.
Impact: To date, Bombas has donated more than eight million socks to shelters. They also work with US Department of Veterans Affairs. Interested community organizations can apply for partnerships through a form on the company’s website.
Who: Supporting human rights, environmentally responsible practices and leadership opportunities for women, this Irvington, New York-based clothing company showcases its transparency up front. Even the company’s charity and advocacy donations are listed on its website.
Impact: The factories that manufacture Eileen Fisher’s products are required to follow “SA8000” – a set of workplace standards that adopt UN-supported labour standards in nine areas. These include child labour, collective bargaining, pay scales and health and safety.
Who: Based in the Junction, this clothing company provides shoppers with locally-made ethical fashion that also helps to bolster suppliers who share their stance on fair labour and environmental sustainability. Products are made in small runs and branded for global-minded fashionistas.
Impact: All of the clothing made by Encircled is cut and sewn in Toronto. Much of the materials they use are sourced from suppliers who must pass a vetting process for fair and sustainable practices. The product packaging is slim and the company is committed to keeping their studio eco-friendly, with renewable energy provided by fellow B Corp Bullfrog Power.
Learn more about B Corps and discover more eco-conscious, sustainable companies here.