Let’s Talk Fashion

Michele Drago, Fashion Columnist

Over the past few years, fashion has taken on a new form of paying it forward in exceptional ways through fair trade organizations. While fashion followers are still waiting for their chance (and cash) to get their hands on a Birkin bag or gawking over a new Jason Wu for Target collaboration, it’s time to glance at fashion’s latest humanitarian organizations and where you can find items that fit your budget and create awareness of a cause.

As a Fashionista with a shoe obsession, I tend to love checking out what other students’ feet are wearing. I’ve noticed that TOMS in particular have taken over the college scene. But, that’s a good thing. TOMS “One for One” deal would make you not think twice about buying five pairs of Glitters, Cords or Ballet Flats. For every pair of shoes purchased, TOMS donates another pair to a child in need. Since 2006, TOMS has donated 10,000 shoes to children in developing countries worldwide. Most of all, the super stylish designs are perfect for the college lifestyle yet chic enough to wear out. TOMS officially started the movement of brands for a cause, but from what I’ve seen, it has just begun. Since the company’s founding, it has expanded its lines to even offer eyewear. I’ve been eyeing up the Rose Maudie Women’s Cordones because of their warm feel, light color, and adorable take on Keds.

“I love the TOMS cause and the shoes are so comfortable. I remember buying my first pair and loving the ethnic design. They can only add style to an outfit,” said senior Maggie Young.

The FEED Foundation also developed campaigns to support artists in different areas of the world provide meals for children, while also it also offers women the chance to create unique designs. The collection started with one handbag design by model and activist Lauren Bush. The reversible burlap bag is printed with “FEED the children of the world” and the number one, representing the purchases’ ability to feed one child for one year in an underdeveloped nation. The brand has expanded to apparel and jewelry collections as well.  After receiving my first FEED 5 Kenya bracelet, I was inspired by the tribal design and how it represented the culture and woman who had created it. FEED has provided over 68 million meals, selling over 500,000 bags. I love the FEED 5 Africa Bag because of the original design that’s neutral but still adds color to a wardrobe.  I’m not alone in my admiration.

“Whenever I buy something that offers the extra benefit of helping those in need, I get that feel-good feeling that what I’m buying will provide someone with a meal,” said senior Andrea Orton.

While FEED and TOMS are two of the more commonly known collections, Mercado Global gives Guatemalan artisans the opportunity to earn money through U.S. sales opportunities. This fair trade non-profit offers scarves, jewelry, and stunning handbags worth the price. Pieces are hand-woven to create modern appeal through Mayan craftsmanship. I love this collection because of the creative designs, and the oversized black and ivory-checkered brocade is definitely something worth checking out. It’s large enough to carry to class or use as a purse.

Local contemporary boutique Buka started carrying this line for the spring, first introducing bags and scarves. “ I like to purchase from companies that give back whether it’s for fair trade or other companies that have a greater cause. I’m also drawn to products with unique fabrics and the Mercado Global collection fit Buka’s style,” said storeowner Joanna Gover. Mercado Global has worked with over 360 artisans decreasing poverty in Gautemala’s highlands.

Top designers are starting to see how these lines are having an effect on developing countries. Designers including Luella Bartley and Christian Lacroix have created t-shirts with organic cotton from Turkey. Their goal is to end child labor in Uzbekistan.

Next time you’re out looking to expand your accessories or buy something new, remember the extra benefits of buying something chic while helping someone in need. Other lines to check out are Amana, Epona, Bhalo, and the Fair Trade Fashions of Suno.