Do you know where your trousers were made? Or whether they were manufactured using earth-friendly textiles? How about the production process - does it harm workers? And those same workers, are they getting paid enough to eat?
Most of us probably don't have the answers to these questions and, in many cases, we couldn't find them if we tried - and that's the problem. Many well known brands have ambiguous, if not troubling, supply chains. Meanwhile, customers turn a blind eye; eager to get their hands on the latest fashions in the most convenient way and for the best price.
San Diego-based startup Fashioning Change hopes to buck this trend, claiming that it aims, "to help shoppers make better purchases and create bottom-up change in the fashion industry." And, not unlike other trail-blazing, eco-style pioneers, Fashioning Change prioritises the "likeability" of the clothing. Explains its co-founder, Adriana Herrera, in an interview with The Green Stylist: "Our philosophy is fashion and function first, but items also have to meet our criteria of green."
With that in mind, Fashioning Change carefully selects brands that are ethically produced, earth-friendly, cruelty-free and sustainably manufactured. By doing this, it offers a service that allows consumers to make a powerful choice - coined an "intervention" - with just one purchase. But really, it's so much more than that.
By appealing to a savvy mixture of consumer vanity and goodwill, flipping through the virtual pages of Fashioning Change becomes as addictive as the occasional trashy, celebrity magazine. Between the intervention-counting ticker at the top of each page and the Facebook-integrated "Share the Goodness" functionality (that awards shopping credits), Fashioning Changes' website is just one big feel-good fest.
Fashioning Change goes beyond the typical online-shopping motions: drop-down menu > women > shoes > buy. Customers may well have a Cosmo-quiz flashback when engaging with the site's clever filters. By ticking boxes, users virtually define themselves by the brands they fancy, their personality and even the causes they care about most. After creating a personality, passion and taste profile, the "Wear This, Not That™" application whips up a wardrobe full of spot-on recommendations.
And that's when the machine works its real eco-magic, presenting style contrasts: one from a well-known but earth-unfriendly brand, the other from its ethical counterpart. In the head-to-head battle, buyers can hem and haw over the often almost-identical design and price (the socially-responsible version is always the same or cheaper). Then, they are swayed in the do-gooder direction by a list of all the ways a green-leaning purchase will make the world a better place.
Finally, lest the designer brand be too tempting, a quick skim of possible purchase side effects should seal the deal: "ignores workers' reports of rape," "sells garments that contain harmful substances," "pays starvation wages." The decision seems clear.
Now, with over 43,000 interventions and counting, not only is Fashioning Change enjoying forward momentum, but so are the brands that it features. "It's a great partnership because we have the same goals and we're growing together," affirms Meghan Sebold, President of AFIA, a clothing line "sourced and sewn" in Ghana.
Beyond just a platform for sales, cause-driven brands have the opportunity to draw attention to their purpose - a powerful proposition considering that their designs are more than just fabric deep. Dragos Necula, co-founder of green fashion label Etrican, emphasises this importance: "Unlike many other retailers, [Fashioning Change] allows us, as a brand, to communicate our philosophy clearly and directly to the customer."
The hope is that by making consumers more aware of the principles and supply chain behind their purchases, they will demand more of big brands or simply spend their money elsewhere. This will create better practices across the board because, according to Herrera when speaking with GOOD, "the only thing that will make big corporations change is their bottom line."
And, according to plan, consumers seem to be listening. Sebold says, "[They] are demanding to know where and how their products were made and mainstream brands are incorporating sustainability into their sourcing and production models."
With all of this "good" in the air, in our closets and on our backs, one might be hard-pressed to find naysayers. In fact, even cynicism comes in the form of praise. Says Hamish McKenzie of PandoDaily, "[Fashioning Change] achieves the double whammy of appealing to your better nature, while using the more powerful device of the guilt trip to get you to do the right thing." He further comments how the "Share the Goodness" feature allows users to "spread the guilt on thick" across their networks, while gloating in the process.
But brag away, right? By spending and sharing, eco-friendly and socially responsible businesses, like Fashioning Change and their affiliates, gain more exposure and larger brands might just start to get the message. Helping the planet and changing lives? Not bad for a day's work - or make that shopping.
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