People Over Profit. The Reason for Fair Trade.

So what the heck is “fair trade”? 

Shortly after starting Sister House Collective, I came to the realization that many are unfamiliar with the term fair trade. When first introduced, I’ll admit that I thought, “well, fair trade is a nice concept but I can’t afford super expensive, organic cotton everything.” And that was the end of that.

Over the last few years, as I have become more and more interested in the human rights aspect of producing goods, I have become completely consumed with the reality that in the process of America’s mass consumption, many people around the world are suffering. Not only is our consumption as a nation making us less happy as a whole (the more we have, the happier we are. Sound familiar?) but it is keeping poor nations poor, and our ignorance is costing people their lives. This is when fair trade started to make a whole lot of sense. My perspective about it’s importance became something I couldn’t ignore.

Living with intention about how each of our choices impact the larger world, I learned that it shopping with an ethical mindset does not have to be expensive, or pretentious or monochromatic. There are plenty of ways to stay true to our values while embracing trends and honestly, enjoying the items we bring into our lives instead of piling up clothes in our closet that we have no connection or particular attachment to.

Fair Trade is a market-based approach to alleviating poverty in ways that improve lives, strengthen communities, and protect the environment. Fair Trade offers fair prices and wages to farmers, workers, and artisans; improved terms of trade, and community development funds to invest in education, health care, and other projects to improve their quality of life. (definition from

So what’s the difference between a minimum wage vs. a fair (living) wage?

According to the Berne Declaration, a Swiss not-for-profit that campaigns for more equitable relations between Switzerland and underprivileged countries- a living wage is, “Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for themselves and their families an existence worthy of human dignity..” 

“This principle is guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; however, it is systematically disregarded in the textile industry. The majority of the over 60 million workers worldwide live in extreme poverty. In spite of excess overtime, their wages are not enough to live on. This holds true for workers in Asia as well as Europe. 

The way out of poverty is a living wage. The Clean Clothes Campaign defines a living wage as follows: A wage earned without working overtime that allows workers to meet their own, as well as their family’s basic needs such as food, rent, health care or education and that allows for some discretionary income (10%) to cover unforeseen costs or savings.

“Fair fashion” only becomes a reality when workers receive a living wage. This is why in 2013 the Clean Clothes Campaign conducted a broad study of over 100 brands to assess their efforts with regards to implementing a living wage.” - from Fair Fashion? app, What’s a Living Wage?

The textile industry has taken the world by storm with the demand of constantly changing fashions in developed countries. Our aim is to expose the truth behind this consumption and what we can all do to live in a way that empowers and does not exploit. We all have to wear clothes; this is something we all vote for with our dollars. Will we chose to vote for oppression and poverty or will we give businesses and individuals the opportunity to succeed and thrive? 

Interested in learning more? Check out the links below, as well as our ethical resource guide tab for more information and ethical brands you can feel good supporting:

Adapted from original post by Ashley Ayala, September 26, 2016

LifestyleAshley Ayala