Fair Trade and Ethically Sourced Stores Bring a New Hope for the Future of Fashion

Shopping ethically and locally can have a huge impact on the community and around the world. Many consumers are choosing to shop fair trade and this has positively impacted many aspects of the shopping realm. Fair trade was designed to help producers in growing countries achieve sustainable and equitable trade relationships. When consumers shop local and fair trade products, they are helping the smaller producers and companies around the world. 

Photo by Roxanna Carrasco

Shopping fair trade and ethically sourced products can help eliminate human trafficking in the garment industry. With “fast fashion” becoming a popular way of getting clothing quickly and inexpensively, the result is a negative impact on workers in the industry. These conditions are now known as “modern slavery.”  

303 magazine talked with human trafficking rescue organization Exodus Road to learn more on how to help prevent trafficking within the fashion industry. Exodus Road, created by Laura and Matt Parker, began formal investigations in 2012 in Southeast Asia where they discovered how impactful shopping ethically can truly be. 

Laura Parker shared her experience in working with others to create a more sustainable income around the world through fair trade. “Essentially you are making a free world when you choose to invest in [free trade],” Laura Parker said. 

There are many opportunities around the Denver area to shop fair trade and ethically sourced options to fight against human trafficking and help local producers succeed. Artisans Thrive has been providing a market space for small artisan groups since 2013. Starting out as a passion project by c0-owner Rachel Hartgen, Artisans Thrive now supports over 60 artisan groups that are mostly made up of women from all over the world.

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“We ensure that the artisans are paid fair wages for their work, that they work in safe conditions, and that they use ethically sourced and environmentally responsible materials to the extent possible,” Hartgen said. In raising awareness towards ethical fashion, Hartgen works to provide the training and skills to all who seek her help with growing their business. 

Artisans Thrive provides fashion-forward products made by talented women from locations like Bosnia, Syria, Afghanistan and the DRC. These are just some of the places that Hartgen works with to help bring access to the fair trade market. In doing this, Denver now has access to these products and can help support these companies and the artists behind them. 

Photo by Roxanna Carrasco

“When one rises, we all rise,” said Rung Poonthita.

Laura Parker met Ms. Poonthita in Chiangmai, Thailand where she shared the story of her store I Do I Design. Poonthita creates handmade jewelry with many other women to sell across the globe.  

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Many artisans share a similar story to Poonthita and are selling items online and in stores just like Artisans Thrive and another local producer in the Denver area, Fair Trade Winds. Local artisans and global artisans have come together to bring fair trade options to all consumers. 

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Fair Trade Winds, located in Boulder and created by Ashleigh and Daniel Culler, started off selling fair-trade coffee in local churches. They have blossomed over the years and are currently available in three different states. They offer not only a place to find ethically sourced goods but also an experience for customers to learn about where these items were sourced. Many of Fair Trade Wind’s products are sourced from over 100 different partners from over 57 countries around the world. They are members of the Fair Trade Federations (FTF), meaning these products are guaranteed to be from fair wages and fair working conditions. 

“We hope our stores show people the power of being a conscious consumer, that we’re all connected to the people who grow and make our goods,” said Ashleigh. Fair Trade Winds is hopeful to one day live in a world where no one is exploited for their services and goods. Their mission is to help make this the future of fashion and other products globally. 

Many other ethical stores can be found all around Denver, including Sanyork Fair Trade, created by Michel Kessler. He discovered the need for fair trade products when in Peru and created Sanyork after meeting a young man Daniel who worked as a shoeshiner at the time. Daniel also had experience in loom work. Kessler found a new place of residency and “a few days later we were setting up looms and buying wool to start our project, keeping Daniel and his siblings off the streets, weaving blankets and mats [according to] their village tradition,” Kessler said.

Inspired to help others like Daniel, Kessler’s dream began and he was soon helping over 72 artisan companies and “over 100 artisans from Mexico and a co-op of dozens of women beaders from Guatemala,” Kessler said. Over the years, Sanyork has introduced new apprentices to artisan groups and provided steady wages and safe working conditions.

Photo Courtesy of Sanyork Fair Trade

The future of Sanyork Fair Trade is very optimistic with the introduction of technology and online stores. “We are introducing new technology to allow finer finished products and better quality control and online exposure has allowed us to get more customers around the world,” Kessler said. Many artisanal products are becoming wildly available globally, thus creating a great impact on ethical work. Supporting all who produce fair trade can be the future of safe conditions for all workers.

Although shopping for ethically sourced and fair trade items can create an expensive lifestyle. Making the choice to do so when one can is the best decision for the future of fashion. Sustainable, ethically sourced, fair trade products are supporting more than one person. Choosing to shop fair trade can initiate a chain reaction towards a better future of production. This small growth can help the change Exodus Road, Artisans Thrive and Fair Trade Winds have been supporting for so many years.