The 3rd Annual Fair Trade Fashion Show that took place on July 29, 2017 in Los Angeles was sold out, and for good reason. Hosted by the ethical boutique Bead & Reel to benefit Free the Slaves, it boasted a runway show that featured forty looks, an incredible panel of speakers, a full bar donated by FAIR Ethical Wine & Spirits, a fair trade marketplace with numerous vendors and scrumptious vegan food by local restaurants. The fundraiser surpassed its fundraising goal of $20,000 to top out the evening at $30,000 for Free The Slaves.
The panel, moderated by Kestrel Jenkins of Conscious Chatter, offered distinctive voices within the ethical fashion community. Offering perhaps the most radical viewpoints of the evening was Hoda Katebi, a Muslim Iranian-American political fashion blogger.
When asked what fair trade means to her, she responded to much applause:
“Fair trade is a lot of things. And there’s a lot of things fair trade isn’t. It’s a moral obligation and responsibility for all of us. It’s also a privilege, and I think that’s something we don’t get to talk about a lot. There is privilege to ethical fashion and there is a privilege to fair trade. It’s inaccessible to a lot of people. There’s a reason why most ethical fashion bloggers are white.
So it’s important to know what fair trade isn’t. It’s not the end solution to fixing the problem. It’s a step to address something that’s impacting billions of people around the world. We can’t just buy fair trade and think, “Oh my god, we saved the world!” We have to buy fair trade and go out on the streets and protest the systems that are creating these issues in the first place. We have to understand that we can’t just buy the revolution. We have to be an active part of it.”There is privilege to ethical fashion and there is a privilege to fair trade. It’s inaccessible to a lot of people. There’s a reason why most ethical fashion bloggers are white.'Click To Tweet
On the topic of issues that women specifically face in the fashion industry, Jeff Denby, co-founder of The Renewal Workshop, which partners with apparel brands to refurbish and sell their once-damaged or excess inventory, offered this telling story:
“I have a female co-founder. And it was an incredible experience for me to go to investors from Silicon Valley to New York to all over the world and see the fundraising process through the eyes of a women. To be in a room and see investors only speak to me, to only ask questions to me, to only email back to me. It wasn’t only until we actually had investors who respected and wanted to support women and start to purposefully ask questions to her — that’s a huge piece of this whole world. To grow something, unless you’re independently wealthy or some celebrity — if you’re a hard-hustling entrepreneur, you’re going to need money, and we need to have women investors supporting women entrepreneurs. If we really want to build ethical, smart supply chains, and raise up female entrepreneurs, the investment community that controls the underbelly of how businesses are founded and funded needs to change.”
Following the panel discussion, Sica Schmitz, founder of Bead & Reel and the brainchild behind the fashion show, delivered a heartfelt speech about her reasons for organizing the event. Schmitz found it hard to separate fashion from the what was happening in our world, and felt a need to put together a story of her vision for fashion activism: One that does not denigrate the environment, people of color, or women. Therefore she chose to feature sustainable processes and fibers, vegan styles, women-owned businesses, and brands that uplift and support marginalized populations around the world.
“This collection was my call to action to demand better choices first and foremost from ourselves, and then from our leaders,” said Schmitz. “It was my call to action to not wait until our next election to vote for change, but to start voting now with our fashion choices.”
When the last look stepped off the runway to a standing ovation, it was clear that the audience agreed with Schmitz’s vision.
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