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50+ Ethical Fashion Companies to Support on Black Friday

For Black Friday last year, I wrote an article for The Huffington Post with a list of 50 ethical businesses to support on Black Friday.

This year, I’ve revised that list to bring you more options for shopping sustainably and ethically while supporting small businesses. Whether you choose to #OptOut of Black Friday this year or not, save this list for your holiday shopping — or even future shopping.

At the least, the perceived stress of the holiday season won’t be about whether you’re supporting slave labor and unethical manufacturing practices.

It’s fun to give — but it’s important to make sure that somewhere someone else isn’t paying for it.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 

Note! The brands with asterisks are companies that either came through the Factory45 accelerator program or were past clients of mine.

WOMENSWEAR

Brass | transparent manufacturing. less is more.

Cuyana | fewer, better things. superior quality.

* Eenvoud | minimalist & sustainable womenswear. made in NYC.

Green Line by K | sustainably-made yogawear.

Hackwith Design House | limited edition. short run. made in the USA.

La Fille Colette | day-to-night dresses, ethically made in the USA.

Nicole Lenzen | chic day to night womenswear. made in NYC.

Piece x Piece | luxury. salvaged fabrics. made in San Francisco.

Pima Doll | sustainable. less waste. made in Peru.

Prairie Underground | for independent women. made sustainably in Seattle.

Reformation | killer clothes that don’t kill the environment. made in LA.

Seamly | sustainable. versatile. made in Colorado.

StudyNY | seasonless. contemporary. made in Brooklyn.

Synergy Clothing | organic, fair labor womenswear. supports artisans in Nepal.

Vaute Couture | vegan. recycled fibers. made in NYC.

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MENSWEAR

Apolis | socially motivated to empower communities.

Bluff Works | wash less. wrinkle free. made in NYC.

Brave Gentleman | for ethically handsome men.

Flint & Tinder | made in America & built to last.

Jed & Marne | family business + sustainable practices. made in Guatemala.

Peter Field | men’s accessories made in the USA.

Tuckerman & Co. | organic cotton buttondowns. made in New England.

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UNISEX

* Be Kind Vibes | american-made apparel for the conscious adventurer.

Everlane | modern basics. radical transparency.

* Forest and Fin | screen-printed tees. non-toxic ink. handmade in Savannah.

Loomstate | organic & sustainable designer apparel.

NAU | outdoor apparel made from sustainable materials.

Victor Athletics | organic, vintage-inspired athletic wear. made in the USA.

PACT Apparel | organic cotton. socks, underwear & basics.

Zady |a lifestyle destination for conscious consumers.

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CHILDRENSWEAR

Aventyr kidswear | unisex, eco-friendly kidswear. made in the USA.

* Citizen Smalls | sustainable, soft, modern kids apparel. made in the USA.

* Cuckoo Children’s Co. | sustainable children’s clothing. made in North Carolina.

Dhana | organic, fair trade fabric. low impact dyes.

* Noble Carriage | organic cotton baby goods.

* Petite Marin | upcycled heirloom children’s products. made in California.

* Princess Awesome | gender-busting girls clothes. made in the USA.

* Ruth & Ragnar | online store selling colorful 100% organic cotton kidswear.

* Wildly Co. | ethically made, family-owned childrenswear. made in the USA.

* Wynn Ruby | online children’s boutique supporting small businesses + handmade.

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DENIM

* Alter UR Ego | blue jeans for men and women in wheelchairs. made in North Carolina.

Gamine | selvedge denim dungarees. american-made.

Imogene + Willie | husband / wife team making blue jeans in Nashville.

Noble Denim | responsibly-made jeans. makers of quality.

Raleigh Denim | old-school denim crafters. made in the USA.

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FOOTWEAR

* Bhava | cruelty-free. conscious. vegan.

Nisolo | handmade. ethically-sourced leather.

Sseko Designs | sandals that empower & employ women.

Veja | transparently-made sneakers from organic, fair trade materials.

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ACCESSORIES

* Activyst | athletic bags that fund girls’ sports worldwide.

* Alesya Bags | responsibly-sourced leather goods made in the USA.

* Fair Seas Supply Co. | round, organic beach towels. made in California.

Hera By Day | handcrafted turbans for the modern bohemian.

* Mamachic | the do-it-all accessory for the do-it-all-mama.

Malena | ethical goods that tell a story and empower people worldwide.

MULXIPLY | fair trade. artisan craftsmanship. made in Nepal.

Looptworks | repurpose excess textiles into new products.

Project Repat | upcycle your memorable t-shirts into a blanket. made in the USA.

Raven + Lily | ethical fashion brand dedicated to empowering women worldwide.

sarah oliver handbags | handmade bags, employing senior citizens.

Stone + Cloth | canvas bags provide scholarships to students.

Sword & Plough | recycled military fabric upcycled into bags. made by veterans.

The Giving Keys | made from repurposed materials in Los Angeles.

Wild Mantle | hooded scarves. handwoven with sustainable materials.

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Photos courtesy of Eenvoud, Apolis, Victor Athletics, Wildly Co., Gamine, Nisolo & Mamachic.

etsy

How Etsy Changed the Rules & What It Means for Indie Designers

I’m a conscious consumer. I shop second-hand, I limit my consumption of “stuff,” and I try to keep my purchases local. I believe in voting with my dollars, and I’ve gone so far as to dedicate my career to figuring out what that means.

On occasion, though, when I’m hankering for a new piece of jewelry or a unique gift I can’t find in my local thrift shop, I’ll look to Etsy. If I’m going to dish out the cash on a new item, I know that my purchase has more impact if it goes to the local makers who are working on their craft.

As someone who is directly involved in the maker movement, I’m somewhat embarrassed to say I didn’t pay much attention when Etsy changed its policies last fall. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, CEO Chad Dickerson announced that Etsy sellers could use outside manufacturers to produce their designs. In other words, items sold on Etsy no longer had to be handmade.

It wasn’t until a few months ago, when looking on Etsy for a new watch that I realized the implications of this change.

I had a specific brown, repurposed leather, wrap-watch in mind. I knew the one I wanted was handmade by a seller in Ohio, but I didn’t know his name. Typing in a simple search for “wrap watch” into Etsy, I proceeded to spend nearly an hour sifting through 50+ pages of three-dollar “wrap watches” from China.

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My eyes scanned over page after page of items I would have expected to find in the kiosks of Daytona Beach, not on a website for handmade goods. I sat at my computer with my jaw on the keyboard, wondering what had just happened. When I eventually found what I was looking for I purchased the handmade watch, for significantly more than three dollars, and moved on. I didn’t think much more about the experience after that.

A few months later, I met an Etsy seller through Factory45. Among other reasons, she applied to my program looking for business guidance on restoring her Etsy shop sales.

She recently told me, “Last year my Etsy sales tripled in the spring and then again in the fall, so I figured things were still looking good. But in May, my views dropped off to about one-third of what they were in the previous months and as compared to last year. I thought they just dipped because of the holiday weekend and the nice weather, but in June they did not pick back up.”

She went on to explain that several message boards had popped up about similar drops in traffic for other Etsy sellers. When I went on the site to see for myself I found threads with titles like, “Are most of you feeling the low traffic, views and sales?” “Can Etsy stop letting Chinese factories sell here?” and “Your Stuff: Made in China?” with diplomatic responses from Etsy administrators encouraging the sellers “to take advantage of the downtime.” (Interesting advice when downtime could mean the difference between paying and not paying your rent.)

Aside from the issue that independent designers are now competing with full-scale production operations, there is the issue of sheer volume — Etsy now has over 1 million shops. When a seller is competing in a sea of 999,999 other shops, the odds aren’t good.

Now that Etsy shoppers have the option of buying from middlemen selling three dollar watches, finding that handmade wrap watch you’re looking for will undoubtedly be more difficult. From the seller’s perspective, no matter how many times they change their “tags,” SEO or refresh their storefront, the traffic just isn’t going to come like it used to.

So what actually happened?

In the fall of 2013, Etsy shifted its loyalty from the maker to the shareholder as it made plans to further scale its business model. How did this change things?

Because Etsy’s policy changes happened at the maker’s expense, many of the people who were once making a living off of their shops are now seeing a fraction of the sales. The difference between Etsy, and let’s say, Wal-Mart just got a whole lot smaller. At the core, Etsy changed its mission. No longer is it a website for makers of one-of-a-kind, original goods. Instead, it has become yet another website for the mass-produced and cheaply made goods that satisfy our insatiable culture of mindless consumption.

So what’s a seller to do?

If you’re an independent designer or maker with an Etsy shop, there are a few ways to try and get your traffic back up.

  • Create a small network of fellow sellers. Etsy offers the “team” feature but going beyond that, find five other sellers who have a similar target market and non-competing products. Work together to promote each other’s shops using your individual social media outlets and outside networks.

  • Narrow down your niche and create very specific tags. “Screen printed t-shirt” just isn’t going to cut it anymore. The competition is too high. Use tags and keywords you know would appeal to your target market and get specific.

  • Guest post on the Etsy blog. The blog run by Etsy is “consumer facing,” meaning the content is written for shoppers. It’s an entire platform where your potential customers could be hanging out. Come up with a few article ideas that would appeal to Etsy shoppers and pitch the editorial team.

  • Move marketing efforts away from Etsy to Pinterest, Instagram and a personal blog. Etsy ads are not going to be as effective as they used to be, so save your money. Focus your marketing efforts on creating compelling content through your social media outlets. Host contests on Pinterest, run giveaways on Instagram, and write about the “behind-the-scenes” of your business on your blog.

As someone who supports the manufacturing movement in the USA, I believe that Etsy sellers should be able to scale production when their sales numbers get too high to manage on their own. My issue with Etsy lies in the lack of a discerning gatekeeper.

It comes down to this: the world doesn’t need another eBay. It needs the old Etsy.

Photo credit: Etsy logo