Corporate charity programs are so ubiquitous, we’ve come to expect that brands do good while also making money. You know the drill: “buy these shoes/glasses/bags and we’ll donate shoes/glasses/bags [or a small amount of money] to someone in need” or “your purchase helps impoverished artisans learn new skills.” The intended beneficiaries of such programs are frequently women of color (and/or their children), but where are the ethical brands that are also owned and operated by women of color?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not criticizing social giveback programs! I am just interested in identifying and supporting businesses that go one step further — bringing women of color into the boardrooms, the C-Suites, and the pitch meetings and not just in the “feel good” impact photos on the About Us page.
What I mean by “Ethical Fashion”
I wrote my graduate school thesis and my Fulbright research paper on the topic of ethical apparel manufacturing, so needless to say I could talk about this for days — but I won’t. For the sake of this article, and my brain cells, I’m keeping this definition pretty broad.
When I say ethical fashion, I mean apparel and footwear that is made with intention. Some examples might include hand-made by the designer, union-made, made in the USA (under good conditions), made overseas (under good conditions), or made with a social certification (SA8000, B Corp, fair trade, etc).
While it may be really difficult for a small brand to get social certifications for the factories where they produce (trust me, it’s $$$), I am interested in companies that do the best they can to make sure the people in their supply chains are paid properly, treated fairly, and work under good conditions. If there is an environmental component (upcycled, zero waste, organic, recycled, etc) that’s great too.
What I mean by “Femmes”
Anybody that self identifies as a women, womyn or femme. I’m also happy to include trans and non-binary folks as well (is there a good word for non-cis male?).
What I mean by “Of Color”
In short, non-white. Yes, race is a construction and we could debate what “white” really means until the cows come home blah blah blah. But for the sake of this article, that means anyone that identifies as a person of color. Including, but not limited to, Black, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native/Indigenous, or Middle Eastern.
If Rachel Dolezal starts an ethical fashion brand, she cannot be on this list.
I’m looking to shine the spotlight on fashion companies led by people least likely to start off with a lot of personal wealth and least likely to be funded by outside investors, and who still take on the added challenge of producing ethically. I don’t want to miss out on their design talent just because they don’t have a big advertising budget.
**Kindly note: THIS LIST IS NOT EXHAUSTIVE. I’m looking for your suggestions and recommendations! Please comment or send me a message if you know a brand that should be added to this list! Thank you ❤**
Adele by Adele (Black owned/Handmade in USA)
B. Yellowtail (Native American owned/Made in Occupied Territories aka the USA)
Brujas (Multiculturally owned/Mostly made in USA)
Carla Fernandez (Latinx owned/Ethically made in Mexico)
Cee Cee’s Closet (Black owned/Made in Nigeria)
Cuyana (Latinx owned/Ethically made around the world)
Everybody World (Latinx owned/Made in USA)
I am Kreyol (Black owned/Ethically made in Haiti)
Irish Latina (Latinx owned/Handmade in USA/Post consumer fashion)
Kashmir VIII (Black owned/Ethically sourced)
Matte (Black owned/Made in USA)
Mozh Mozh (Latinx owned/Made ethically in Peru)
Nor Black Nor White (Asian owned/Made in India)
Shop Bombchel (Black owned/Ethically made in Liberia)
Studio One Eighty Nine (Black/Latinx owned/Ethically made around the world)
William Okpo (Black owned/Made in USA)
Zero + Maria Cornejo (Latinx owned/Made in USA/Zero Waste)
Naja (Latinx owned/Made ethically in Colombia)
Thundress (Black owned/Made in USA/Organic cotton)
June Alexander (Black owned/Custom made by designer)
Brother Vellies (Black-owned/Made ethically in Africa)
Brick & Mortar Boutiques Selling Ethical Fashion
Galerie LA (Black owned/Los Angeles, CA)
Sincerely, Tommy (Black owned/Brooklyn, NY)
Jewelry & Accessories coming next…