When the Rana Plaza factory collapsed last year in Bangladesh it left over 1,000 people dead, marking one of the largest factory disasters in the garment industry's history. The devastation left behind can be placed largely in the hands of major Western companies that outsourced to the factory, which was built unsafely on marshland. In just under a year, consumers and law-makers are beginning to question the ethics behind fashion and force companies to be held accountable for grave mistakes that lead to innocent lives being lost and millions of workers being mistreated. Some consumers have taken this a step forward by creating a shopping world separate from the one our generation has grown accustomed to. A shopping experience that will leave us with clean hands and pride in our style.
Rachel Kibbe is one of those consumers. With a fashion design degree from Parsons and a passion for writing, Kibbe had been jaded from the fashion industry for some time, leading her to turn her ethical fashion blog "Look Good, Feel Good" into one of the first ethical fashion e-commerce sites, "Helpsy". Here's the thing that separate's Kibbe's site from the many eco-friendly or ethical clothing sites out there: Not everything is made out of hemp and smells like patchouli.
Helpsy Founder, Rachel Kibbe's Showing Love and Peace For Ethical Fashion
Shopping can be a daunting task for many of us seeking affordable, edgy, yet fashionable clothing. If you add the fact that each year the costs of clothes seems to go up as the quality of our threads seems to go down, then you may have thrown in the towel already on finding the best deals. I find one of the hardest parts of shopping is the expense for clothing often made by children that are underpaid and overworked, or finding a vegan pair of shoes that is eco-friendly AND fashion-forward. Personally, I try to stay away from leather and I can tell you that up until I found out about Helpsy, I thought I'd be carrying a tote bag as a purse forever. It's pretty hard to find an edgy purse that matches my style and is environmentally friendly.
Hacky Sack Sold Separately
Helpsy allows you to shop within qualities such as "Fair Trade" "Eco-Friendly" and "Handcrafted". The clothing available is specifically for those of us craving ethical clothing without giving up our unique sense of fashion, with designers such as Dolores Haze and Giu Giu bringing fresh styles and morals to the fashion industry. Kibbe's innovation comes from the desire to apply pressure to change the way we shop and view clothing in general. While fast-fashion may be significantly cheaper and plentiful, you can be sure that if a pair of jeans for $20 isn't at your expense? It's at the expense of someone else making your clothes for an unfair trade.
A stylish Dolores Haze dress is made from eco-concious materials
Of course, no one loves cheap clothes as much as I do, but let's be real here: It costs money to make these images and I'm the first to admit that I'm kidding myself by thinking $100 for a pair of shoes isn't worth it. Fortunately for those of us on a budget, Helpsy has a section for under $50 and under $100. One piece of advice that Kibbe has to give is if you can't afford to always buy ethical fashion, buy less and buy to last. Sites like Helpsy and ethical fashion blogs remind us that we have been programmed to feel entitled to purchase clothes for $20 and when they inevitably fall apart in less than a year, we can rest assured we can replace one cheap item with another. Come on guys — you can do better.
Image: Rachel Kibbe; Dolores Haze/Helpsy