Fashion for a Good Cause

April 21, 2007

Most of my freelance gigs involve writing about fashion in some way, shape, or form.  I’ve recently realized that I unconsciously place a higher value on labels and brands that somehow give back to the community, whether it’s through donating a percentage of their proceeds or through other philanthropic work.  If left to my own devices, I gravitate towards companies like Five Accessories and Malia Designs, both of which aid developing nations and focus on sustainable production (in Indonesia and Cambodia, respectively)

I realized this while interviewing Chicago-based jewelry designer Tracey Mayer.  Her dramatic, handcarved creations are currently produced in Indonesia, although she originally based her production in India, a country that’s still very close to her heart.  In fact, it was while traveling through India and seeing the work of local silversmiths that sparked the inspiration behind her eventual label.

Which brings it all back to travel – without that original experience, these companies and others like them wouldn’t exist.  Besides the obvious philanthropic benefits of investing in developing countries, designers like Tracey help keep family artisans in business.  Most of these craftsmen and women have skills that have been passed down for centuries, but without a market for their work, these techniques will be lost forever. 

There’s something to be said for beautiful, handmade pieces – especially those with a story behind them.  I know that I treasure the leather belts, sandals, and silver jewelry I bought in Morocco much more than something I picked up at H&M.  And it goes without saying that the pieces are of a much higher quality. 

However, thanks to the labels I’ve mentioned and many more, you don’t have to travel to exotic destinations.  So next time you’re in the mood for something new (and if you’re like most women, that’s everyday) skip the chain stores and make an effort to seek out companies that give back much more than they take.

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