Do you remember when Etsy featured user curated treasuries on their homepage? I had a lot of fun putting those together and browsing through them was a great way to discover uniquely handmade items you couldn't find anywhere else. Etsy has changed a bit since then.
Before Etsy opened their online marketplace to designers + third party manufacturers, they were a hotspot for handmade fashion. While the company does have a set of ethical expectations for sellers who partner with manufacturers, Etsy does not audit them and cannot guarantee the conditions under which the products were made. What this means for Etsy sellers who still create their own designs is more competition and what this means for consumers is it's getting harder and harder to discover these brands.
Etsy has changed the playing field, but let's face it, outsourcing manufacturing is the norm even for ethical brands. Transparency is key especially since responsibility falls on the conscientious consumer. As with Etsy, some brands are more open about their manufacturing process than others. What sets Etsy apart is there is still the opportunity to connect with people who are out there making things and inspiring others with their creations.
When I was living in India, I had an opportunity to visit a garment factory run by an NGO. Despite meeting the women workers face to face I felt a world away from them and I’m sure they felt the same looking back at me. Since then it’s been important to me to ask the question #whomademyclothes. Though Etsy has changed the marketplace, it is still one of the few places where you can find an answer to that question. Buying handmade clothes directly from the people who created them leaves no room for ambiguity about whether or not they were ethically made.
I know what you're thinking, what about cost? One of the biggest obstacles that keeps people from embracing ethical fashion is expense, I'm no exception. When I first became interested in choosing ethically made pieces, I was a broke college student surviving off financial aid and student loans. But as my more affordable clothes from big brands like H&M and Forever 21 began to fall apart in the wash before the season was even over, I no longer felt like I was saving money by spending less.
If you consider cost per wear, fast fashion isn't always the cheaper option. Nor will spending more guarantee you better quality. That is why I like the #30wears campaign, whatever your budget and regardless of where you shop, the challenge is to only buy pieces that will last for more than thirty wears or the equivalent of one season. The goal is to encourage eco-conscious clothing by taking a stand against the throw-away clothes the fast fashion industry creates. The Stylebook app is a great tool for keeping track of how often you wear the clothes in your closet.
I'm a pretty frugal person, so I take it a step further and try to get at least a dollar per wear out of the clothes I buy. This is easy enough to achieve shopping second hand which I love to do, but it gets a little trickier when buying new. I always like to stretch my dollar as far as I can and make every penny count. Investing in quality handmade items not only gives me the satisfaction of supporting artisans, but it means knowing where my clothes came from and that they were made with love and care. Check out the list below to discover my favorite Etsy shops for ethical fashion. I chose to feature these sellers because I believe they check all the boxes: ethically made + high quality + worth the money.
Top Ethical Brands on Etsy
Thief and Bandit - Hip botanical screen-printed dresses, tops, + bottoms for men, women, and babies too.