For those who don’t know me well, it can sometimes be hard to see past the high heels and lip gloss, but the reality is that I’m much more than a closet filled with shoes. While I love me some fancy clothes and I practically swoon over a trip to the salon to have my hair done, I also make a conscious decision to shop brands and even stores (hello, Salvation Army Thrift Store!) that make a difference in my community and the world at large.
Our great big world has become pretty small now that the Internet is here to stay, and with that comes a greater global awareness.
Most of us have heard of Toms footwear, but there are loads of lesser-known, equally awesome brands out there busting balls to make a difference. I might not be able to buy everything fair trade or second hand, but I try to do my part.
This list isn’t exhaustive, but rather a handful of my favourites after lots and lots of research! Whether you’re shopping for yourself or you’re diving into your Holiday to-dos early, a purchase from any of these brands ensures a gorgeous item with an equally beautiful story behind it.
Toms’ One for One schtick made the company an instant hit, with the (pretty) ugly slip-on shoes flying off the shelves - But hey; people love 'em and Toms does some good work, so I'll let it go.
In 2011, founder Blake Mycoskie realized that the brand could meet other basic needs and implemented the same One for One design with Toms eyewear. The company has now given more than 10 million pairs of shoes in over 60 countries, and has helped restore sight to some 150,000 people worldwide. Amazing.
Wee Urban is proudly Canadian and offers conscious organic alternatives to the traditional baby and toddler garb, all while supporting our local economy and giving back to charities including Sick Kids Hospital, Leukemia Society of Canada, Meagan's Walk, Oxfam, World Wildlife Fund. The domestic success was so great that Wee Urban expanded to launch a series of fair-trade, ISO certified products in partnerships with organizations like Kiva Loans.
Just One is an exciting, new company that I discovered at BlissDom Canada Marketplace this year. This brand offers Canadian women an opportunity to empower people in Africa, making a change in the world and looking stylish while doing it. Just One offers “world changing fashion” made by former child soldiers, HIV positive women, and persons living in extreme poverty.
Sevenly believes, at its core, that people matter. Founded in 2011 by four people who wanted to lead a generation towards a life of generosity, Sevenly activated a “cause art” movement worldwide by launching 7-day campaigns and inviting customers to purchase products that gave $7 to the weekly charity. Sevenly was named “America’s most social business” by mashable.com and “one of the Top 10 Stories in the First 10 Years of Facebook.” And they’re not done yet.
Headbands of Hope began when Jessica Ekstrom interned at the Make-A-Wish Foundation and realized that a simple headband brought joy to little girls who’d lost their hair to chemotherapy. For every headband sold, another is given to a girl with cancer and $1 is donated to life-saving childhood cancer research. And since boys need to feel special too, Headwear of Hope was launched. These are perfect as gifts!
fashionABLE is all about giving women in poverty a hand up instead of a hand out, which was exactly what these African women really wanted. Each purchase helps create sustainable business in Africa, and we all know that when women and girls are empowered, it changes the world. The main focus at fashionABLE is to find long-term solutions to poverty through creating opportunities for vulnerable women. The organization works with women to help them start small business cooperatives, and then partners with manufacturers who employ women with fair wages and hiring practices.
soleRebels is the world’s only World Fair Trade Organization footwear company, has its values in all the right places: Workers First, Sustainable Production, Cultural Preservation. This amazing company was founded by Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu… in her home community. After seeing that Ethiopia had many charity brands but no global brand of its own, she set out to change that.
WeWOOD would like to plant 1 million trees by 2020, with over 300,000 already under their, uh, straps. Created by an Italian watch lover and two eco-smart entrepreneurs, WeWOOD fashions wooden watches made from mostly scrap-wood and uses state-of-the-art Miyota movements to create a unique watch that’s as fashionable as it is Earth-friendly.
I could talk about amazing brands all day, but if you didn’t find one above that tickles your fancy, check out these organizations and brands to find what fits YOU: