by Erica Garza
Gone are the days when fashion and social consciousness had nothing to do with each other.
Unfortunately, we still live in a world where low-wage factories exist, but there are more companies than ever that care about making the world a better place and strive to do so through their business practices. If you consider yourself a do-gooder and love honoring those who spread generosity, you can help support companies that give back by shopping according to your values, which means spending your dollars in a way that makes a difference.
Shopping according to your values means supporting brands that stand for something you believe in. Whether that’s supporting a female-owned business or a company that shares its profits with underserved communities, it’s easy these days to find out if the brands you love are giving back to the community or not. And if they’re not, you may want to consider taking your love of fashion elsewhere. While it may feel overwhelming at times to decide where to shop, if you find a brand aligned with your values, you can feel good about the clothes you wear and the mission you’re supporting when you wear them.
Here are some types of companies you may want to consider supporting by shopping according to your values.
Women deserve a chance at the top. Putting a spotlight on women’s voices and recognizing women in leadership roles helps pave the way for other women to realize their dreams of running their own businesses. Female-owned companies (Common Assembly included!) are in almost every sector of the economy. One obvious way to support these companies — and encourage top VCs to boost them with their investments — is to patronize them. Another way is to spread the word on social media, so get posting when you find a business run by a boss babe and spread the word in any way that you can.
Not sure if the companies you love are owned by women? This database may help.
Brands That Give Back to Charities
While some companies donate a share of their profits to charities that fight for human rights, others donate some of their own merchandise to underserved communities too. And still others use their platform to support emerging and underrepresented talent in the industry. Whether you’re passionate about planting trees or promoting literacy, there’s a good chance you can find a brand that’s passionate about the same thing. Research which of your favorite brands is supporting a cause you care about, which can typically be found on the company website.
Companies That Pay Fair Wages
Gone are the days when buying pieces produced in fair-wage factories meant paying luxury prices. (Meaning you can look good and feel good without breaking the bank — score!) When employees are paid fairly, they are able to provide for themselves and their families without having to work multiple jobs or go into debt. According to the Living Wage Network, over 2,500 small and medium-sized businesses across the country — Common Assembly included — have certified their willingness to pay a living wage to their employees. So aim to support companies who pay fair wages in humane conditions, because it’s never been easier (or chicer).
Companies That Promote Equality
There are several ways companies can promote equality: They can hire women and members of other minority communities, especially in managerial positions, or they can use their advertising and social-media platforms to spread powerful marketing messages that make a difference. So take a close look at the messages the brands you support are sending. Do they make you (or someone you love) feel less than? Are they promoting unattainable and painfully narrow standards of beauty and femininity? If so, take a stand by choosing to shop from companies that actively reject these standards by ditching photoshop and featuring women of all shapes and sizes.
Shopping according to your values means having a willingness to look beyond the trendy outfit to see how the brand makes you feel. From the factory to the packaging to the ad—is the company making the world a better place? Are you?
Erica Garza is an author and essayist from Los Angeles. Her writing has appeared in Time, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women's Health and VICE.