This post has been generously sponsored by Uniform. As always EcoCult only accepts financial support from companies that are making the world a better place. Support EcoCult by supporting them!
What countries do you think of when you imagine an ethical and sustainable, capsule or minimalist wardrobe? The Scandinavian ones, I reckon. Maybe France if you enjoy scarves and ballet flats.
Well, get ready to have your mind blown, because the newest collection of sustainable elevated basics flying off the shelves at Bloomingdales is coming out of... African countries. Yup. Think Liberia, Morocco, Kenya, and Ghana.
The label designing and making these cropped t-shirts, bomber jackets, dresses, palazzo pants, and blouses is called Uniform. Longtime readers of EcoCult will recognize the name – last year I sang their praises as a holistically conscious fashion company from beginning to end.
Here's a quick recap of why Uniform is doing it right:
- Uniform is authentically African through and through. Not only is founder Chid Liberty himself Liberian, the collection's gold standard, the t-shirt, has a purely African supply chain, which traces the organic cotton all the way back to the cotton cooperative it's farmed on. Uniform started with a factory in Liberia, and for this collection, expanded to factories in Morocco, Kenya, and Ghana. "We had this beautiful time building what I think is really cool products out of each of these factories," he says.
- The factories all go above and beyond when it comes to treating workers well. "Each of the factories in our network gets assessed for all the social and environmental stuff, on the basis of everything from Fair Trade USA to SA8000 [social accountability 8000]," Chid says. "But more than that, they have a commitment to workers. What we’ve loved is finding partners who have this amazing and unyielding commitment to the economic empowerment of workers – and mostly that is women – who work on the lines."
- Many of the materials are sustainable. Like I mentioned above, the t-shirts are made from organic cotton, super-soft viscose, and other sustainable materials, such as a tencel/cotton/spandex blend for the sleek jumpsuit. It's not perfect – the Kenyan-made bomber jacket is a nylon/polyester blend – but that is the nature of Uniform being an emerging brand. As Uniform finds success, they will have more leeway in that area. "We would love to use completely sustainable materials," Chid says. "We are so small, we are currently sourcing what is available - we are trying to use a lot of deadstock materials. "Our bomber jacket, which was our biggest seller at Bloomingdales, was originally going to be produced with Econyl, but we couldn’t get it in small enough quantities." In other words, go support so Uniform can expand!"
- For each purchase, a school uniform goes to a child. "We’re still donating uniforms like crazy," Chid says. Each time you make a purchase, you see a note when you check out that one uniform has been donated. So far they've donated 8,000 school uniforms, and another 2,000 are being made and donated right now. "Our goal by this time next year is to have 50,000 uniforms distributed," he says. And since the uniforms are made in Liberia by local factories, it avoids the downside of some one-for-one models, which distribute imported items and send local factories out of business.
- It's so cool, celebrities are getting on board. Socially conscious celebrities are picking up what Chid is laying down with Uniform, climbing on board to collaborate on capsule collections. The first one coming up is with rapper A$AP Ferg and will hit Bloomingdale's in time for music festival season. The visual theme is around military uniforms which, besides being driven by A$AP Ferg's own style, tells a poignant story about trading in military uniforms for school uniforms – Liberia just came out of a civil war in the 90s. And there are more collaborations coming down the line that Chid can't talk about yet. "People are signing up with us right now to do a cool give-back thing, especially if they have their own line they’re launching," he says. "They’re seeing what happened with Beyonce and Ivy Park." (He's referencing the accusations of worker exploitation against Beyoncé's feminist athletic line.)
- It's crazy cheap. The most expensive piece is an $88 bomber jacket. I know. That is unbelievable, especially for a fair fashion brand. But it's true.
You know, honestly, sometimes sustainable and ethical brands can blur together. But what Uniform is doing is so different– sleek, modern, ethically made, giving back, sustainable, collaborating instead of using African workers, affordable – that it truly stands out from the crowd.