This post is generously sponsored by Made Trade, an ethically-elevated and beautifully-curated online shop for fashion, home goods, and gifts. As always, EcoCult only works with companies we believe are doing good things.
I was flipping through the rack of beautiful dresses in the studio of an ethical designer in Bangalore, India, practically cooing at the colors and fabrics: real silks and velvets, hand embroidery, the works. “This is so Anthropologie,” I said to the designer.
“Anthropologie actually wanted to work with us,” he said. “We had to turn them down. They wanted us to do all our designs in cheaper synthetic fabrics. That misses the whole point!”
And that is Anthropologie in a nutshell. It all looks artisanal, worldly, as if a friend had returned from her travels and stocked up her apartment with ethical items purchased at the Istanbul bazaar and an antiquing trip down South. But it’s all a ruse. Anthropologie ranks a whopping 1/10 on Good on You since they provide zero information when it comes to labor, environmental, and animal wellbeing, and is owned by the Urban Outfitters group, which has a 2/10 on Good On You, and a reputation for blatant cultural appropriation and stealing designs from small designers. At least Urban Outfitters has a Community Cares give back program where employees volunteer time to fundraise and build healthy community, but this has nothing to do with their supply chain and doesn’t address the extreme lack of transparency and impact their business model has on the environment. That’s literally all the information you’re going to find about Anthropologie’s ethics.
Now with Made Trade, there is finally an ethical and truly authentic equivalent for Anthropologie, with sustainable fashion, home goods, and gifts too.
Why Ethical Brands Fail
As the Co-Creator of artisan shoe and accessory brand, Darzah, Cayley Pater, who is now the Founder of Made Trade, witnessed and experienced the same problem we’ve seen over and over again in the world of ethical and sustainable fashion: most responsible companies have much smaller margins to work with, and don’t want to accept investors and risk compromising their values. Therefore, they have an extremely limited or completely nonexistent marketing budget, which means conscious consumers can’t find them. Their orders and businesses don’t grow, and they still don’t have money to spend on marketing. It’s a cycle that many ethical entrepreneurs have experienced, and can’t seem to break out of.
As ethical shops and marketplaces would pop up and disappear, Cayley found the same thing we’ve observed at EcoCult as well: the shops either a) don’t carry enough products to make the customer actually return to shop more, b) don’t prioritize design and aesthetic, which makes for a miserable shopping experience or c) just throw a bunch of products together without intentional curation based on what their consumer might actually be looking for. In all of these cases, the consumer’s tastes, preferences, and needs are essentially left out of the picture…and this just doesn’t work.
How Made Trade Solves the Ethical Brand Conundrum
Having just launched in October 2018, Made Trade is filling this gap by prioritizing the shopping experience of the conscious consumer with a wide variety of carefully chosen products that aren’t just ethically made but can also compete with designer goods. “It’s completely possible to get the aesthetic and design that you’d get at a store like Anthropologie, but it’s ethical. We want to be that go-to place.” And it’s not just the common basic, neutral, capsule collection pieces you’ll find on Made Trade (though you’ll definitely find those too), but vibrant, printed colors and patterns as well.
Made Trade’s cohesive branding and photography is something we haven’t seen from any other curated shops—especially one that has as many products as they do! Made Trade currently has about 1,100 products, with a goal of 3,000 by February of 2019. With their bold, bright, and colorful backgrounds, Made Trade is celebrating the stories behind the local and international artisan made goods, clothing, and accessories.
“We can talk about all the terrible things going on in the world and why you should shop transparently, but we want to provide an opportunity to share a positive story behind every product you wear and put in your home and to create and share meaning behind each handcrafted piece,” Cayley says.
My Favorite Ethical and Sustainable Gift Picks
I went through Made Trade and had a grand time pretending I could buy every single thing I saw. Click through to shop my absolute favorites! (Yep, those are pipes in the top middle, there.)