Clothing With a Purpose

For some women, splurging on a , colorful scarf or a flashy pair of earrings is a regular part of the experience. Those dollars can mean more for both the shopper and the designer when they’re used to buy unique, authentic styles for a good cause. “People are feeling the pinch everywhere,” said fashion buyer Natalie Miller. “And as a woman, I know that if I am going to shop, specifically for myself, I want to find items that are ‘worth my while’ but keeping cost in mind.”
Charitable Shopping Is Always on Trend

For fashion blogger and designer Laura George, socially conscious shopping is a no-brainer. “If you have the option to help others when you purchase things you would already purchase anyway, then why not?” she said.

George counts online retailer Sseko Designs among her favorite shopping spots and recommends women consider such socially actionable brands because they combine great with a .

“These items are often higher quality and they do good in the world. It’s an easy way to help where you can, even if you don’t have extra money to give to charity or extra time for community service,” she said.

Sseko (pronounced “say-ko”) Designs is a not-for-profit enterprise that employs Ugandan female graduates of secondary school as designers to help them earn enough money to attend university.

Also, these types of brands can give more bang for your buck, said Miller, a fashion buyer for Go Fish & Jewelry, which sells original , jewelry and accessories manufactured and designed by indigenous people from around the world, including Indonesia, Uganda and Thailand.

“When a consumer buys something that can directly affect the woman in a Third World country who made it, it has greater overall impact on the human race,” Miller said. “They are helping these women make something of themselves.”

No Two Pieces Are the Same

Charitable brands often stand out from other retailers because of their authentic, hand-made style, George said.

“In addition, it gives your wardrobe a story,” she said. “There is something enviable about a top that you can tell your friends ‘helped a woman in the Congo feed her family.’ It gives a superficial thing some meaning and makes the clothing special, even sentimental.”

No two pieces are exactly the same, Miller said, nor do you have to sacrifice quality.

“Typically the women who work in these countries have been honing their skills since childhood,” she said. “They are master craftsmen. In major retail chains you will find the same pieces over and over again. You will not find the one-of-a-kind pieces that many so desire.”

Dresses are one of the top-selling items at Go Fish Clothing & Jewelry.

The Christian-founded company, which opened its first store in 1987, purchases most of its items from artisans of developing nations at their asking prices and then sells the hand-crafted goods at store locations in eight states, as well as online. The artisans’ profits, in turn, help provide them a better life.

“From winter to summer, our dresses sell like crazy,” Miller said. “More specifically, we have been selling the same style sleeveless maxi dress for more than 20 years.”

All of their fabrics are hand-dyed batiks and the batiks are created based on the season.

Other hot sellers are batik-dyed tops. “Because our fabrics are easy to wear and easy to care pieces, we have found great success in manufacturing our own clothing lines,” Miller said.

The Starboard Sandal is George’s all-time favorite Sseko style. “I also really like the solid options because they coordinate well with a variety of outfits,” George said. She also likes the versatility of Sseko shoes.

“I can buy my favorites and then purchase several extra straps to change up the look to suit whichever outfit I like,” she said. “I also love that they make a statement by lacing up the leg, but they’re not so bold that I can’t wear them with practically anything.”

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