When was the last time you thought about where your clothes, shoes, or jewelry were made?
Chances are, your favorite brands were not handmade by local craftspeople under ethical and fair circumstances. As difficult as it may be to realize, many of our clothes are produced by impoverished people in third-world nations who are seldom paid a living wage. Thankfully, there are alternatives to purchasing these products. Among our favorites is a brand called ABLE that is challenging the fashion industry by creating transformative opportunities for women.
ABLE founder Barrett Ward was living and traveling in Ethiopia when he realized how easy it was for impoverished people, particularly women, to become trapped by generational poverty. When Barrett heard stories of how women were forced to resort to prostitution and other illegal activities simply to feed their families, he was inspired to bring about lasting change for generations to come.
Further research gave Barrett even more incentive to create a better working environment for women. According to studies, women reinvest 90% of their income back into their families, while men invest only 30 to 40 percent. Also, the fashion industry is the third-largest industrial industry in the world, employing over 60 million people — over 75% of whom are women.
Barrett decided to create a company to challenge the culture of the fashion industry by creating transformative opportunities for women. ABLE began in 2010 by producing a simple line of hand-woven scarves. Today, they have become a one-stop shop for ethical fashion headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Their wide range of fashionable clothing, handbags, footwear, jewelry, and accessories are made almost entirely by female artisans in Ethiopia, Mexico, and Peru.
“The goal was to provide an alternative that would give these women an opportunity to earn a living, empowering them to end the cycle of poverty that kept them trapped. Armed with multiple studies illustrating how the employment of women benefits and strengthens the entire community, the ABLE team set out on a mission to end generational poverty, one job at a time.”
Women make up 95% of the ABLE team and enjoy comprehensive benefits packages that include paid healthcare for their entire family, 12 weeks of paid maternity leave, infertility and adoption assistance, paid time off, and more perks geared towards supporting working women.
“It gives me peace to pay living wages to my employees — peace that they have enough to eat, can afford transportation, and safe housing,” said Ethiopian ABLE leather partner Furtuna of Fayda in Fashion. “I’m not profiting at the expense of their labor, and they’re earning a wage worth the work they put in here.”
In order to let consumers know exactly where their money is going, ABLE prides themselves on their “radical and disruptive transparency.” What this means is that they tell you exactly how much their workers earn (making them the first fashion brand to ever do that!), smashing the chains of silent acquiescence that bind women workers all over the globe.
In short, ABLE hopes to inspire a total sea of change in the fashion industry, lifting up the very people who create the garments and allowing consumers to feel good about helping others.
In today’s day and age, we have so many choices about what to buy and from whom to buy it. When presented with a chance to help another person, one who likely does not have as many opportunities to live their best life as we do, why not choose a product that directly helps the workers? Plus… their products are gorgeous! Win, win.
Please share this story to tell others about ABLE and their movement to bring ethics to the fashion industry.
If you’d like to learn more about ABLE and be entered into a giveaway to win some of their products, go here!
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