Well done Warby Parker + Vision Spring. Solid example of how the “Buy One, Give One” model can be far greater than a handout.
STORIES FROM THE FIELD: Vijaya Laxmi’s shirtmaking business serves as her family’s primary source of income. When her vision began to weaken a couple of years ago, it wasn’t long before Vijaya had difficulty even threading a needle. There was nowhere for Vijaya to purchase affordable eyeglasses anywhere near her village and Vijaya had to rely on her granddaughter to help her thread needles. While her granddaughter was in school, Vijaya struggled to finish her work and it wasn’t long before Vijaya’s customers began sourcing from other seamstresses.
In September, VisionSpring visited Vijaya’s village. She received a free exam provided by a Vision Entrepreneur and found a pair of glasses that she could afford. Immediately Vijaya was back to sewing 10 shirts a day, reducing the burden on her family and restoring her independence.
— For every pair of glasses we sell, we distribute a pair to someone in need. We do this through non-profit partners like VisionSpring, who provide glasses and training to people in developing countries to start their own businesses selling glasses. These Vision Entrepreneurs directly impact people like Vijaya.
Photo via Allison Joyce
Post via Ethical Ocean
In 2009, the Turkish government banned “denim sandblasting” after more than 50 denim workers died from silicosis, an incurable respiratory disease caused by inhaling silica dust. Silica dust comes from sandblasting denim, the process used to make bright new jeans look faded, frayed and distressed.
This was particularly horrifying for me, since I confess that I am a sucker for the well-worn and weathered look when it comes to jeans, and in the past have paid a pretty penny for a brand new pair of jeans that look, well, old. (Somewhere, my mother is shaking her head in disapproval.)
For years, denim designers, from the lux to the discounters, have taken care of that distressed look for us. What many of us don’t know is that sandblasting the denim comes at a devastating human cost.
The process, which involves blasting denim with pressurized silica, is incredibly hazardous and dangerous for workers involved in the process, even when wearing protective gear. Despite the evidence compiled by a group of scientists who studied the deaths in Turkey and confirmed the dangers of the practice (their 2011 study was published in Chest Medical Journal), the practice continues worldwide. The group of scientists has called for a global campaign against the practice, calling on the lazy like me to give up this fashion whim.
According to a report by Clean Clothes Campaign, some brands have not yet given up their sandblasting ways - Diesel and Inditex (sold at Zara) both claim they will stop ordering sandblasting jeans but haven’t yet made the shift, and Dolce and Gabbana have shown no indication of cutting out the blasting.
Thankfully, others have headed to the call. H&M, Levi’s and Armani have all given up sourcing these toxic jeans from supplies who continue the practice.
The latest big announcement comes from Target. The retail giant has pledged to stop selling denim manufactured from suppliers who use sandblasting. Considering Target’s buying power, this decision has the potential to significantly impact the denim market, at least for low to moderately priced jeans. Nice move Target!
As for me, well perhaps it’s time to start wearing my jeans out myself. From now on, I will definitely stick to brands that don’t use sandblasting, be it Levi’s, Target, or our very own Reco Jeans. Strategically placed holes and the perfect fade are not worth the lives of innocent people.
Last week, we wrote about the power and importance of voting with our wallets as consumers. This week, we’d like to share a brand worth voting for, and why.
The Holstee Manifesto has been shared over 500,000 times and viewed over 60 million times. Rather than write a business plan, Holstee’s founders created a declaration of purpose. Instead of brainstorming product ideas and revenue models, they just wrote about why they got out of bed in the morning.
Holstee got their start making t-shirts from 100% recycled plastic bottles. They even designed a nifty pocket into the side for added character. 10% of all sales were lent to impoverished entrepreneurs through non-profit lending partner Kiva.org – a habit they still make good on today. After tees came wallets – Holstee joined forces with an NGO in India that used littered plastic bags to create a very resourceful 100% upcycled fabric. Today, Holstee curates other sustainable products from some of the world’s most talented and mindful designers.
What makes Holstee so extraordinary is their uncommon take on ordinary things. Let’s start with business. Instead of obsessing over excessive analysis and a business plan, they wrote a thought-provoking manifesto about what made them feel alive. When it came to products, they made something that thousands of others were already making – but they made it in a courageously conscious fashion (i.e. using recycled plastic bottles, microfinancing and amazing ideas from NGOs halfway around the world).
This is why I love Holstee. They’re not in the business of renewable energy, clean tech or even education (some of the most common industries for embracing social responsibility). Like so many other companies, Holstee makes t-shirts and accessories. But here’s what makes them worth voting for: they’ve managed to build community and sustainability into every facet of their business.
Image via HOLSTEE