On January 9th, I had the pleasure of speaking with Alejandra Carrero. Alejandra, the founder of Futurewear, created the online directory where the eco-friendly shopper can discover ethical & sustainable apparel. “Shifting consciousness through fashion” is the cure that Alejandra first discovered eight years ago.
Curing the “Cancer”
Futurewear has helped eliminate the frustration for conscious buyers on ensuring that their brands are truly as ethical and sustainable as they claim they are. The site makes it convenient to see the business practices upfront, as well as the company’s values and products. Believe it or not, an apparel brand must practice both of these in order for it to become part of the Futurewear Directory.
“These big corporations in the fashion industry are not willing to make the changes. It’s a hard cancer to cure.”
Nevertheless, Futurewear comes in to help with the cure. As you can imagine, regulating and certifying fashion labels is difficult to do. In order to receive the certification from Futurewear, brands must be transparent with all of their business practices. There are many layers for the Futurewear team to peel back. Their job involves conducting thorough amounts of in-person research on a brand’s production facilities and materials. Once approved, the brand is listed on the Futurewear directory.
Overseas Slave Labor
Somewhere along the runway in Boston, Carrero was inspired to begin Futurewear. She was already an experienced fashionista and website designer. At the time, she was growing her online clothing store that empowered lower-income women to afford dresses. When she traveled with her team to visit her wholesale partner in China, Alejandra was confronted by an unsettling scene.
Upon entering the factory, the atmosphere felt intense. Exhausted women and children as young as 8 years old were working away, repetitively ironing, folding, and packing clothing. They stayed intensely focused on their pile of work, forbidden from making eye contact, let alone communicate with one another.
“It was crowded, messy. Kids were working. It was 11AM. They were definitely not going to school.”
Immediately following the trip, Alejandra became a committed slave labor activist. She returned to Boston and pivoted her career focus. She stopped selling clothes on her online store, then changed her major to fashion communications and began researching ethical fashion for the next several years. Carrero felt crushed that the work she put it into her clothing line was now meaningless. However, she felt a different kind of motivation that would transform the way we think of transparency.
While Futurewear is an amazing feat, there still lies big challenges in the fashion industry, such low awareness of ethics. Alejandra pointed out my own uninformed view of fashion ethics. Many people either confuse the terms sustainable and ethical, or they have a vague idea of what the ethical issues are. At the forefront, it is common to believe that ethics has to do with unfair wages and sweatshops. However, fashion ethics gets much more complicated. It can involve companies stealing original fashion designs, then mass producing them. Or, it might look like huge profit margins accompanied by unfair wages. As an expert investigator, Alejandra advises any conscious consumer with the most straightforward way to identify if a company is ethical – ask them where and how they produce their products.
To this day, the unethical practices continue, but many positive changes have come from the slow fashion and green movements. I asked where Alejandra hopes to see the fashion industry going in the next ten years.
“I would love to see a circular economy. It would be really cool – biodegradable or plant-based plastic bags. Everything we use, 100% organic, eco-friendly, and no toxic dyes. Maybe even using bamboo – it’s easy to grow, whereas trees take much longer to grow, and taking them down is not good for the air. That’s circular!”
Last but not least, she told me to continue shining light on these issues. Of course, that’s what I do! I am excited for Alejandra Carrero and Futurewear; they are transforming the connection between conscious brands and consumers. Keep a lookout, Futurewear is attending the upcoming Copenhagen Fashion Summit in May 2019!