The good news is that we can create change. And mindsets are already changing! According to the market research firm McKinsey and Business of Fashion, sustainability is already becoming an important new driver of purchasing behavior. Approximately 32% of consumers in developed countries and 65% in developing countries actively seek out sustainable fashion.
Demanding transparency is the first step in creating this change. This week, ask yourself, “Who made my clothes?” And more importantly, ask the brands and retailers you buy from, “Who made my clothes?” Some will probably ignore you or direct you to their corporate social responsibility page. It’s not good enough. Keep asking until they respond, the more people who ask, the more the impetus will be on those brands to answer. Tag your favorite brands on social media and ask them #whomademyclothes. More transparency leads to greater accountability, which will eventually lead to a change in the way business is done in the fashion industry.
So how can asking a brand who made my clothes on social media make a real change? Last year over 2 million people around the world participated in the Fashion Revolution social media campaign and attended events in their local cities. And there was over an 80% growth from 2017 to 2018 in the use of the #imadeyourclothes hashtag, meaning more brands and manufacturers are responding as well. There was a 250% increase as well in people asking brands. It looks like the industry is starting to listen. Revolutions don’t happen overnight, but with more people making their voices heard, it’s no doubt that changes are happening. Small changes can make a big difference, and while purchasing a piece of clothing may seem like a small action, consider it from the supply perspective. You’ve helped that seller, the manufacturer, and the workers in each layer of the supply chain. You’re enriching the lives of those who you choose to buy from, so it’s important to choose wisely.
So, what needs to change? First, the cycle of fast fashion needs to end. Brands are making new collections and trends at break-neck speeds. Despite the rising costs of energy and raw materials, clothing is cheaper than ever before. This system isn’t working. The rising speed of the fashion industry has also led to more industrial disasters, less safe working conditions, and exploitative labor practices. The EPA estimates that the industry is churning out over 150 billion pieces of clothing every year, and in America alone we throw away of 15 million tons (yes tons) of clothing every year, 85% of which ends up incinerated or in a landfill. That’s about 80 lbs of clothing per person per year thrown away! This also comes at the expense of the environment, as the processes used to grow, dye, and launder our clothes end up polluting our rivers, land, oceans, and air. So that means this monumental waste of economic resources ends up damaging the environment in every aspect of its lifecycle!
These might seem like huge and complex problems on a global scale, and they are. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t have an impact and create changes in the industry. To quote Fashion Revolution,
“We need to break our addiction to the need for speed and volume. We need to realize the true cost of our cheap bargains. Ultimately, we need to buy less, buy better, and keep asking questions about the realities behind what we’re purchasing. We need to love the clothes we already own more and work harder to make them last.”
So now we know a bit more about the process, the economic, environmental, and human costs with each of these elements. We know what about the process is problematic, and we know how we can change it for the better. But are we actually taking the next steps? Are we moving towards a more ethical and sustainable fashion industry?
Today both people and the environment suffer because of the way the fashion industry operates and the way we consume fashion. We live in a capitalist society, meaning companies have to sell more clothing and make a profit in order to succeed, but by no means should it ignore the true costs of their operations or come at the expense of people’s health, dignity, or lives or at the expense of the environment (after all, what good is money if we’re all dead.)
H&M, one of the companies who manufactured at the Rana Plaza prior to the collapse, burned $4.3 billion in unsold clothing last year. But that’s not even the ridiculous part:
“The scale of the problem illustrates H&M’s vast size — as one of the world’s largest clothing manufacturers, it produces hundreds of millions of items each year. There are so many that a power plant in Vasteras, the town where H&M founded its first store, relies partly on burning defective products the retailer cannot sell to create energy.” -New York Times
It’s time for a Fashion Revolution!
This week is Fashion Revolution Week. Some of you might already know and might already be asking your favorite brands “who made my clothes?” (or jewelry or accessories), and if so hats off to you and thank you for making your voice heard and helping hold the fashion industry accountable. If you’re newer to sustainable fashion, no worries, Fashion Revolution week is a great way to start getting involved! I’ll go into the history and impact of Fashion Revolution and why it’s important to get involved.
Why do we need a fashion revolution anyways? Six years ago, today, on April 24th, 2013, the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed. 1,138 people died, and an additional 2,500 people were injured, making this the fourth largest industrial disaster in our history. Most of the victims were young women making clothing for large global brands such as H&M and Joe Fresh.
Rana Plaza after it collapsed in 2013, via Fashion Revolution
This was the event that first opened my eyes to the reality of how many of the clothes I was wearing, as a then college student, were made. It eventually impacted the way I see sourcing and manufacturing as a business owner and designer.
Unfortunately, this event can’t be written off as an isolated tragedy in the fashion industry. According to Fashion Revolution and Remake, approximately 75 million people around the world work to make our clothes and accessories and about 80% of them are young women aged 18-35. Regrettably, most of them live in poverty. They are often unable to afford the bare necessities for life and are often subject to exploitation, physical and verbal abuse. They work in dirty and unsafe conditions, all for very little pay. This is the status quo for many of the people who work in garment manufacturing.
This needs to change.
After the Rana Plaza collapse
Rough diamonds from the Raw Stone
Happy birthday to all of you April beauties! Spring has finally sprung after a long rainy winter in Southern California and the wildflowers make your birth-month a little more colorful. For all of my Aries/Taurus friends, here a few interesting facts about your birthstone, the diamond.
Diamonds are the hardest natural substance known to man, an impressive 58 times harder than any other material to be exact!
Diamonds were used to engrave other gemstones in India as early as 30BCE.
Most diamonds are formed over 80 miles below the Earth’s surface. Almost all bright sparkly diamonds are formed in total darkness, 87-120 miles below the surface in the lithospheric mantle layer. When volcanoes erupt deep underground, the force of the eruption and the magma carry diamonds closer to the surface. The diamonds are hidden inside and mined in the ingneous rock formed by the magma as it cooled.
Most diamonds are 1-3 billion years old. The oldest discovered diamonds are even estimated to be around 4 billion years old.
Some diamonds may have even come from outer space. Carbonado diamonds are thought to have formed around 3 billion years ago when an asteroid collided into the planet. These diamonds are quite porous, so you won’t see them in any rings and they are usually found in Africa and South America.
There’s a diamond in the sky named “Lucy”. The star was named after the Beatles’ song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” when it was discovered by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in 2007. The star is approximately made of 75% pure diamond as is located 50 light years from Earth.
A diamond loses up to 50% of its rough carat weight in the cutting and polishing process. The result? A stone cut to maximize its brilliance and fire.
Only 30% of all diamonds mined are gem quality. What happens to the other 70%? They’re often used in industrial applications such as abrasives, cutting equipment, and even medical equipment.
You can turn the remains of a loved one into a diamond. Thanks to the power of science, their ashes could be compressed into a lab grown diamond, so they can be cherished forever.
The largest diamond ever mined is the Cullinan Diamond, which was discovered in 1905 and weighed an astonishing 3,106 carats. It was cut into 105 diamonds, the largest of which are the Greater Star of Africa (530.20ct), and the Lesser Star of Africa (317.60ct), part of the British crown jewels. Eight of the other diamonds cut from the Cullinan are also part of Queen Elizabeth II’s private collection.
Here’s a few of our fave pieces featuring these unique and radiant gems. Shop the look below.
Can I tell you a secret? I’ve been vegetarian/vegan for about three years, but only gave up leather this year. While giving up meat and dairy was a breeze (I wasn’t really a fan, to begin with), my weakness for luxe leather shoes and bags, has made giving up leather way more of a challenge. But I can’t ignore the impacts of leather on animals, the environment, and the workers in the supply chain, so this year when boot season came around, I decided to do some homework and look for vegan alternatives that feel just as luxurious as the real thing.
Last year around this time, I wrote about why I gave up fast fashion, and what I learned and gained along the way. This year, I’m writing about how my journey with fair fashion has continued since then and what I’ve discovered this year.
We all have those things we might not want to admit—like an embarrassing fear of spiders or chapters in our lives we might not read out loud.
As a jewelry designer, business owner, and fair fashion advocate, I’m part expert and part student, since I’m always learning more about the industry and supply chain for both fashion and jewelry. But at the end of the day, I’m not perfect either.
Today, I’m going to take a risk. I want to pull back the curtain and get real with you. I’m hoping that doing so will give you “permission” to let go of any guilt you have about doing ethical fashion perfectly.
Have you ever wondered where your gems come from? With our Pyramids Capsule Collection, we know exactly where our gems come from, a single source in Bahia, Brazil, the Pyramid mine. The mine owner, Brian Cook, first formalized his claim and began organizing the miners over the course of 14 years and has created a responsible sourcing initiative that is unique in the industry. Unlike large tech projects like DeBeers blockchain platform which could further marginalize small mining communities that can’t pay to play, this initiative starts small scale with artisanal mining communities in Brazil.
If you can trace a flower or a single avocado back to a single farm or field, you should be able to trace a diamond back to a mine, right? Blockchain for the jewelry industry is actually already on its way, with large mining corporations like DeBeers and Alrosa investing heavily into their own blockchain programs. DeBeers is even testing out their program on diamonds 2ct and above and plans to expand it to smaller sizes in the future. These two mining companies on their own account for almost 80% of all diamond mined today. But what about the other 20%?
GIA, Rappaport, have tried creating industry-wide blockchain networks for traceability, however, DeBeers has made it perfectly clear that their blockchain network is only theirs and won’t connect with any industry-wide traceability initiatives. And unfortunately they’re DeBeers and they’re huge and influential and ultimately they do what they want. Large (expensive) tech projects like this may be no big deal to a company that large, but what about the artisanal miner? The Tanzanian Women Miners Association certainly doesn’t have the funds to compete, and ultimately any traceability solution we come up with needs to take small-scale miners into account, or we risk further marginalizing some of the most marginalized people on the planet.
Can I tell you a secret? Gifting is my favorite part of the holidays. And jewelry gifts to me have always been such meaningful and emotional gifts that carry stories and memories with them. I’ve loved fashion and jewelry since I was kid, but my passion for fair fashion and sustainability started in 2013. Since then, I’ve turned my passion for jewelry and fair fashion into a career and have been designing under the Enji name since 2014. As a jewelry lover, fair fashion advocate, and Ethical Metalsmiths member, I really believe you vote with your dollar, so even with my love of holiday gift giving, I try to shop according to my values and buy gifts that do good. While it seems like a lot to think about and a lot of research, here are a few quick tips that will make it easy to buy amazing jewelry and shop your values this holiday season:
Can I tell you a secret? I really love giving gifts, and I’m always a little bit of procrastinator when it comes to my holiday shopping. Anyone else in the same boat? Last year going into Black Friday, I wrote about why I gave up fast fashion (you can read the post here), and since then I’ve come up with a list of shopping guidelines I go by and I won’t go too into detail (but you can read the details here *link post*) but I buy things that generally fall into the categories of vintage, vegan, fairtrade, or recycled/upcycled. At the end of the day, I really believe you vote with your dollar, so as much as I love holiday gift giving, I try to stick to this with my shopping too. While it seems like a lot to think about and a lot of research, here are a few quick tips that will make it easy to shop your values this holiday season:
Fall seems to be all about ethical sourcing and sustainability at Enji with the Jewelry Industry Summit in Los Angeles this past week and Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference coming up at the end of the month. Speakers, Cristina Villegas from PACT (the largest non-profit you’ve never heard of), Monica Stephenson from Anza Gems, and Stuart Grice of Hoover and Strong (one of the largest precious metal refiners in the country) spoke about various parts of the mining sector for gold and precious gems around the world.
I’m writing this from my Southwest flight back home and leaving Chicago so inspired after the Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference. This is only the second year of the conference and the second time I’ve attended, this year with almost twice the turnout of last year. The conference brought together everyone from designers, gem dealers, NGOs, nonprofits, gemstone cutters, representatives from the State Department, and even artisanal gold and gemstone miners from South America and East Africa to hear each other’s perspectives and come up with solutions to complex issues in the jewelry supply chain.
If you can, investigate making most of your meals outside. Elect to use a propane grill if you can, or low emissions and clean coal. Electing to cook outside is not only a great way to enjoy your summer, but to also reduce energy. This will help keep your house from getting too warm and help you save the money and trouble of turning on a stove and air conditioner at the same time.
Summer is officially starting this month and it's arguably the best month according to June babies. We all have fond memories of summer vacations and sweet treats. June babies are lucky to be born such great weather and to help them celebrate their special day Enji is sharing 10 fun facts about their birthstones.
With so many natural disasters recently it is almost undeniable that climate change is real. Many people, especially those who hold power in government, deny the fact that our world is changing and that eventually, our own way of life will have to change as well. However, power doesn’t lie in a single government or even a single person. California has already made plastic bags illegal to reduce waste and help aid in the fight against climate change. But helping in the fight against climate change and reducing waste does not have to be hard if you are willing to take initiative and here are some of our suggestions.
Spring has just arrived in San Diego and just like the flowers, love is about to bloom. It’s wedding season here in southern California where our weather permits us to start the wedding season early and end later than most cities. But every wedding has a humble beginning and you cannot get to the most important day without asking the most important question. 2018 has already been filled with love and many newly engaged couples share their unique rings. Enji has made our top favorite engagement ring trends that we are absolutely in love with.
When people talk about pollution they usually will think about either plastics and oil being dumped into the ocean, or tons of carbon emissions being released into the air. These pollutants have very severe consequences not only for our environment but to our health, as we are now realizing. Many people will advocate their voice when it comes to the threat to their physical well being and often is successful in obtaining some type of pollution regulations. However, there is one type of pollution that isn’t openly talked about.
Jewelry has always been a form of expression, tracing all the way back to the earliest civilizations, but jewelry has come a long way since then. Jewelry trends have risen and fallen and with each passing of time, more people improve their craft. As jewelry become more complex and diverse, there are bound to be a few miscommunications and misunderstandings along the way. We want to clarify a few common misconceptions about caring for jewels. Enji is all about honesty and transparency and we want to make sure you don’t fall for any of these common faux paus.