You Are What You Wear - The Importance of Ethical Fashion

In November 2012, a fire broke out in a garment factory in the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka, killing hundreds of  workers. This sparked a conversation globally about the importance of ethically made fashion. Ethical fashion means approaching the design, sourcing and manufacturing in a socially and environmentally conscious manner.

When clothing is ethically made, it means that women who are making the products are paid a fair wage and participate in long-term buying partnerships with ethical companies.  Because they receive a living wage, their children are able to be clothed and fed. Their communities receive health care, clean water and electricity.  Through this process, women are empowered to make their own decisions and to become leaders in their community, as well as use their artisan skills to support their family.

Fair trade was first introduced in the 1940’s when North America’s first fair trade company, Ten Thousand Villages, was created by Edna Ruth Byler. The company began by importing handcrafts from women living in low income areas of Puerto Rico with the mission of creating opportunities for artisans in developing countries to earn a living through their craft.

Since the creation of Ten Thousand Villages, numerous ethical clothing and accessory lines have popped up internationally. These include People Tree, Raven + Lily, Mamafrica Designs and North Carolina’s very own Symbology, founded by UNC-Chapel Hill alum Marissa Heyl.

“We all know that you are what you eat,” said Heyl. “How about you are what you wear. From the cotton farmers to the weavers, the printers and seamstresses--there are hundreds of people involved in making the shirt you have on right now.”

Heyl founded Symbology in 2012 to fuse artisan textiles from developing countries with fashion forward designs--or as she puts it, to make fair trade sexy. She collaborates one-on-one with women artisans in India to create chic designs that are rooted in traditional arts. The company is based out of Raleigh, North Carolina. To learn more about the company and browse the collections, visit

Carolina Collection Coupon  

Forever a Tar Heel, Heyl has designed a Carolina-worthy collection of including everything from game gear to lounge wear. Enter the coupon code GOHEELS at checkout at to receive 20% off your entire purchase!