On Saturday, July 29th, Free the Slaves, an international non-profit, and Bead & Reel, an ethical apparel curator, co-hosted the Third Annual Fair Trade Fashion Show at the CTRL Collective in Downtown, Los Angeles.
The goal: spread awareness, inspire action, and raise funds to end corruption in the fashion industry. The evening featured Fair Trade clothing and accessory vendors, plant-based bites, an EcoSessions panel, and the much-anticipated fashion show. Models representing a range of women’s body types confidently strutted down the runway, showcasing the casual, business, and nightlife trends of the season. This stunning parade of fabrics successfully demonstrated the Fair Trade options for every style, occasion, and price point.
Fair Trade clothing tends to be associated with scratchy, unflattering, hemp-like material; however, the looks curated by Bead & Reel proved these assumptions wrong. Sexy faux leathers, cool and comfy cottons, and sleek satins graced the runway, all representing both style and superior quality. A pop-up “Shop the Runway” collection was available onsite, so the audience could feel the materials that went into each piece and ensure its durability and comfort.
In regard to design, the show incorporated both trending and classic pieces for almost every body type and style preference. Large, bold prints were prominent in the dresses, tops, and skirts. The prints paired well with solid colors, but were also surprisingly flattering when matched with other contrasting prints in a top/skirt combination. For a casual, breezy summer look, the Hibiscus 2-in-1 Tie Maxi is perfect (pictured above). The black floral print against the dark peach dress makes this item pop, and the tasteful ribcage cutout and leg slit will surely turn heads while keeping you cool and confident. For a more professional look, the Kimono Jacket ($95) looks trendy yet effortless over a solid-colored camisole and dark slacks. Other notable trends included high-waisted pants and skirts, billowy trousers, and midriff-revealing crop tops.
The classic styles were just as stunning. From basic tanks and tees to office-appropriate attire, there was a look for anyone who may be intimidated by bolder fashion choices. The Millie Tank ($46) in mustard yellow is simple yet flattering and can be worn for the everyday with a pair of skinny jeans and Fair Trade vegan wedges. For the modern professional, the Monika Color Block Dress in black in white is office appropriate while accentuating the natural waist and feminine curves (pictured above).
Perhaps most impressive, the cocktail wear truly shattered stereotypes against Fair Trade clothing. From an edgy forest green vegan leather bustier (pictured above – $309), to an intricately embroidered high-low dress ($534), these fashions wowed the audience. The classic LBD ($134) and a figure-flattering black body suit ($67) with a plunging v-neck rounded out the brilliant ensembles made for a night on the town.
In addition to overcoming the negative perceptions on Fair Trade style, the event also disproved the assumption that Fair Trade apparel is only for the elite – and their wallets. Many of the brands offered several pieces under $100, which is comparable to – and often less than – popular department and retail store prices. Fair Trade apparel is accessible to almost every budget; the ability to practice conscious consumerism should not be a privilege reserved for the wealthy. Everyone can look and feel beautiful by purchasing ethically sourced and compassionately produced items.
The Fair Trade Fashion Show did not disappoint. It combined education, activism, and entertainment into a truly successful fundraising event. Far surpassing its goal of $20,000, the evening raised over $31,000 to support Free the Slaves in its mission to end human trafficking tied to the fashion and apparel industries.
To contribute to this necessary movement and find an amazing outfit to match your style, you can browse through every item in the show – including the accessories – via Bead & Reel’s “Shop the Runway” page. Purchase one of the signature handbags or statement-making dresses for yourself, and when someone compliments you on it, take the opportunity to inform them about the importance of Fair Trade. As panelist Hoda Katebi reminded the attendees, “We can’t buy a revolution. We have to be active and take part.” Now that Fair Trade is more accessible than ever, we can all take part and feel confident and gorgeous in doing so.
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