Sunday, May 03, 2015
Text Size

What is inequality? 

It's the fact that you can fill your closet with $4 t-shirts from any fast fashion outlet, while the
men and women in developing countries working hard to produce apparel for US-based
retailers are paid less than a living wage, forbidden from unionizing, and forced to work in
unsanitary and unsafe conditions. 
It's the fact that you can purchase a $4.00 cup of coffee (in a disposable cup) from the corner
coffee shop every single day without thinking about the farmer who labored to nurture the
coffee plants, pick the cherries, and dry the beans that ultimately were roasted, ground, and
steeped into your cup. 
It's the fact that, when your spouse got down on his knee and asked you to marry him, it
didn't even cross your mind that the diamond he gave to you was likely mined by a forced
laborer or a victim of trafficking. 
Chicago Fair Trade works every day to change this unequal system. Through targeted
consumer campaigns, outreach to student and religious groups, and political action, we build
awareness of an alternative way to do business and purchase products. Accessibility to fair
trade products has increased in Chicago in the last several years and the city has become a
hub for fair trade start-ups. We are proud that so many Chicagoans make an effort to
purchase products that carry a story - one of economic empowerment, equality, and upward
Before you buy something, ask yourself: Did the production of this product empower the
person who made it, or knock them further down the ladder? This one simple question can
change the world. 
Pssst: If you're in Chicago, come celebrate a major victory with us: Chicago was recently
named a Sweatfree City! We're celebrating with mingling, light appetizers, fair trade wine,
localcraft beer, and a chance to shop for fair trade products! For more details, please
click here.We'd love to see you there!

This blog is part of Blog Action Day 2014. Founded in 2007, Blog Action Day brings together
bloggers from different countries, interests, and languages to blog about one important
global topic on the same day. This year's topic is inequality. To learn more about Blog
Action Day and see participating blogs, please click here
Tags , , , , , , ,

To celebrate the passage of the Sweatfree Ordinance this summer, we created this cool 
infographic to spread the word and educate Chicagoans about what it means to be a 
Sweatfree City. Please share it far & wide! If you would like a copy of the image to share, 
please email Katherine Bissell Cordova at #CHIsweatfree

And come celebrate with us at Greenheart Shop on Thursday, October 16th! 

CHIFAIRTRADE infographic

Tags , , , , ,

Last month, CFT welcomed three new business members. Read more about 
them here...
La Pucara founder Colleen Graneto designs one of a kind jewelry handcrafted
from sustainably harvested seeds from the Amazon Rainforest.  La Pucara
Collections was established in 2011 to connect the fashionable women
who wear their jewelry with artisans in Ecuador, provide inspiration for
a better, more fair world, and to share the beauty of the rainforest and
Andes mountains.
little traveler
The Little Traveler has been a landmark of the Geneva, IL shopping
district since 1922, bringing treasures from around the world to this
large historic Victorian home.  In April 2014 they opened a Fair Trade
Gallery to offer fair trade products and educate consumers on fair trade
production mode med-logo
Production Mode's main goal is to promote transparency and
consciousness of the labor and environmental impacts of the garment
industry.  Each of designer Jamie Hayes high quality, limited edition,
artisanal fashion collections is sold prior to manufacture, which means
there is little to no waste ecologically or financially and all suppliers and
contractors are paid a living wage.
Tags , , ,

Mitla Moda is an e-shop dedicated to direct, fair trade that gives back to the artisan
communities. They are committed to sharing the beautiful artisan traditions of Mexico
in a method that assists the artisans in sustaining these traditions. Each purchase
helps to further their mission of reinvesting all profits back into the artisan
communities in Oaxaca and Chiapas that make and design each item of their carefully
curated collection. You can read more about Mitla Moda on their website, and follow 
along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.



Hi everyone! Thanks for having me here today! I’m Dusana and I’m the founder & CEO,
marketing and general manager, stylist, photographer, and even impromptu model of
Mitla Moda. That’s the joy of being a very small small business – I get to wear a
dozen different hats on any given day and do things that may have initially
embarrassed me (like being my own product model), and things that initially terrified
me (like speaking to strangers about my business). Of course though, being a small
business owner means that you have to put your fears behind you, and just go for it. 

From 2010 to 2011, I was so fortunate to live in Mexico through a grant program,
and took advantage of every holiday and long weekend I could to travel around
Mexico by bus. I fell in love with so many different types of artisan goods – from
embroidered tops to beautiful textiles to elaborate bead work; and this planted a spark
in my mind. I was saddened to see people at artisan markets attempting to bargain
down elaborate, handmade items to the price of mass produced goods, not taking into
account the time and detail the artisan spent carefully crafting the item, or how much a
fair price truly affected their livelihoods. This prompted me to sign up for an entrepreneurship
class at the Mexican university I was attending at the time, and I began brainstorming and
doing market research for my fair trade shop that would give back to artisan communities.

I created and presented my business plan to the class, in Spanish, and was grilled
harshly by my professors on certain details. I vividly remember leaving that room quickly,
holding back tears. And, while that’s embarrassing to admit, I love the reminder to not let
little things like that hold us back from projects we’re passionate about. It’s never easy
starting a small business, and even less so since many, like us, start out on small budgets
that can make building brand recognition a bit of a slower process, but it’s been an amazing
journey, and extremely humbling to receive so much positive support for Mitla Moda (like
the opportunity to share with you all here).


I still can’t say that I’ve met my goal to make a significant contribution to bettering the
lives of artisan communities and sustaining their work; that will take many more years of
hard work. For the time being though, I'm happy to be able to spread the word about the
importance of fair trade and to share some of the beautiful traditions of Mexico. I'm thrilled
that my first collection was well-received by such a supportive fair trade community, and to
be able to make my very first trip back to Mexico since fully opening Mitla Moda in 2012. I’m
writing this from Mexico right now, where I spent the most wonderful day getting to know an
artisan family – the Sosa sisters, and learning about the beautiful work they do. The three sisters
have a cooperative in the Oaxacan countryside, where they work together to create beautiful
woven tapestries by hand. They complete the entire process themselves, first turning the wool
to make their own yarn, dyeing it with natural materials, sketching the different designs on a
notebook they share, and then beginning the patterns on their looms. They shared with me how
their aunt taught them how to use the looms, and how they began with simple, solid colors,
telling us that they improve their skills each day. They take great pride in their work, and
explained to us the importance of the small details, such as using a narrow weave for items
such as coasters and wallets, so that they never cut the tapestry and lasts for many years
to come. The attention to detail and the pride that artisans have in their work inspires me to
keep going, and I'm proud to support fair, direct trade that helps sustain the eco-friendly,
non-factory-made Mexican artisan goods. And, I can’t wait to share the beautiful new
collections I’ll be stocking the shop with in the upcoming weeks!

Thanks again for having me, Chicago Fair trade!  


Tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jamie Hayes is a fashion designer and member of Chicago Fair Trade. Her line,
Production Mode, will launch in late summer with a line of ethically made hand-
printed vegetable tanned leather jackets and accessories. Learn more at and You can follow her brand
on Facebook here and Instagram here



As the owner and designer of a fledgling fashion line, I think often about how I can
work to change the fashion industry so that preventable tragedies like the Rana
Plaza factory collapse never happen again. As a small manufacturer, I can visit
and vet the facilities where my line is cut and sewn, and I can choose to support
contractors and suppliers who are manufacturing ethically rather than patronizing
sweatshops. Alternately, I can choose to manufacture in-house so that I know
exactly how much cutters and stitchers are paid, and to insure that work is not
subcontracted out at an unethical wage. Making these choices certainly helps me
to sleep better at night. However, I wish I could do more, but as a small designer,
I lack the financial leverage to pressure contractors to pay cutters and stitchers
fair wages. Likewise, as a consumer, I can avoid brands that use sweatshop labor
and instead purchase clothing from ethical brands or buy vintage and thrift items,
but the loss of my disposable income alone is not enough to cause big brands like
Walmart, Gap, etc, to monitor contractors and ensure that workers are paid a fair
wage, that no child labor is employed, and that workers labor in a healthy and safe

While I believe that our individual choices are extremely important, clearly we can
do more to create change when we organize as a group to amplify our voices. So
today I’m highlighting several exciting and oftentimes unexpected groups who are
banding together to organize across the globalized garment industry.

Chicago Fair Trade leads the Chicago Sweatfree Communities campaign


Jamie Hayes speaks at a press conference launching CFT's Sweatfree Chicago campaign in May 2014.
Jamie Hayes speaks at a press conference launching CFT's Sweatfree Chicago campaign in May 2014.

The Sweatfree Communities campaign began in 2003 after grassroots organizations
in several different states won groundbreaking campaigns to change the way that
cities and states use our tax dollars for procurement. These campaigns fought to
ensure that uniforms and other garments purchased by government bodies were no
longer made in sweatshops. Here in Chicago, Chicago Fair Trade has been leading
the push for the passage of a Sweatfree ordinance in the City of Chicago. We’ve
had great success so far--the ordinance was introduced by Alderman Ameya Pawar
at the May City Council meeting and is currently under review (for more information
on the Chicago campaign, click

It’s exciting to see this campaign take shape here in Chicago, because the campaign
merges of the strengths of labor movement and the fair trade movement. Historically,
the labor movement has focused on organizing workers, while Fair Trade movements
have focused more on the organizing of consumers; the Chicago Sweatfree
Communities campaign focuses on and links both groups together--all the more
important now that more than 95% of our garments are made abroad, often in
countries with the weakest and most poorly monitored and enforced labor, health, and
safety laws. In fact, when United Students Against Sweatshops hosted survivors of
the Rana Plaza collapse here in Chicago, Chicago Fair Trade arranged for a
Bangladeshi worker and labor leader to meet with members of the Mayor’s Office
in order to raise awareness of the wage and safety abuses rampant in the garment

In addition, historically, Fair Trade has promoted artisanal, small-scale production,
while the labor movement has focused on large-scale factory settings. Here again,
the Sweatfree Communities campaign is building bridges across the the two
movements. In choosing to lead a Sweatfree Communities campaign, Chicago Fair
Trade recognizes that we need a broad range of tools in our tool kit. Certain goods,
such as uniforms, are not and will never realistically be made in small-scale, artisanal
workshops. Instead they are made in factories. It’s important that we, as consumers
and tax payers who tax dollars fund our cities’ large-scale procurement contracts,
support the workers who labor to produce our clothing in factories as well as in
small-scale workshops. Campaigns such as Sweatfree Communities give us the
opportunity to band together in order to create a sea change in the industry. In a
Sweatfree Community, in order to win city contracts, vendors must make their supply
chains transparent. All the links in the supply chain are then inspected. If any link in
the chain is not yet sweatfree, then vendors are given a list of recommendations to
correct any issues, and ample time to implement changes.  If they choose to not
comply, then the vendor loses the lucrative contract.


Bangladeshi garment worker and Rana Plaza collapse survivor Aklima Khanam (middle right) and 
Aleya Akter (middle left), General Secretary of the Bangladeshi Garment and Industrial Workers 
Federation, met with CFT members and city leaders during the spring of 2014. 

The Model Alliance Teams up with Bangladeshi Garment Workers and Retail
Workers in the US

In the September of 2013, members of the Model Alliance, an advocacy organization
for models, and members of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity organized
together to interrupt Nautica’s Spring 2014 runway show, in protest of Nautica’s
failure to sign a factory safety accord to protect the health and safety of Bangladeshi
garment workers. While at first glance, models and garment workers seem a world
apart, both industries are staffed primarily by young women, in fact, often under the
legal working age. Both groups are denied many basic labor rights, and often suffer
from discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace.  

In addition, the Model Alliance has recently collaborated with the Retail Action Project,
an organization of US retail workers that fights the low wages and scheduling abuses
so prevalent in multinational retail chains. Together, the two groups have organized
events to draw attention to the impacts of fashion fashion on retail workers and


(For an in-depth look at these exciting new campaigns connecting models, garment
workers, and retail salespeople, read Annemarie Strassel’s article
Work It! The New
Face of Labor and Fashion
, published in the Spring 2014 issue of Dissent.)



It’s an exciting time for activism in the garment industry, and not a moment too soon
if we wish to prevent future tragedies like the Rana Plaza factory collapse. New
movements are expanding our definition of garment workers to include not only
cutters and stitchers who labor overseas but also the models, unpaid interns, and
retail salespeople in the US. Fair trade activists are linking up with labor activists
to connect consumers in the US with garment workers overseas. Pressure is being
placed on US-based brands to monitor their supply chains overseas and no longer
shirk responsibilities for workers’ rights at their contractors, or the rights of frontline
workers here at home.



This post is part of our Voices of Ethical Fashion series. Once a week for six 
weeks, we will 
feature stories from people involved in the ethical fashion movement, 
from designers, 
to entrepreneurs, to consumers. In a post-Rana Plaza world, we 
continue to encourage consumers 
to find out as much as possible about where your 
clothes are made and who made them.


Tags , , , , , , , , , , ,

Anna, who writes the blog October Rebel, lives in the Carolinas and enjoys nature
& art. Sometimes she wishes it could 
be autumn all year long, hence he name of
her blog. You can find her on Blogger
Twitter, and Tumblr


OR photo 1

Hello! I'm Anna, and I blog over at October Rebel

When I can, I try to incorporate fair trade, second-hand and vintage into my wardrobe.
I love getting the most out of my clothes, so I'm always thinking of different ways of
wearing the same thing. One of the most useful wardrobe items for summer is a
breezy sundress. I love this one by Liz Alig, made by Global Mamas in Ghana, and
purchased online through
 Greenheart Shop (ed. note: a CFT member!). It's a pleated
fit-and-flare ladder-back dress made from a recycled flour sack! I'd like to share three
ways I wear it.

OR photo 2

Here's a casual way of wearing this sundress. I might wear this to the library or to run
errands. No matter how hot it is during the summer, I always get cold in the grocery
store or air-conditioned buildings, so I styled this dress with a thrifted denim jacket.
The screen print messenger bag comes courtesy of Malia Designs (ed. note: also a
CFT member!)

OR photo 3

For a picnic, hike, or other outdoor summer excursion, I'll add a straw hat and large
pair of sunnies (remembering to wear lots of sunscreen too)!

OR photo 4

Although this sundress is perfect for summer - I've worn it in more wintery weather
too! Last year, I dressed it up with tights and a tweed jacket to go out to dinner. A
sundress doesn't always have to sit in the closet all fall and winter.

If the flared silhouette and flour-sack goodness is not quite your style - any basic sun
dress will suffice, and fortunately there are so many great fair trade options right now.
I hope this sparks some ideas!




This post is part of our Voices of Ethical Fashion series. Once a week for six
weeks, we will 
feature stories from people involved in the ethical fashion movement,
from designers, 
to entrepreneurs, to consumers. In a post-Rana Plaza world, we
continue to encourage consumers 
to find out as much as possible about where your
clothes are made and who made them.

Tags , , , , , , , , , , ,

STF photo 3

Stop Traffick Fashion, a Bend, Oregon-based fashion brand, provides opportunities and hope for survivors of human trafficking while offering a unique line of clothing and accessories. Find STF on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Pinterest, or visit their website and online shop here.


Stop Traffick Fashion provides opportunities and hope for survivors of human trafficking. Survivors and those at-risk of human trafficking make all of our products and are paid a fair wage for their work. This empowers them to create a sustainable income and live a free, happy life. In addition, a portion of all sales revenue is donated back to organizations that rescue victims and provide rehabilitation and training for victims of human trafficking. Our bags, t-shirts, and jewelry are produced around the world, including Cambodia, India, and Thailand.

STF photo 2

In addition to empowering survivors of human trafficking, STF empowers consumers. It can be overwhelming to hear that an estimated 27 million people are victims of human trafficking around the world, but we’re convinced that everyday people can fight huge problems—one small step at a time. And purchasing power is one of the greatest resources consumers have to create change. While many supply chains are filled with hurt and harm, ours is brimming with hope and help.

We partner with organizations around the world who are working hands on to provide rehabilitation and job skills training for women. Our curated selection of fashionable products helps grow the market and increase employment opportunities that empower women. Jobs are critical to the fight against human trafficking: they give a sense of dignity and confidence, and they provide resources so that women and their families aren’t at risk of being trafficked again.

STF photo 4

One of the women who makes our products, 18-year-old Srey, has lived at Hagar for almost two years, receiving shelter, clothes, food, counseling and skills training. Srey has blossomed from a shy, scared girl to a courageous problem-solver. She enjoys her new skill of tailoring clothes and is even looking for an additional part-time job on the weekends so she can keep improving her skills. She is saving money to open her own tailoring shop someday.

When you shop with STF, you’re helping someone (like Srey!) make a fresh, free start in life — and freedom is a beautiful thing.



This post is part of our Voices of Ethical Fashion series. Once a week for six weeks, we will feature stories from people involved in the ethical fashion movement, from designers, to entrepreneurs, to consumers. In a post-Rana Plaza world, we continue to encourage consumers to find out as much as possible about where your clothes are made and who made them.


Tags , , , , , , , ,


Transitions at CFT

Since Chicago Fair Trade's (CFT) inception, Executive Director Nancy Jones has been instrumental to building CFT as the vehicle to passionately teach others about the people behind our products and growing the Fair Trade movement in Metropolitan Chicago.

Nancy's relentless spirit and vivacious drive to share the message of Fair Trade has been nothing short of amazing. With a background in community organizing, Nancy brought in many talents and gifts to CFT to help build our mission and vision for a more just world and growing conscious consumers. With Nancy at the helm, CFT led the campaign to declare Chicago a Fair Trade City, and we have expanded our network to over 70 organizational members that include businesses, community organizations, faith-based institutions, universities and schools.

After nine years of hard work and dedication to Chicago Fair Trade, Nancy Jones will officially step down as Director in June of this year. From our annual Globalfest benefit, World Fair Trade Day at Daley Plaza, the Sweat-free campaign, and the many other activities we hold annually, Nancy's worthwhile efforts will continue. To advance our commitment for global social justice, Katherine Bissell Cordova will be appointed Executive Director of Chicago Fair Trade as of June 1,2014.

Katherine has an extensive background working for social justice for over 20 years. Her experiences include providing direct services to torture survivors at the Marjorie Kovler Center for the Treatment of Survivors of Torture, working as human rights defender in Guatemala with Peace Brigades International, and opening a field office for a social enterprise, Greenwood Alliance, in Honduras. She also served as Executive Director of ARISE, where she partnered with low-wage workers organizing to improve working conditions in Chicago. Katherine's journey to Chicago Fair Trade started in 2007, when Katherine was hired by Greenheart to open a Fair Trade store in Chicago. She served as CFT's Board Co-Chair from 2011-2013 and will now be leading Chicago Fair Trade as the Executive Director.

Please help us to welcome Katherine as she takes on her new role as Executive Director for Chicago Fair Trade!



Joann Arellano
CFT Co-Chair


Shelly Ruzicka
CFT Co-Chair

  Who Made Your Clothes?

Daley Plaza apparel installation or the "brands smack down" helped to bring awareness of the differences for workers who produce fair trade garments and those who produce mainstream brands.  It was part of the two day festival that offered a fair trade marketplace and an opportunity to learn about the benefits of fair trade for sustaining the planet.  The event also raised awareness of Chicago Fair Trade's sweatfree campaign. An ordinance will be introduced in Chicago's City Council May 28th.  Alderman Ameya Pawar was on hand for the live broadcast of Worldview to explain what this ordinance would do in garanteeing that our tax dollars won't support sweatshops.


Listen to Worldview live broadcast!




On May 7th, 2014 I woke up bright and early, hopped on the El, and made
my way to the Daley Plaza. There I found some of my coworkers, friends from Chicago
Fair Trade, and many Fair Trade enthusiast and venders. It was World Fair Trade Day
and we were preparing for a two day festival complete with a fashion installation, radio
show, Fair Trade education, a Fair Trade marketplace, a Fair Trade activist dressed as
Godzilla, and a drum circle.

            I am relatively new to the Fair Trade movement. I have supported Fair Trade
for years, but I have only very recently started my job as an intern working to promote
Fair Trade in the Archdiocese of Chicago. The Chicago Fair Trade, two day, World Fair
Trade Day festival was my first big event working for Fair Trade and I was nervous. Daley
Plaza is just a few blocks away from State Street and Michigan Avenue, two large, corporate,
shopping hotspots. What if people question my ideals? What if I get nervous and tongue
tied and confuse people even more? I was already noticing the questioning looks people
were giving us as we carried mannequins across Washington Street.

            During the two days we spent at the Plaza, however, we met people of all ages,
with different backgrounds, from different parts of the world, who live different lifestyles…
but we were all together, learning. Some people knew all about Fair Trade, others had no
idea. It was truly a great opportunity for discussion and education. By the end of the two
days I can happily and confidently say that we all learned something new, met someone
new, and grew deeper in the human community, whether it was by connecting or networking
with Fair Trade enthusiast or purchasing a Fair Trade product from our brothers and sisters
around the world. 2014 World Fair Trade Day in the Daley Plaza was a success.    


- Kayla Jacobs

Intern at Office for Peace & Justice, Archdiocese of Chicago

Run For Change


Registration is open for the 2015 Bank of American Chicago Marathon, and, as in years past, we have our own fundraising team! We have 10 guaranteed spots, and they're bound to go fast. Commit to raise money to fund CFT's important work, and sign up to run the marathon with our team, Register here

Join the Climate Ride

We are thrilled and honored that Chicago Fair Trade has been named a beneficiary of the Midwest Climate Ride! The ride begins September 27th in Grand Rapids, MI, and will end with a celebration at Chicago's Grant Park September 30th
Want to learn more? click
Interested in riding? click
Interested in donating? click





637 S. Dearborn 3rd fl. Chicago, IL 60605 | 312-212-1760 |