David Jacoby, a partner with Schiff Hardin LLP, a law firm in New York, says that because there are no uniform standards of what fair trade is and isn’t, and because the United States lacks a certifying body when it comes to apparel, there are likely to be some issues relating to independent monitoring of category conditions. (Certifying institutions for commodities in the United States and abroad look at conditions country by country. A living wage in Guatemala is different from a living wage in China. Fair Indigo has been working with the University of Wisconsin to develop a living-wage calculator that would help businesses determine what workers abroad should be paid.) Jacoby believes that eventually the apparel category will be “significant.”
Significant appeal is possible, because interest in fair trade is widespread. Bass says that in Fair Indigo’s first 30 days of business, it had sales to all 50 states, and not just to the urban areas. In Alaska, orders came from 20 different cities. In Alabama, they came from 30 different cities.
“This is not just a passing phase. When you look at the food industry and you see how far they’ve come, you can see it will happen with textile and apparel, just slowly,” says Connie Ulasewicz, coauthor of Sustainable Fashion: Why Now, which will be published next year.
Adds Bass: “If people can get clothes with a comparable style, quality, and price, made by people who are treated fairly, that is a concept that resonates broadly.”