New York-based Project Just is hoping to change the way shoppers think about where their items came from, with the founder saying more and more people care about ethical fashion.
The site was founded by Natalie Grillon and Shahd AlShehail, who met in 2013 as global fellows at Acumen, a non-profit impact investing fund.
Grillon had worked for a cotton company in Uganda that implemented an organic and fair-trade cotton-farming programme and AlShehail had co-founded a Saudi Arabian fashion house.
Soon after they started formulating plans for Project Just, the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh brought fashion workers’ conditions to the forefront of people’s minds.
Project Just aims to build a community to help shoppers learn the stories behind their clothes.
The website, launched last year, features brand profiles researched by ethical, social and environmental factors.
Its Just Approved section is a series of guides to help users discover the best fashion companies and brands to shop with.
Grillon says the aim is to have as much transparency to the fashion industry as possible.
“Our Just Approved lists represent a seal of approval for the fashion industry, indicating to shoppers the best brands to shop in with their ethics and values.”
Since December, more than 75 brands have been added to the site, which has clocked up more than 50,000 user visits.
A crowd funding campaign launched last week has already raised 77 percent of the total goal of $30,000.
The aim of the campaign is to add 100 additional brands to the directory and release 12 more Just Approved guides.
Grillon says real change happens through the accumulation of small choices people make every day.
“As shoppers we can all vote with our wallets and shift demand towards positive moves and practices in the industry.
“We are committed to fostering transparency and to growing a community of shoppers, brands and retailers who can positively exercise their knowledge, ultimately, championing the farmer or worker at the bottom of the supply chain.”
The most important shift for shoppers is the need to think consciously about what they are buying, Grillon says.
And people’s perceptions of the fashion industry are changing.
Grillon says a growing number of people are becoming aware of the issues in the supply chain, thanks to campaigns like Fashion Revolution – an international movement for shoppers to ask brands “who made my clothes”.
“You see a resurgence in both shopping and wearing vintage, and an expanding cultural norm to express individuality through dress.
“We hope this means a move away from trend-focused shopping behaviour, where you buy for a few wears and discard.”
American clothing range Reformation released a measurement of the impact of each item they produced.
The introduction of the measurement, called the REFscale, is an exciting change from Grillon’s point-of-view.
“It was the first time a popular brand in the US had valued an apparel item based on its impact, and not just its price.
“It was also and indication that they think their consumer wants to know and cares.”
International giant H&M, which will open its first New Zealand store in Auckland later this year, started a recycling campaign – a seismic shift for such a massive company, Grillon says.
“It generated a really great conversation in the community and the media. The more coverage the fashion industry and ethical fashion gets, the better.”