Black Friday is just a week away.  That’s the day when many retail operations finally make it into the black for the year as our culture goes into a shopping frenzy.  At least that’s how it used to work.  Perhaps the economic downturn is sobering shoppers just a bit.

...Does the shopping season seem to be looming a bit more than usual this year? (photo credit )

If you have people you want to or have to give a gift to this winter, why not give them something green?

This is the first of  several  posts  on green giving.  There are businesses out there trying to make a difference as well as a profit.

I’d like to share some of my favorite parts of the forest for holiday hunting and gathering.  Here is one at the top of my list.


I learned about them in 2007 when, I got a writing assignment from a Wisconsin magazine to cover a new business opening here with a retail store  and an online catalog. The more I learned, the more I liked about this organization.  I hoped they would make it.

They are still going strong.

If you like to give or get clothing at Christmas, check out Fair Indigo

This excerpted from the article I wrote as they were getting started:

Clothing with a Conscience

“Behind every stitch, there’s a story,” says the Fair Indigo clothing catalog. For many garments in the retail world, those stories are grim tales of sweatshops and child labor. But a new Wisconsin-based company called Fair Indigo is making sure that their clothing has nothing to hide.

Coffee drinkers are familiar with fair trade labels, which guarantee a living wage to those who grow the beans. Fair Indigo co-founders Bill Bass, Rob Behnke Don Hughes, and Elizabeth Ragone—all of them Lands’ End alumni—are expanding the fair trade concept to provide “style with a conscience,” as their slogan says.

Their first task was to find apparel factories that could meet their standards.

“We all came out of the apparel industry and we knew there were some good factories, so we started there,” explains Bass. “Certain names started popping up, and those were our first candidates.”

Working with factories around the world, they began the demanding process of on-site inspections and interviews that included loitering in bars near the factories to hear what employees say when the boss isn’t listening.

...This baby clothes business in Peru was started 5 years ago by a woman with a single knitting machine. Today she has 6 machines and has brought 8 workers into her cooperative. Her things are available thorugh Fair Indigo.

“That’s when you get the real story about what’s going on,” Bass says. “Our auditor does unannounced inspections throughout the year, and we are always there when they are actually producing our clothes. We guarantee to our customers that they can feel good about the clothes they are wearing—and we have to ensure that it’s true.”

Ragone designs Fair Indigo clothes to make fair trade fashions not only easy on the conscience but also on the eye. “The main thing that has been out there in fair trade clothing is a lot of ponchos,” she says. “My goal is to take fair trade off the fringe of casual-casual wear into a smart-looking woman’s wardrobe. We want to provide clothes for a range of activities, from attending your kid’s soccer game to a quick trip to the grocery store or lunch out—clothes you can easily dress up or down. Fair Indigo clothes are refined, but they are not overly designed.

“The term ‘fair trade clothes’ doesn’t trip off the tongue yet,” Ragone admits, “but that tipping point is very close to happening. Once people are educated about fair trade, they want to do the right thing. We just have to make it easy for them.”

Their website provides not just shopping but an education in the need for and promise of fair trade.

Check it out before you start fighting your way through the clothing racks and stacks at your local mall.

Got any holiday shopping tips you want to share?

5 replies

  1. We have almost entirely quit holiday giving, except for homemade things as we have time. It’s great to know that there are a few places out there like these with gift ideas.

    • I like homemade presents very much. Last year, my daughter made aprons for every member of the family, personalized for them. Aprons really come in handy for a person who likes to cook and stirs with gusto like I do.
      Do you have a special thing you like to make for presents?

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