As you begin to shop like a conscious consumer, you'll notice a common theme among the brand stories, they all start with the founder(s) waking up to injustice and wanting to find a way to fix it. The Tote Project is no exception. This best friend duo bonded over their shared heart for fighting human trafficking and wanting to find a way to do more. Let's sit down with Fay & Michelle and learn more.
Founded by Fay Grant and Michelle Chavez, The Tote Project sells fair trade products sewn by women in India who have chosen to leave the sex trade industry and journey into a life of freedom. In addition to job provision, the duo donate 20% of their profits to an organization that helps survivors of human trafficking in the United States pursue their dreams.
What excites or intrigues you most about the ethical fashion movement?
We are excited about the ethical fashion movement because we are so empowered by it! Far too often when you hear about huge issues like global poverty it's overwhelming -- it can seem impossible to make a real difference. In this case, when you buy a dress from an artisan in Guatemala, or a tote from a human trafficking survivor in India, you are directly improving someone's life.
What was the catalyst that led you to start your venture?
The Tote Project was born from a lot of hope, a wild idea, and two best friends who were determined to make a difference. At the very start of our friendship we discovered that we shared the same passion for helping sex trafficking survivors, and had spent time doing volunteer work and raising funds to help victims. After a few years of feeling like we weren’t making a big enough impact with our individual efforts, we put our heads together and came up with the idea for The Tote Project. We wanted to provide people with a conversation starter that was fashionable and easy to tote around, and now we have an effective way to empower survivors of human trafficking worldwide while simultaneously equipping our customers with the tools they need to identify and safely respond to victims.
Where do you feel is the biggest need to push the ethical fashion movement forward?
It's hard to imagine completely getting rid of the demand for fast fashion because when it comes down to it, the average American doesn't have the budget to invest in slow fashion. Looking at it from an economics standpoint, if the demand won't change we should focus efforts on the supply. We need government policy that successfully bans companies from manufacturing in sweatshops and using slave labor. Our biggest need is to hold clothing manufacturers accountable and get rid of the loopholes that allow these atrocities to go on.
What is the most important thing to look for when shopping ethical?
When shopping ethical, look for brands that are working to empower people and uplift communities, and who proudly advertise a transparent supply chain. Before making impulsive purchases, do your research. Is the company you’re about to support positively or negatively impacting the lives of the people making their products? Do they use slave labor or do they value and respect their workers? Are they environmentally friendly? To shop ethical, you have to consider every aspect of how a company functions, and decide whether you want to support their practices with your purchase.
What conscious brands do you love to wear?
There's so many amazing ethical brands these days it's hard to just pick a few! Some of our favorites are YSTR, Junim Los Angeles, Symbology, Synergy Clothing, and Citizen & Darling.
Fun fact! The Tote Project just dropped their latest collection. Be sure to head over and grab their latest designs so you can be Free to Dream, Free to Bloom, and Free to Soar! To get to know more of the founders behind these influential ethical fashion brands, subscribe to our emails.