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Care What You Wear

Fairwashed: Madewell’s Fair Trade Denim

“Fair Trade Denim” but Without Fair Trade Cotton

Fair Trade Denim. It sounds good, right? The press certainly thought so when J. Crew and Madewell launched their collections earlier this year. But, behind the buzz, what does it mean? Unfortunately, not as much as you think.

When you see this Madewell ad, it’s likely that you assume that the phrase “Fair Trade Denim Jeans” means that those jeans are made out of denim that meets some sort of fair trade standard, right? But Madewell and their parent company J. Crew are leading you on. The fair trade label they’re using just skims the surface of the complex fashion supply chain and only applies to the final stage of production. In an industry known for low prices and struggles for cotton farmers and deadly conditions for the workers who process the fibers into thread, Fair Trade USA has chosen to focus on just the factory where the items are cut and sewn into finished garments. That hardly seems fair.