As a child of the 80s, I grew up with the Victoria's Secret brand as a household name. It had a way of appealing to me and my friends at almost every stage of our development and at some of the most impressionable times of our lives.
I stared obsessively at VS catalogues, carefully selecting each item I thought I needed, gradually narrowing it down to just one or two. Maybe I could afford them when I got my next meager paycheck, but by then, I was usually on to the next catalogue with a whole new set of favorites.
And the VS Semi-Annual Sale? It was practically on my calendar. The irony of it was that as much as I was "saving" on those precious items, they were so impractical that they ended up shoved into the back of my underwear drawer, worn only a handful of times before I discarded them to the Goodwill bag.
I've considered the environmental, human, and social impacts of shopping at retailers such as VS, and believe me, it's anything but pretty or pink. What I found out about the conditions of the VS suppliers and factories is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to American "fast fashion retailers". Child labor and slave-like conditions in sweatshops are not a thing of the past -- they are very much issues of today.
Above: Clarisse, 13 at the time these photos were taken, is a child worker on a "Fair Trade" organic cotton farm in Burkina Faso, West Africa. Bloomberg traced her cotton to millions of pieces of VS clothing. She works more than 12 hours a day and "...has to dig a plot the length of four football fields by hand with nothing more than her muscle and a hoe," Bloomberg News reporter Cam Simpson told Here & Now's Robin Young.
She delivers the cotton (about a mile, on foot, with over three times the volume of a bushel and doesn't get fed) across the street from the school from which she was taken out of to work the fields.
I mean, seriously?
VS has also been linked to slave like conditions in sweatshops in Jordan.
Now in my 30s, I'm looking for something more. I want something practical, comfortable, and, most importantly, something ethical. In my search for just that, I found more than a few brands I can get on board with.
Naja is a women owned lingerie company that employs single mothers or female heads of households. They pay above market wages with healthcare benefits and also pays for books, school supplies, uniforms, and all school meals for all the children of Naja Garment workers so these families can actually get ahead. Additionally, they are partnered with Underwear for Hope, who employs women in the slums of Colombia to make the thoughtful liner bags that are included with each purchase.
Between the Sheets is a wife and husband owned lingerie company based out of New York City. They practice radical transparency and also strive for the triple bottom line. A complete glossary can be found on their website about the origin and sustainability of each line of lingerie here.
Here are a few other lingerie makers I found that are producing ethical, slave labor free garments:
On The Inside Lingerie (handmade in Asheville, North Carolina!)
Check them out and see which one works for your style and taste!
A little research goes a long way, and a good rule of thumb is if the fashion "deal" seems too good to be true, it probably is. Shopping USA Made guarantees that your purchase's carbon footprint is smaller, the workers are paid fairly and work in humane conditions, and you're supporting local economies. Don't underestimate the power of your wallet!