Ethical Holiday Gift Guide: For Fun or Funding

The ethical fashion finds on my holiday gift list, plus the causes I'm supporting.

Yesterday morning. Read email subject line: Need holiday gift ideas for you…

Oh shit. It’s here. Reaction: frantically write gift lists for everyone I know, sleuth email for deals, rope boyfriend into taking photo to be superimposed onto head of Walgreens-generated dancing elf for e-card, maybe order a custom photo keychain as a little extra gift for him, work self into panic over store crowds, retreat to bed in defeat, contemplate medicating with eggnog.

STOP. It doesn’t have to be like that, Kasi. You don’t even like eggnog!

It’s a given that the holidays are a stressful time. Overconsumption is at its height and the pressure to join in can be especially burdensome if you’re trying to be more conscious. But you (and I) don’t have to fall into this pattern.

This year, I decided to slow down and focus on what really matters. That means scaling back on some traditional things I normally love about the holidays – like decor, cards, and all that gift wrapping; but it also means scaling up on what matters – giving and meaningful reflection. Plus, I can use all the time I normally spend shopping with my friends and family. I’ve been trying to shop a bit more sustainably recently and Christmas is no different. I found a website that gave me some eco-friendly gift options and I’ve nearly bought everyone’s gifts now! I’m trying to do everything I can to save the planet as you can tell.

Ethical fashion became me this year. So when I started writing my holiday wish list it was naturally filled with ethical and sustainable brands. Then it hit me: I’m already far along in my goal of transforming my consumption habits and my closet; why not get more serious and divert my dollars to support ethical fashion instead of asking for clothes?

In the midst of this revelation I was writing this holiday gift guide for The Peahen. But it felt trivial to publish it, at least without sharing the other information I discovered. You’re here because you care. So I turned it this into a two part guide instead – the first part for shopping and the second part for donating. Now it’s up to you to decide if you want to have fun with fashion or fund it. Either way, you’ll be helping to transform the industry.

If this gift list starts you on a hunt for similar products, I suggest using Ecosia as your search engine alternative to Google. It plans trees based on the ad revenue it generates through search. I’m at 55 just from the last month!

Gifts For Fun


This timeless navy robe coat from Cuyana. If you’re not into this style, Termura has a nice roundup of alternatives.

esplar-low-leatherextra-white-white-puxador esplar-leather-copper

Classic plimsolls in white, black or snazzy (I’m determined this is a color). No brand beats Veja. Their sneakers have achieved cult status among the ethical blogger community for their ethos and cool cred. Think Converse, reimagined for demanding millenials.

bias-slip-organic-by-john-patrick-new-maple-front bias-slip-organic-by-john-patrick-vintage-white-front_719f613c-7bfa-47fe-ae9d-b3e80d4d590a

A silky slip to lounge in. I just discovered John Patrick’s Organic line and it set the bar higher on my sad looking undergarments, much higher. He has offering in silk and cupro, which is the next best thing to silk if you’re vegan or ethically opposed. Cupro is a byproduct of cotton production. It’s super silky because it’s derived from cotton linter, the fine fibers that stick to the seeds of the cotton plant, and also much more breathable than traditional rayon silk substitutes. Bonus points here that it’s organic.

zada-alpaca-sweater kordal-knitwear-alpaca-sweater

An Alpaca sweater. I like Zady and Kordal knitwear’s take on them. If you don’t know why Alpaca is a sustainable textile choice (read: better than cashmere). Now ya know.



A cheeky suit that shows you hold your own. I like this red head-turner or this reversible one by indie newcomer, Argent.

If you don’t see something you love here – or maybe you want an experience, lesson or home good as a gift – try making a wish list to send to your family and friends in SoKind Registry.

Gifts For Funding

Clean Clothes Campaign


A stalwart name in fashion advocacy, this organization has worked to help protect the rights of garment workers for over 25 years. The CCC educates and mobilizes consumers, lobbies companies and governments, and offers direct solidarity support to workers as they fight for their rights and demand better working conditions.

It’s a UK-based alliance of 16 counties, but its efforts reach beyond European brands and supply chains. As cited on the CCC website, it “cooperates extensively with similar labour rights campaigns in the United States, Canada, and Australia.”

The reason I’m backing this organization as opposed to a US-based one is by sheer measure of what they’ve achieved. Here are a a few highlights from their 2015 annual report to my point. They fought for fair compensation in the Rana Plaza factory collapse (and were successful in pressuring Benetton to finally pay up, resulting in $30 million funneled back to survirors and affected families), held H&M accountable for their commitment to a living wage, and advocated on behalf of workers in ongoing trade union disputes.

They must be running on some seriously strong coffee, with a double shot of ethics, because that’s progress.

I can’t wait to see what they did this year, and where my money will go in 2017. Support them here.

Good on You

goy_web_screenshots_home_lrg goy_web_screenshots_brand-studyny_2 goy_web_screenshots_brand-levis

This is an app I’ve had my eye on for a while, but it’s only been available in Australia. But, but, BUT, they just announced plans to bring the platform to the US and Canada in February! The reason this is on my fund list is because the team needs $12,000 to bring the app here.

If it succeeds, you’ll have access to ethical ratings for over 1,200 fashion, accessories and footwear brands – from The Gap and Forever 21 to Eileen Fisher, Patagonia and indie labels. Plus, the ability to directly message brands congratulating them on a good rating, or urging them to do better [hands down my favorite feature, and so much better than an angry rant on twitter].

Brand ratings are derived by aggregating rankings from groups like Behind the Barcode and Greenpeace, and certifications like Fair Trade and Cradle to Cradle, supplemented with brands’ own publically reported policies and commitments.

“We want to make it as easy to know how a brand impacts people, the planet and animals as it is to know the price and features of a product right in front of you,” says CEO, Gordon Renouf.

The Indiegogo campaign just launched. Go fund it here.

Other options

Support emerging ethical brands. The best place to search for them is Kickstarter.

Support fair labor by funding the Bangladesh Worker Rights Defense Fund. I’m specifying this one because it’s a common miscoception that fair trade labels apply to the fashion industry. They’re great to support, but they don’t work for fashion the same way they work for single-origin food products like like coffee, chocolate, etc. Here’s why.

& Etc.

Photos: Cuyana, Veja, Good on You, Organic by John Patrick, Argent Work, Zady, Clean Clothes Campaign


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