Pretty much every girl I know between the ages of 13-30 wears leggings at every available opportunity. I remember when leggings first started being a "thing" and the girls & boys at my high school were constantly at war over the fact that somehow girls were getting to wear glorified running tights to class, and they still had to dress in a coat & tie every day. The boys lost that battle (and also, pretty much the war, girls dress code was essentially to just look presentable, so you could basically negotiate out of any violation) and we started wearing leggings & sweaters all winter long. Now, 7 or 8 years later, that pretty much hasn't changed. The versatility & comfort of the wonder that is leggings cannot be beat, and I firmly belief they have proven themselves to be not just a trend, but a late-to-the-scene wardrobe staple. Congrats, guys.
When I initially started my initiative to go all-ethical in my clothing choices, because of my obvious attachment to leggings, there was some fear there. Were there ethically manufactured leggings as comfortable as the brands I'd been living in since I was fourteen? Would the fabric be that perfect combination of fitted but breathable, stretchy but not too loose? Most importantly, would they collect sweater lint like double-sided Scotch tape, or would they somehow defy those 9/10 odds and remain crisp, clean, and jet black even after curling up with a much-loved, certain off-white blanket? You know where this schpeal is headed - yes, I found amazing ethical leggings, yes, they are not just "as good," but better than the leggings I'd been wearing before, and yes, I think any girl who lives in leggings should be purchasing them from the brand mine are from, not just because they tick all those "perfect leggings" boxes, though, but because the brand behind my leggings is Good, capital G, Good to its people, Good to its customers, Good to the environment, Good to the core.
Share Hope, to me, is a brand with such a concise mission that I feel confident they're going to succeed. We wear, collaborate, and come across a ton of ethical brands on a day-to-day basis (which is awesome!) but sometimes it's difficult to pick out exactly how some of these brands differentiate themselves from one another in terms of style or niche. What I love about Share Hope is that they saw a big problem in the fashion industry & the people it was hurting, and wanted to solve that problem efficiently and effectively. Rather than just creating an ethical brand with a large skew of items, though, they targeted a specific piece of clothing that they knew women already considered an absolute essential and just went for it. In a sentence, Share Hope employs women in Haiti to make their leggings through means of ethical production, then turns around and uses a portion of that money to provide those women with health care, social programs, education, and the kind of mentorship that confirms the reality that they aren't just interested in providing their workers with an income, but are fully invested in the fruitfulness of their lives.
This is a well-known fact in the conscious clothing world, but the average person probably doesn't know that clothing donations from the US have pretty much decimated what was once a succesful clothing manufacturing industry in Haiti. Basically, heaps and heaps of donated clothes arrive in shipping containers to Port-au-Prince, and the clothing market has become so saturated with all of these donated clothes that, while Haitians have a lot of access to cheap clothing (which does have its upsides), there's also essentially no longer an avenue for revenue if you know how to make them. A skill once highly regarded and profitable over time has become increasingly useless. Share Hope is putting salve on that wound, remedying the situation by employing women practiced in the art of clothing making, and re-instilling in them the belief that that skill is something to be proud of. In fact, in the case of Share Hope, it can put food on their tables, keep their kids and themselves in school, provide them with the opportunity to seek higher level employment, and give them access to quality healthcare.
I remember reading once that the most dangerous thing a person can do is measure how good of a person they are against others rather than against the principles they know to be morally right. I feel strongly that this kind of thinking is probably what brought the fashion industry off the rails to begin with. If your competitors are using child labor, then adult-only sweatshops might not seem so bad anymore. If your competitors are dumping their toxic waste into rivers and streams that people drink from, then dumping yours into the ocean seems, by comparison, more thoughtful. We all engage in this kind of thinking, especially as teens, but also as adults. To use a mild example, even in my mid-twenties, if my sisters leave their dishes in the sink while I'm home, I will too, even though I know my mum prefers they go in the dishwasher. If people start cutting in the line to board the airplane, I have almost an instinctive urge to try to cut, too. Again, not huge things, but just examples that I think portray just how frequent we lapse into this good-by-comparison self-evaluation.
A lot of ethical brands are doing incredible things for the people they hire. Like Share Hope, we know of and work with a brands that aren't just ethical or environmentally conscious, but are wed to fighting tooth-and-nail for their employees to have a better chance at a more fulfilling life, but, unfortunately, a large percentage of even ethical brands believe just providing wages ticks the "good enough by comparison" box, and while we commend them, its the difference between applause and a standing ovation. Brands like Share Hope bring you to your feet.
Share Hope doesn't just provide women in difficult, often impoverished situations from what has been called the poorest country in the Americas with a safe, clean, well-paying job. They invest resources these women wouldn't dream of having access to for themselves, let alone for their families, into the lives of these women in a way that makes it apparent Share Hope's dream isn't for their employees to earn a living wage from making leggings for the rest of their lives. It's much, much greater. You get the sense that Share Hope almost uses their brand as a bridge, encouraging these women to refine their skill, be empowered by all they're capable of, glean wisdom from every mentor the brand can provide, and then send them on to do greater things.
What if every brand in developing nations were like that, not just a job but a stepping stone, not just work but almost a higher-education opportunity, equipping those who might not have had a first chance at a great education with a second-one?
Contemplating those sorts of questions keeps me up at night - not because I believe it will never happen - but because through brands like this one, I already know it can.
Anna Lisa & Porter
*Thank you to Share Hope for sponsoring this post. As always, all thoughts and opinions remain my own.