Everybody loves a bargain, but at what cost? For Ethical Made Easy founder Jasmine Mayhead, a seemingly great deal on a handbag led to a personal revelation – and a global eCommerce platform.
“I grew up on a flower farm in New Zealand, so I was always interested in sustainable living,” Jasmine remembers. “But it wasn’t until later in life that I became aware of the importance of ethical fashion.
“The real lightbulb moment for me was when I was on a trip to Cambodia. I was bartering for the price of a bag to be dropped from $35USD down to $9USD. We’re taught to barter when travelling overseas without really questioning whether the price is fair and reasonable in the first place.
“After successfully bartering down to $9USD, I walked away happy with myself – until I watched a documentary on Netflix that night called ‘The True Cost’. While I was watching this documentary, which explored the life of low-wage workers in developing countries, I kept looking down at the bag I’d just purchased, and I realised that I was part of the problem.
“This wasn’t something I could turn a blind eye to any longer.”
That’s when Jasmine started Ethical Made Easy. Originally a personal Instagram account, it was simply intended as a way for her to find ethical brands and keep track of her own purchases.
“Ethical Made Easy really started by accident,” she says. “The Instagram account was just my way to hold myself accountable and ensure I was shopping ethically… fast forward four years, and now it’s a global platform.”
“The Instagram account was just my way to hold myself accountable and ensure I was shopping ethically… fast forward four years, and now it’s a global platform.”
From that Instagram account, Ethical Made Easy evolved into a popular online journal and brand directory, helping well-meaning shoppers to cut through the clutter and gravitate towards ethically manufactured products.
Driven by a belief that how we choose to spend our money can change the world, Jasmine has just launched the Ethical Made Easy Store, stocking ethical and sustainable brands from Australia and New Zealand.
To be featured in the store or as part of the brand directory, labels have to satisfy Jasmine’s stringent criteria. Many of the founders behind the featured labels are also profiled on the site, so shoppers can get to know the people behind the products.
“Knowing who made your clothes is really important,” she says. “That’s why the brands who work with us have to be able to answer our questions about the materials they use, the factories they manufacture in, whether their workers are paid a living wage, and so on – we have to ensure they meet our standards.
“That’s what conscious consumers deserve. They deserve an ethical fashion directory they can trust, and thoroughly auditing brands is how we make sure they get exactly that.”
Each item is also extensively trialled by the Ethical Made Easy team before it finds its way onto the store.
“It’s very important to us that we test and trial each product,” Jasmine says. “We have to make sure each product is something that we would buy for ourselves and that the quality is of a standard we’d be happy to pay for. We test for pilling, colour longevity, wash quality, seam strength and overall garment quality.
“By this stage, if we love the product, the brand joins the Ethical Made Easy family and you can discover them for yourself.”
Ethical Made Easy also works to lower its own environmental and social impact by partnering with i=change, an organisation that allows businesses to filter a portion of their profits through to NGOs. As part of the arrangement, $1 from every purchase made on the Ethical Made Easy Store goes directly to one of three charities – Thread Together, The Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation, and Greening Australia.
In keeping with Jasmine’s desire to make consumers aware of the power they wield, shoppers are able to choose which of the three charities their dollar goes toward.
Jasmine’s come a long way since that market in Cambodia – and she’s thrilled that she’s been able to bring so many people along for the journey.
“Our customers and followers have come to understand that their consumption of fast fashion over the years has played a part in an unethical industry, and they want to do better,” she says.
“They might be totally new to ethical fashion, or they might have been supporting it for years. Either way, we feel like there is something on Ethical Made Easy for everyone who wants their choices to make a difference.”
This article was produced in partnership with Ethical Made Easy.