31 Bits: Fashion for Good

April 16, 2015


Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my role in fashion, not solely as an “influencer” in this media landscape, but also my role as a consumer. What am I really supporting by shopping at the stores that I do? Many fashion retailers, if not mostly all, rely on cheap labor overseas and often the condition of the factories they work in are very unsafe. Since 2005, there have been 1,865 people killed in preventable factory fires and building collapses in the Bangladesh garment industry. That is so high a number and it is only one country within the entire textile and garment industry.

I used to think that I was removed from the problem, and that I could justify shopping at stores like Forever 21 and other fast-fashion retailers because I was a student and made too little money to justify spending a decent amount of it on good quality clothing. The truth is I could have supported better corporate social responsibility companies from the beginning. The root of the issue I found was that all along I needed to change my shopping habits to accommodate my decision to support fair wages/better labor practices. Instead of buying a new set of clothes for each new season at those lower-end stores, I would need to buy one item of better quality once in a while. I’m not saying you should never shop at certain stores, but instead be mindful if that piece is really worth it, and if not, try to thrift it instead if you cannot afford the expensive version. Something I had to train myself to do was to avoid instant gratification with my wardrobe and work on slowly putting it together, piece by piece. That way I could save for that staple piece that was made in better working conditions.

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Sometime last year Patricia told me about a very special company she did research on for a project in her social entrepreneurship course. That company was called, “31 Bits” and it is a jewelry company that empowers both the creator of the jewelry and the consumer. All of the beads are made out of pieces of paper, such as from unused posters, advertisements, and text books. The paper is rolled tightly into stripes and coated with a water-based varnish that hardens the beads to provide a protective coating. Not only are the products handmade from recycled material, but the goal of the company is to use fashion and design to help women rise above poverty. The makers of the jewelry are women from Uganda, who are able to make a solid income enabling them to provide for their family. Not only are they able to earn an income, but the company cares for them holistically through counseling programs, health education, finance training, and business mentorships.

I loved the company so much, that I started following their Instagram and kept up with their newest collections. Sometime during the holidays I saw that they were hiring Campus Representatives and so I applied and was hired in early February. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed spreading their message and building brand awareness on campus. I had never found a fashion retailer I could support 110% until I stumbled across 31 Bits. I think something unique to them is that their mission comes from such a pure place. Within such a consumeristic industry it is not easy to be informed to make all the best buying decisions. One thing though to keep in mind is that it is essential to have intention behind what you do and what you buy. This idea of intentionality behind your actions should not solely be confined to fashion choices, but to what you care about in your daily life.

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The “31” comes from Proverbs 31, where it describes a diligent woman providing and caring for her family.  The “bits” comes from what the beads are made out of…bits of paper!



Maxi dress- Loft

Bag- Loft

Necklace- 31 Bits

Bracelets- 31 Bits

Are you are a reader in the Worcester area or a Clark University student and are interested in purchasing pieces from 31 Bits? Please reach out to me over email (hannah@thefashioncookbook.com)!! I would love to help you accessorize a new bracelet or necklace, and would even give free styling advice! They would make a perfect gift for Mother’s Day coming up.



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