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Priya Patel: Fashionable Fair Trade

HOLLY E. THOMAS  |  APRIL 15, 2007  |

From shopping eco-friendly boutiques in her native London, Priya Patel was a dedicated fan of stylish fair-trade and organic merchandise. So when the 25-year-old World Bank analyst moved to the District nine months ago, she used her fashion savvy to establish Fashion 4 Development, a subcommittee at the World Bank that promotes socially conscious designers and brands.

Priya Patel"I see so many young people in D.C. who are interested in development but don't know how to focus that interest on everyday things, like fashion," she says. "It's great to take something people are so interested in, something that's taken for granted, and use it to help people."

As the organizer of D.C. Fashion Week's fair-trade runway show last month, Patel showcased designers from Africa, Asia and Latin America. All the featured brands promote standards of fair trade: The workers who produce the items are paid fairly, and the companies that market the goods are committed to the environment and cultural preservation.

"The most important thing to know about fair trade is that it allows people to have a living, which you can't get from charity," Patel explains. "It's about empowerment -- enabling people to help themselves."

Patel has found some spots to splurge with a conscience on this side of the pond. She stocks up on cotton tees and tanks at the Penn Quarter American Apparel, because the company advocates against sweatshop labor, and snags chunky bangles from fair-trade-focused Hoopla Traders of Barracks Row on Capitol Hill, which also sells clothing, chocolate and home accessories. It just goes to show that doing good and dressing well can go hand in hand.

Substance and Style

A few of Priya Patel's favorite things:

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