In case you hadn't noticed, 2-3 times per month I feature products I received for free from fair trade and ethical companies in exchange for a review. It's something a lot of bloggers do and, for most of us, I'd guess it's the main perk of blogging (besides building community and interacting with people all over the world). On a typical fashion blog, it's not unusual to see a whole outfit marked c/o ("courtesy of"), but ethical fashion blogging comes with a different set of rules and expectations, as well it should.
Bloggers concerned with conscious consumerism are interested in curbing their appetite for stuff, so getting free things on the regular can come off as hypocritical or ignorant. And though no one has ever told me they find the presence of the "c/o" label off-putting here on Style Wise, I feel that it's best to clear the air - particularly since I'll be doing a higher volume of review posts into the Holiday season - and examine what it means to be a fashion blogger trying to live an honest, ethical life.
I work with brands that compensate me with free product/money, because:
1. I can't honestly endorse a brand or company without being able to sample its offerings.
Most fair trade brands aren't readily accessible at local shops, so receiving product for review is not only the best way, but often the only way, to get my hands on the product I want to share with readers. There's a limit to the value of a Brands feature if I haven't actually sampled, seen, touched, or worn the product, so I find that product reviews are an excellent way to share companies I like with you all.
2. Collaborating with brands helps me get a sense of who they are and where they fit in the conscious consumerism conversation.
Emailing back and forth with the brands I work with gives me insight into their intentions. The companies that get featured on the blog are companies I believe in, and their reps are generous, punctual, and well informed. There are, however, a few brands I didn't end up working with because I felt that they were unprofessional, insincere, or asking too much of me. Without the high stakes correspondence of a tentative business transaction, their true colors may not have come to light. It's easy for someone to be nice to you when you're featuring them for free; not so when there's money involved.
3. Blogging takes time, research, and energy and I deserve to reap the rewards.
This reason may sound selfish, but I spend hours taking and editing photos, preparing giveaways, sending over interview questions, and writing essays and I don't think there's anything wrong with celebrating the perks of a (relatively) successful blog. I make virtually no money on this venture, so receiving the occasional free product is really exciting, and means I don't have to hemorrhage money from other income streams to keep the blog going.
4. I reduce my personal consumption in direct response to what I receive for free.
It's easy to think of free product as a surprise gift that has no bearing on my regular consumption, but I've made a point to seek out items from brands that fill a space on my shopping list rather than spring for whatever they will throw at me. I still over-consume - it's something I will be working on for a long time - but I have been able to significantly limit my consumption of new products outside of what I receive for review, and that's something I'm proud of.
5. Sharing cool products from brands I trust helps the ethical retail market grow.
At the end of the day, I'm an ambassador for fair trade brands, and I'm happy to be able to spread the word. There are tons of companies I would have never discovered had they not reached out for collaboration and that's really cool. I just heard that Target is intentionally expanding their ethically sourced offerings, which means that all the chatter is finally loud enough to make seemingly impenetrable big box stores hear our demands! Being able to confidently review and wear fair trade products - and share them with others - encourages the conversation to grow louder still.
Fashion blogging can be awkward when you're trying to be mindful of how your choices affect others. It's not as easy as just slapping on an outfit and strutting around. Transparency is always the key, I think, and I'll continue to tweak my process and be honest with you about it along the way.
If you're a blogger interested in working with brands, here's my advice: stay true to yourself and to your blog's values and don't be afraid to initiate conversations with brands you love. Be honest about your stats and your expectations and things will work out just fine.
Let me know:
- Are you generally turned off by sponsored posts and collaborations? Why?
- Would you be interested in a post about building your Media Kit in preparation for collaborating with conscious brands?