Is Eshakti Ethical? How Custom Clothing Fights Fast Fashion

is eshakti ethical - how custom clothing fights fast fashion
I received a free item from Eshakti with no requirements regarding editorial direction.

In 2014, when I was just a baby ethical blogger, Eshakti reached out to me and offered one of their custom dresses for review. I asked them to send me information on their production standards first, and they promptly responded with information that struck me as transparent and reasonable, so I agreed to the collaboration. You can read that post here.

I featured a vintage-inspired cotton dress with custom-length sleeves. It's a dress I still wear today to weddings and other special events, and I always get compliments on it. I've gained about 6 pounds since I originally received it, but the high quality, woven cotton still fits me like a glove, and I've "grown into" the sleeves as my arms have expanded (ah, aging).

Eshakti reached out to me again recently, and again I asked them for production standards. They directed me to this, publicly available on their site:

eShakti upholds the labor laws of India in letter and spirit. We have a minimum age requirement of 18 and exceed the minimum wage amount by 70%. We comply with all applicable laws and regulations relating to benefits.

What You Should Know About India's Labor Laws

India just introduced a national minimum wage with other guaranteed rights and benefits in the fall of 2017, though it is unclear to what extent this policy has been implemented. According to Labour Behind the Label's 2015 analysis, India's minimum wage is about 4x less than a living wage, but the new minimum wage standard would be about half the calculated living wage. Compare this to the US, where the average state minimum wage is around $7.20/hour and the calculated living wage for a family is closer to $15.00/hour. I make that comparison simply to point out that pay disparities are  not just an issue in "foreign" countries.
is eshakti ethical - how custom clothing fights fast fashion
Now, if you remember my interview with CAUSEGEAR owner, Brad Jeffery, Indian employees in his model requested 5x the national minimum wage to make ends meet. So Eshakti makes no claims to operate as a visionary business model. But if you look at the minimum requirements of the Fair Trade Federation, you'll also see that there is no single equation or standard for determining a fair wage. This varies by company and location, as well as what product is being made. As my friend Hannah has pointed out, there are dozens of branded fair trade companies that barely meet the requirements. This is perhaps more troubling than a company that makes no claims of social good.

All that to say that, all things considered, Eshakti is not operating under a sweatshop model. And thanks to changing labor laws and improvements in their system, they are actually offering a more consistent wage than they were the last time I wrote about them. They've also taken a very forthright approach in discussing their standards.
is eshakti ethical - how custom clothing fights fast fashion

Eshakti's Approach: Custom & Made-to-Order

I am by no means suggesting that Eshakti's production standards are a beacon of ethics. But I decided to talk about them again for one simple reason: they are providing a service badly needed in today's fast fashion, ready-to-wear industry.

Custom Clothing

Over the years, I've received numerous requests to feature plus size clothing, but it's actually really difficult to find a variety of brands that offer expanded sizing and also understand that clothing isn't one size fits all in terms of proportions. There are some brands, like Eileen Fisher and Elizabeth Suzann, that offer plus size lines but their clothes are single genre - they tend to be muted and drapey - and that's simply not everyone's cup of tea.

Eshakti is unique because:
  1. All clothing is made-to-order
  2. They offer clothing in sizes 0-36
  3. Clothing styles are diverse, and tend to be brighter and more tailored than other made-to-order brands
  4. You can pay a small upcharge to customize your clothing based on your dimensions and specific silhouette preferences
In 2014, I opted to change the sleeve length of my dress. But this time around I thought I'd put Eshakti to the test and send them my measurements for a totally custom garment. Even though I can squeeze into a lot of "standard size" clothing, my upper body is normally a full size smaller than my lower body, which makes getting the right fit on dresses particularly difficult. 

For instance, if I would have purchased a dress like this in standard sizing, I would have likely had gapping at the bust (they don't make '50s style dresses for small busted ladies) and some tightness as the waist transitions to the hip. Because I could put in precise sizing, instead I received a dress that fits correctly at every portion, and that means I didn't waste time and money - or material - purchasing a garment that doesn't really suit me. (This dress is 100% cotton, lined, has a side zipper, and costs $89.95 with a $9.95 upcharge for customization.)
is eshakti ethical - how custom clothing fights fast fashion

Why Custom, Made-to-Order Makes Sense

Indie companies like Elizabeth Suzann and Not Perfect Linen make all or most of their products to order, but they don't offer comprehensive customization.

Any made-to-order garment is going to offer these advantages:
  1. Less fabric waste
  2. No overstock
  3. Potential to change hem length before fabric is cut
But when you add in custom sizing, you provide additional benefits:
  1. The item fits as intended, so does not need to be tailored, meaning even less fabric waste
  2. The consumer is less likely to over-buy in an attempt to find the right fit
  3. People with proportions well outside the "industry standard" (in a variety of iterations) can purchase clothing that fits the first time
  4. A closet of custom goods increases long term wardrobe satisfaction and should contribute to reduced overall consumption
There was a time before massive industrialization when garments were always cut to individual proportions. Yes, per-item clothing was more expensive, but it also meant that people didn't have to feel like they were "wrong" if they didn't fit in standard sizes. Today's ready-to-wear, cheap, disposable fashion industry has managed to wreck the environment, dehumanize its workers, and contribute to mental health issues by misleading consumers to believe that they need more things in order to feel like they matter, and then adding salt to the wound by refusing to ensure that those things actually fit. 

Is Eshakti the answer? 

Time will tell. They have a lot they could improve upon, and I know I'd be willing to pay 1.5x if not double their current prices if they could ensure that their employees were being paid a living wage. 

But they are offering a service, and a model, that I wish other companies would emulate. Custom, made-to-order clothing is more environmentally responsible and honors the dignity of all people regardless of their size.

If you shop with them, I recommend choosing natural textiles, like cotton, over synthetics.

What do you think? 
is eshakti ethical - how custom clothing fights fast fashion

The Moral Wardrobe: Timeless Wedding Style

ethical wedding style ethical wedding styleethical wedding styleethical wedding style
Ethical Details: Dress - old eShakti; Jacket - thrifted; Boots - c/o Po-Zu; Purse - c/o Amalou; Necklace - c/o Ember & Aura

When I reviewed this eShakti LBD 3 years ago, I got a lot of flack for it. eShakti doesn't have a very transparent supply chain, but their rep had told me that they paid two times the minimum wage, which, at the time, seemed about on par with many fair trade brands I'd been reviewing (to be honest, that's still true). So, the problem wasn't with the information I received, but with the fact that I was using a bare minimum standard as my litmus test for "ethical."

Still, this dress has proved to be a real work horse in my closet. It's extremely flattering, comfortable, and the proportions are right for my frame (I often have issues with fit and flare dresses sitting too high at the waist). For that reason, I don't regret reviewing it. It's a #30wears item for me.

I wore this outfit to an outdoor, country wedding last Saturday. The boots were essential to walk through the field to the big oak tree it took place under. I ended up switching out the blazer for a shawl because the wind was cold, but this makes the whole look feel more polished. And, as promised, the Amalou purse made its public debut to great acclaim!

I wore this Moon Phases necklace because the song I sang in an ensemble during the ceremony contained the phrase, "the moon in a clear blue sky," and when we were rehearsing, one of the brides' mothers pointed out that the moon was, in fact, gently radiating from a clear blue sky. It was serendipitous.

Here's the full text of the Rumi poem:

May these vows and this marriage be blessed.
May it be sweet milk,
this marriage, like wine and halvah.
May this marriage offer fruit and shade
like the date palm.
May this marriage be full of laughter,
our every day a day in paradise.
May this marriage be a sign of compassion,
a seal of happiness here and hereafter.
May this marriage have a fair face and a good name,
an omen as welcomes the moon in a clear blue sky.
I am out of words to describe
how spirit mingles in this marriage.

The other pieces I'm wearing here are from various blog collabs, proof that I actually use them in my wardrobe (quite frequently, actually).

We've been having the perfect fall weather lately. I always savor the short season when all the leaves are the color of fire.

special offer: eshakti's new website (+ a sweet discount)

Make A Statement In Bold Pants Or Shorts!

Just wanted to stop in to let you know about a special offer from custom clothing site, eshakti. I first reviewed eshakti at Thanksgiving. I received some good feedback from readers on that post regarding their production standards, which I encourage you to read here.

Eshakti guarantees that they have their employees' (primarily women in India) best interests in mind and that they both pay 50% to 100% over minimum wage and routinely inspect their facilities. They recently updated their website to include more contemporary styles and easy-to-shop themed categories based on current trends. They also offer custom fit options at reasonable rates above the base price. I opted to change the sleeve length on my little black dress last fall, but in the future, I think I'll try full custom!

I like the look and feel of the updates and am finding that a lot of the newer styles appeal to me much more than previous selections. They've definitely embraced the graphic and minimalism trends and, though I'm not going to turn into an Everlane model anytime soon, it's hard not to be influenced by it, so I think it was a smart move for eshakti. It feels to me like they've narrowed their selection, too, which makes the site more manageable to peruse.

Eshakti is offering a $35.00 discount for Style Wise Blog readers. Just click the code below to enter the site and make sure to enter it at checkout. Note that if you use my custom code, I'll get a bit of commission on the sale (which would be groovy!).

GC CODE: STYLEWISEBLOG35Valid till 06/30/2015
Enter this code in the 'Gift Coupon / Referral Code' box at checkout
Only one gift coupon can be used in an order
Not valid on previous purchases / purchase of gift cards.
This gift coupon cannot be transferred, re-issued or exchanged for cash.
Minimum order value $30.

My picks are these vintage inspired swingy shorts and this bell sleeve dress


I feel like I've been manically posting about brands all month, which is both wonderful and overwhelming. I had some time to work on a longer form post that I hope will be helpful for those interested in diving deeper into the conscious consumerism discussion. It'll post Monday morning.

The Moral Wardrobe: A Very eShakti Thanksgiving

I spent Thanksgiving day in rural Virginia with my father-in-law and his wife's family. The landscape was covered with snow in the Shenandoah Valley, but Charlottesville was sunny and relatively warm. I'm glad I thought to take pictures here before I left - it was too cold to go coat-less in Edinburg!

eshakti review of lbd with retro inspiration on
eshakti review of lbd with retro inspiration on

eShakti contacted me a few weeks ago to see if I'd be interested in reviewing a dress and I chose this one. They're a women's clothing brand with a secret weapon: customization. Say you find a dress you like. You have the option of buying it in its default form using the company's size chart or you can enter your measurements, change the sleeve and skirt length, and remove pockets and other special features for a minimal add-on fee. If you have particular modesty requirements, a body that's hard to fit, or are just picky about the way things fit, it's a great option. 

eshakti review of lbd with retro inspiration on

Since this is a fair trade blog, I asked them to provide some information on manufacturing and labor standards. Here's what they said:
Our clothing is made in India in our own factories and in local factories that produce some of the leading brands at retail...And wages paid by eShakti are typically 50% to 100% over the Indian government's minimum stipulation. The people who work to make eShakti's clothes are typically the main wage-earners of their families, and provide for them, including education for their children. eShakti is proud that hundreds of families enjoy the advantages of such employment provided by it. Indeed, it is a part of our organizational ethos and goal to contribute to the welfare of society in India as a responsible corporate citizen and employer, just as we contribute in the USA by creating new jobs as we grow. 
eShakti's covenant with its customers is this: we will never allow anything that is opposed to human dignity or the laws of the land where we operate.
I appreciate eShakti's transparency on this issue and feel comfortable supporting them here. And they knew what they were doing when they provided a product for review, because I'm hooked. This dress comes in a stretchy medium weight cotton knit that's flattering and versatile. I opted to change the sleeve length only since their size chart measurements were close to my own. The only thing I would change is perhaps making the skirt a bit shorter; that option is available, but I worried it would be too short. Knit dresses are the best kind of dresses and I love the retro-meets-modern design of this one. I'd been looking for the perfect LBD and I actually think I've found it. Groovy!

Update 8/22/16: This post has been more popular than I ever expected because a lot of you are trying to figure out if eShakti is really an ethical company. My answer today is slightly more nuanced. eShakti is better than most, but I wouldn't call them truly sustainable and wouldn't regularly purchase from them. Still, in the custom apparel space, they're you're best bet in an affordable price range. If you have any other questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

Shop eShakti here.


eShakti provided me an item for review as part of their Real Fashion for Real People campaign. Visit their website or get to know them on facebook, pinterest, twitter, and instagram.