Hey ethical world!! I am here to introduce The Golden Rule Boutique. We have been in existence since April, 2016. We are still just babies and learning so much! We sell fair trade clothing and accessories based in San Diego, California.

The Golden Rule, simply put, means to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. In other words, treat people the way you want to be treated. When shopping for clothing we need to be thinking about the people behind the product. We are working as hard as we can for our brothers and sisters around the world to help decrease poverty through dignified work. Fair trade is not a charity based model. It is providing workers with opportunities. As a business, we want to show people that you can shop ethically and still dress trendy.

We believe that this is a movement that is already affecting so many people for the greater good. It is changing people’s lives all over the world. We want to do as much as we can towards increasing the understanding of the movement. If we can help your understanding in anyway- please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

I have always felt like I was born for a purpose and now I know that it is to help spread the fair trade movement and slow down fashion. Starting in high school, I began volunteering through my church. In fact, it is how I grew my love for travel. I have been on numerous domestic and international mission trips. No matter where I was, I fell in love; with myself, the landscapes, the people, and the culture. I got to see the world, but also witnessed extreme poverty. It was heartbreaking returning home to constant blessings and not being able to fully help those people after the trips were over. Most of the friends I was meeting on these trips were living on a dollar a day, or less.  It was something I struggled with each time I went. I felt like I was helping in my short time visiting these orphanages, schools, and building homes.  But then came the time to leave.

I was being the best version of myself when I was helping others. I felt at home, even though I was often thousands of miles away from where I lived. However, when it was time to leave, I was overwhelmed with sadness.  I had the same lingering questions, “What now? How can I continue to help these people?”. Sometimes our group would make trips back to the same location the next year, but that didn’t seem like enough to me. That seems silly even writing that. OF COURSE IT WASN’T ENOUGH. What happened when mission groups weren’t with these people, giving donations or building relationships?

Nothing I could do was ever enough to change the opportunities for these people. About two years ago, I realized that was the key. Opportunity. As I mentioned at the beginning, that is what fair trade is doing. Providing opportunity. Often charities have good intentions but are not providing anything besides a negative impact. This negative impact can occur because they are providing shoes, which can be great. However, the people then begin to depend on those shoes. An old Chinese proverb states, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Charities are feeding for a man for a day. However, fair trade is providing opportunities for families to feed themselves, for a lifetime. This is the difference. I am not saying that all charities are bad. However with that being said, I do think that it is important to do our research before we donate.

I began to learn about fair trade. Of course, I knew the term but never knew the enormity of what it meant and how it was working to decrease poverty. The more I learned about fair trade, the more I wanted to learn about fair trade. I loved hearing the success stories about the differences of before and after fair trade for the individuals and the communities.

As I continued on my “fair trade journey”, I began looking at how clothes were made and started researching who was making clothing that I often buy. What truly changed my perspective on clothing and why I began The Golden Rule Boutique was the documentary “The True Cost”. (If you haven’t seen it, check it out on Netflix!) The movie discusses fast fashion, which at the time, I had no idea what that meant. Companies around the world are making clothing cheaply so that more people will buy them, and quickly. However, when this happens someone is paying for that 3$ shirt. And I don’t mean in a good way. The true cost boils down to: increase productivity, decrease price, decrease safety, increase child labor, decrease pay. Without a company being fair trade certified, there is no way to know if there is child labor, if there are safe working conditions, or what the person is being paid. Fair trade is security for the people making our clothing. We are held responsible for that. If we continue buying from these big corporations who don’t care about the people working for them, WE ARE RESPONSIBLE.

If we are responsible, what can we do? Anna Lappe, an author best known for sustainability, said, “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want to live in.” I began thinking about ways that my money could be used for good. Overall, I learned that there are three ways to shop for clothing in a responsible and ethical way. The first, shop Fair trade of course! However, this can be challenging because there are not many options. In San Diego, at least, there are no Fair Trade clothing stores. The Golden Rule Boutique is not YET, a brick and mortar. We do farmer’s markets, pop up events, and festivals. (Don’t worry you can still buy from us online 😉 ) Option number two, buy clothes Made in the USA. We understand that we are just starting and cannot fill an entire wardrobe or everyone’s needs. This is the next best option. Check the label of your clothing. Know where the clothing is made, if it is Made in China or Bangladesh and does not say fair trade certified- you do not know how safe the working conditions are and how much that producer of your 3$ shirt is getting paid. You, the buyer, is responsible for those unsafe working conditions. You are the reason that producer can’t feed their family. The third option is shopping at Thrift Stores. This is a great choice because the money spent at thrift stores do not go back to the big corporations. You can spend less, and often have good quality clothes. You might have to dig and search, but its worth it! You can find some awesome pieces at thrift stores! This decreases the amount of clothes in the landfill and increases the amount of times a piece of clothing is worn. The goal is to make sure that our clothes are good quality. I don’t want my clothes to end up in a landfill after two or three uses, which is what tends to happen when clothing is bought cheaply.

Overall, Fairtrade is providing jobs and opportunities. Charities often have a negative impact for the people receiving it. Fair trade gives dignified work for the people involved. They are then able to take care of themselves and their families without any charities. We are responsible for our brothers and sisters around the world and we can do so by making better decisions about how we shop.

Thank you for reading!!
Jackie Bilancia
The Owner of The Golden Rule Boutique

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