Founded in 2014 by Sica Schmitz, Bead & Reel epitomizes ethical fashion. This brand offers clothing that is eco-friendly, cruelty-free and sweatshop free.
Sica built her career on fashion and costume design and was inspired to begin her own company when she was tired of not being able to find fashion that matched both her values and her style: “I felt that if in my position of fashion privilege, I couldn’t find these things, how could anyone else? If we want people to make better choices, they have to be able to find those better options, so, I decided to create the store I wanted to shop at, and Bead & Reel was born.”
Most people don’t recognize the amount of exploitation in the fashion industry. Clothing, being a necessity, never goes out of demand. Animal abuse was one of the first exploitative practices in the fashion industry that Sica learned about, but she quickly found out that human rights abuses are also ever-present in fashion. “I really believe that all exploitation is based on a root cause of not feeling connected [to other people, or animals or nature], and so as I learned about the issues in animal right and human rights, it became impossible to avoid finding out about the environmental issues of textiles, dyes and overproduction – and also about the ways in which women are underpaid in all areas of the fashion industry [from artisans to designers] and underrepresented [from factory management to CEOs], Sica says.”
Lucky for us, there are designers like Sica that give consumers an opportunity to wear their morals. But providing this type of opportunity isn’t easy. Bead & Reel is expensive to run because of the cost of recycled materials, made-in-the-USA packaging, and paid internships. Sica is also presented with issues of capacity. “I think it’s important to only work with people and companies who share my values – which means I have a significantly smaller pool of designers and partners to work with,” she says. Despite these challenges, Sica doesn’t hesitate to express how fulfilling and rewarding she finds running Bead & Reel. She also acknowledges the passion of those she works with. “I have met the most amazing, inspiring people because they are my customers, designers, and partners. I feel fortunate every day to have a business where I truly enjoy working with the people who are part of it.”
The Fair Trade Fashion Show in Los Angeles on July 29, will use fashion as a platform for education about the realities of modern slavery, as well as providing space to celebrate the power of everyday purchases to support freedom. Sica has two important goals in mind: “To educate about what fair trade means both in terms of advocacy and style, and to help raise money to end the conditions that allow exploitation in fashion to exist. It (the show) benefits the brands who are a part of it by giving them exposure, it benefits the guests by inspiring a new relationship with fashion, and it helps the most vulnerable populations by raising funds and awareness for how we can create solutions.”
Though the issues facing the fashion industry may seem daunting, we all have a role to play. Sica offers suggestions for supporting solutions we are passionate about.
“It’s easier to shop fair trade than ever, she says. “I love The Good Trade and Eco Warrior Princess for informative articles and discovering new brands. Fair Trade LA just launched a monthly subscription box to have fair trade products delivered right to your door for only $10 a month. And everything at Bead & Reel is always 100 percent fair trade, whether made here in the U.S. or globally. You can also follow along at @fairtradefashionshow as we introduce our many fair trade vendors and sponsors in food, fashion, and decor!”
This ethical fashion show gives us all an opportunity to reflect on our own consuming habits and make a change! Companies like Bead & Reel help inspire us to make those changes. “I hope everyone has a wonderful time,” Sica says. “I hope everyone learns something new, I hope we raise a lot of money for Free the Slaves, and I hope everyone feels inspired to make changes in their lives to create a more dignified world.”