PC: BRANDED Collective | Susan Hudson
We’ve talked a lot in this blog about clothing because the garment industry needs so much work to become more ethical and sustainable. However, making, buying, and supporting ethically made jewelry and accessories are just as important. Today marks the beginning of a series of brand highlights with a jewelry company that is near and dear to my heart: BRANDED Collective.
BRANDED Collective, based in Nashville, TN, works to make a difference by employing survivors of human trafficking to make jewelry. The brand works with the non-profit End Slavery TN to provide employment, professional development, and economic empowerment to survivors while raising awareness about human trafficking. They also source all of their metals ethically from right here in the United States.
Human trafficking has become an estimated $32 billion industry with an estimated 27 million victims around the world. And, it’s a problem right here in the United States. Cities like Nashville, TN are often large trafficking hubs because of the several major interstates running through them. Nashville alone has four main interstates that intersect within the city. This makes it easier for traffickers to transport victims, drugs, etc.
BRANDED Collective has employed 23 survivors since it was founded in 2012 by Lauren Carpenter and Emily Mahoney. The employed survivors receive fair wages and job training to make handcrafted jewelry from ethically sourced metals.
Each piece of jewelry in BRANDED Collective’s collection is stamped with a consecutive number. The number symbolizes the physical branding that victims of human trafficking often endure. Many survivors’ captors brand them physically with a number or symbol. The process is often violent: a forced tattoo, a burn or knife cut. This is why BRANDED Collective brands each of their pieces and asks customers to “Wear a Number to Restore a Name.” BRANDED Collective recently surpassed 24,000 pieces of jewelry made.
In addition to a number, the survivors also stamp their initials into each piece that they make. When a customer buys a piece from the collection they can go to BRANDED Collective’s website, look up the initial, and read a little bit about the maker’s personality and interests. Not only does this give each piece a powerful and personal touch, but customers can also register the number on their jewelry and share a message of hope with the survivor. In this way BRANDED Collective gives customers a very real way to get involved and embody their vision, which says, “We hope each employee will be inspired to rediscover the dreams she has lost and be motivated to go forth and pursue them. We seek to unite a collective of survivors and patrons who work together to advance the abolition of human trafficking.”
Not only are the pieces ethical and supportive of an incredibly important cause, but they are also beautifully handcrafted. The brand uses three main metals: copper, aluminum, and brass. BRANDED Collective sources these metals from a supplier within the U.S. to decrease the chance that any sort of labor trafficking was used to make the materials. They carefully consider the ethicalness of all aspects of their business before making any decisions. I hope to one day see all fashion brands follow their example in this way.
If you want to learn more about BRANDED Collective or check out their merchandise, go to www.brandedcollective.com.