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 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. 

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.

See an update to this post here:

Leah Wise

Leah Wise is the founder of StyleWise Blog. She has been writing, speaking, and consulting on sustainable fashion, the fair trade and secondhand supply chain, and digital marketing for over ten years. An Episcopal priest, Leah holds a B.A. in Religion from Florida State University and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. When not working, you can find her looking for treasures at the thrift store.

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  1. SarahChaya Menashe

    I’m wondering if your opinion on this company has changed recently… thanks so much for this info you are sharing! It’s important as a concerned consumer!

    1. I shared more background and research here:

      It’s hard to determine if Eshakti is an “ethical” company, as it makes no claims regarding certifications, but it opens up a larger conversation about how we determine what really is fair.

  2. I see what you're saying, but I thought the information about their higher than average wages and the fact they use their own factories is helpful. Not as useful as a co-op, but at least a way to better monitor the condition of the workplace. Fair trade only dictates that wages are average or higher than minimum wage in most countries, so they exceed that requirement (though, of course, a snippet of information can never tell the whole story). Thanks for nuancing the discussion; it's important.

  3. Cute dress! I love the interesting neckline. I learned about eShakti recently and I wish they had more detailed statements on their manufacturing practices. I feel like you could insert any mainstream brand name here: "[Nike, Forever 21, Express, etc.] is proud that hundreds of families enjoy the advantages of such employment provided by it." I like the gist of what they're saying but I feel like many conventional brands use similar language without much to back it up.

  4. Catherine Kowalik Harper

    You look beautiful and that dress is so flattering! I've read so many great things about eshakti, but I never knew they practiced fair trade policies. I will have to take a look at their site.

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