Factory-Made Alternative #2: Etsy

by Alison Gerber

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Isn’t Etsy awesome? Apart from this: there are increasingly more sellers on there who are actually selling new, sweat-shop-factory made clothes on the site. ARGH. Like many others, I wish very much that Etsy would enforce stricter policies with regards to the origins of their products. But they haven’t. After many petitions, they still haven’t. Because Etsy makes a whole lot of money through commissions off sales from the site, and who would want, then, to restrict sales?

(For more on the problems Etsy is facing, you can read a pretty thorough article here, and this blog here.)

So then, Etsy is a mixed bag. It is both paradise and the worst kind of shopping mall. Through which you will have to navigate until the world of craftspeople think of something better. So then, how best to determine when you’re buying from an actual person making the clothing in their home/studio or from a factory? Here a few guidelines:

  1. When you search the item, check if there are exact replicas of that item also on Etsy. If so, this is a pretty dead giveaway that someone is either ripping off someone else’s design, or all sellers are buying from one cheap, common, factory source. For example, a search for “aztec leggings” results in this. They are all the same leggings.aztec leggings
  2. Think very carefully: is it even possible that this item could be handmade in the way they describe? You should know that things handmade are going to look kind of handmade. A home knitted scarf does not look like a scarf you would buy from Gap. A hand-crafted silver ring will not look like a ring from the jeweler downtown. Look at those leggings – there is no way they are hand-knitted. At the least: machine knitted. Use your brain.
  3. Is it incredibly cheap? Look at the price. Handmade clothing should be more expensive than clothes from Forever 21. Because this is the real cost of making something and paying the maker a real wage for doing so. This isn’t always the best indicator, because the seller could be marking up prices. Take price into consideration with all of the other factors.
  4. Ask: where is it coming from? Like price, this might be a give-away, it might not. Items listed as coming from China or India may indeed be from individual craftspeople. But if their inventory is full of things that don’t appear handmade…proceed with caution.
  5. Look at reviews online. Look at the reviews for the item you’re considering purchasing, but also search the store name online to see if anyone has complained in the wider web that all is not what it seems when it comes to this particular store.
  6. Ask: can this be made to custom specifications? If an item can be custom made, or if the maker is offering services custom-making items for you, chances are pretty good it’s handmade. If not, this could be an indication that the seller and the maker are not the same person.

Now, onto the good stuff. I would love to make a list of Etsy sellers we know are legit, who make great quality fashion-goods you can trust and feel proud to support. Have you ever bought anything off Etsy that you’ve totally loved? Share a link to the store below and I’ll add it in my round-up of great Etsy sellers, coming soon!

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