Change Boutique creates an alternative to fast fashion

The location offers sustainable clothing options
interior store view of Change
Photo by Timothy Hughes

Since 2012, Change Boutique on Williamson Street has offered sustainable clothing options to the Madison community.

Owner Nikki Anderson wanted to change the way people consumed goods.

“My hope was that it would encourage people to change the way they looked at the world, looked at their spending habits, change their clothes, change their wardrobe and [act as] an impetus for social change in general,” she says.

The idea for the store sparked when Anderson was looking for a different career path and connected with Mata Traders, a fashion company helping artisans in India and Nepal. She saw Change as a way to connect people back to the source of their products.

“There’s this disconnect from almost everything we consume,” Anderson says. “We’re really disconnected from the actual suppliers whether it’s farmers [or] makers … you go on Amazon and it just arrives like a miracle … People aren’t asking how things are made and where things are made [because] usually the answer is something you’re not pleased to find out.”

Mata Traders helped Anderson meet other groups that were fair trade, making ethically sourced goods and emphasizing employment for women — Anderson says women are the population that were traditionally exploited in the fashion industry, so by employing and supporting women, it’s a way to “reverse the damage that has been done.”

At Change, Anderson prioritizes the fair trade principle of transparency above all else. She wants to know everything that goes into creating garments, such as wages, working conditions, fabrics and benefits to the community. Many of the companies are working to break the cycle of poverty, provide health care and help children go to school in the areas they live.

By purchasing fair trade products and sustainable fashion, Anderson says you’re often getting higher quality goods and eliminating the exploitation of sweatshop workers.

“I think it’s a really big problem that all these sweatshops created dependents [of] the people in those countries because that’s their only option,” Anderson says.

While Anderson says it’s important to support global companies, she’s also starting to introduce domestic companies with similar missions. Fair Indigo, which is based in Madison, is one of those companies.

In total, Anderson works with 15 to 20 different companies with missions to improve the fashion industry. Many of the companies are also using alternative sources for textiles like bamboo, hemp or eucalyptus and finding more sustainable and natural dyes. She’s also found people creating goods out of items that would traditionally go into landfills. For example, there’s a Cambodian company using tires from the motorcycle industry to create accessories.

“It’s been really fun to see the diversification of fiber content and clearly there is lots of momentum of people working toward creative solutions with sustainability as a high priority,” Anderson says.

Whenever you pick up something as you shop, Anderson can tell you exactly what went into making that product, who was behind it and how the company is working to be more environmentally and socially sustainable.

“I found a really great community of people who have the same values and appreciate us as a resource,” Anderson says. “I just feel like I’ve been growing, changing right along with the store.”

Must-Haves

Rover & Kin provides opportunities to individuals in northern India to learn how to make artisanal products, like these handcrafted clay earrings. $26

Clay Earrings

Photo by Timothy Hughes

Madison’s own Fair Indigo creates dresses with safe dyes and organic cotton, great for hot summer days. Prices vary

Flower Dress

Photo by Timothy Hughes

Ethiopia-based ABLE creates wristlets using 100% genuine leather. The company employs women to help alleviate poverty in Ethiopia. $78

Purse

Photo by Timothy Hughes

Using bamboo as an alternative fabric source, Nomads Hempwear creates cozy leggings for everyday wear. $52-$75

Pants

Photo by Timothy Hughes

Bracelets made by World Finds are on their third life, Anderson says. Once saris are no longer worn, the fabric is turned into kantha blankets, and once the blankets are worn out, the fabric becomes beads. $10

Bracelet

Photo by Timothy Hughes

Using organic Pima cotton and low-impact dyes, Indigenous designs sustainable clothing like this boatneck dress. $160

Dress

Photo by Timothy Hughes

Leather Feather, created by Change store manager Nicole Eby, makes one-of-a-kind earrings using vintage upcycled materials. $35

Leaf Earrings

Photo by Timothy Hughes

1252 Williamson St., 237-2707, changeboutique.com

Editor’s Note: Change’s storefront is currently closed due to COVID-19. Change has online shopping available.

Maija Inveiss is digital content editor of Madison Magazine.

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