I see a world where fairness supersedes profits.
Suffering is in my heart as I read about the senseless deaths in Bangladesh.
Now, it may seem so far from where we all are
It’s something we can’t reject That suffering, I can’t neglect …
– George Harrison from the protest song “Bangladesh”, 1970
I am biting back many bitter and angry words right now about the Bangladesh Building Collapse. The G-rated version boils down to: If workers were cared for and their concerns about a crumbling building were addressed, this would not have happened. If people weren’t so interested in buying cheaply made clothes this might not have happened. I lament for those souls sacrificed at the altar of greed. I marvel at the woman who gave birth in the rubble. I wish for a better future for them and us all. I wish to turn that pain into productive thoughts and actions.
We have begun to embrace Fair-Trade coffee and chocolate. Now how about Fair-Trade clothes? Where workers are given the right to work in clean, safe buildings that are regularly subjected to safety and fire drills? Why is fast food unacceptable but fast fashion is extolled? Why should a fancy coffee cost more than a tee-shirt?
What step forward can we take to unwind this conundrum? What changes in the right direction can we make? There are the band-aid solutions and then there are the steps to make towards real change. For the band-aid solutions: give aid, hold perpetrators accountable for lax and insufficient standards.
For the long-term, I would like to bring up again the Stephens Sisters’ shopping Diet (the SSSD). If you love to shop, this will not limit your shopping enjoyment, but greatly enhance it. The SSSD: Whatever you buy, it must be one or more of the following categories: Local, Organic, Sustainable, Second Hand, or Fair-Trade. If you can’t find local, then buy from a country with a stellar social and environmental record. Buy Quality so that you don’t have to shop as much to replace your stuff as often.
The more categories you check, the better. Instead of looking only at the price tag, see beyond to the hidden costs (people and the Earth) and pay the fair price. When you look at prices at the supermarket or clothing store and automatically reach for the cheapest, stop and ask yourself: Is it really the cheapest? Who and what am I supporting with my purchase? Do the companies I support give back? Can I spend a little more and support a company that is doing the right thing by people and our planet?
Stop and look at your clothes. Where did you buy them? When did you buy them? In what country were they made?
Today I am wearing Canadian-made black, bootcut, mid rise Second Yoga jeans http://www.secondclothing.com/, a locally made shirt from Shop Coccoon http://www.shopcocoon.com/ in Cambie St village 3 years old (took out the itchy tag so can’t provide the brand), socks from recycled wool (from Leka http://lekadesign.com/ in Victoria), boots i bought when I lived in Florence over 9 years ago (they are scruffy but I love them like an old friend), a hand-me-down Sweater from my mom, and a Coat I bought in Italy 8 years ago. My bag is vintage LV from the late 1990s. I wear it every day. It looks almost-new because it’s designed to last. When a strap breaks I get it fixed. Shopping the SS Diet can be enormously fun and rewarding. I challenge you to try the diet for your next clothing purchase. Share pictures and stories here and on social media.
You work hard for your money. When you exchange that money for goods, make your dollar, pound, peso, euro… speak for you. If you don’t have time to write to organize protests, encourage with your dollars, boycott with your money. Focus on the positive, support fair fashion and fair trade. Try to ignore advertising (it’s hard I know) which tells you to buy what you don’t need. Instead, search out the truth in yourself.
You are not alone. I am there with you. Let’s draw strength from each other and create a more righteous world – one fairly-made garment at a time!