Objects of Beauty

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I’ve lived in Alabama my entire life, which is something I used to complain about a lot when I was growing up. I was bored of small towns and couldn’t wait to leave, and it wasn’t until the past few years that I really started to appreciate the place where I live, its history, and the interesting and worthwhile things it has to offer. Like this furnace built after the Civil War for the production of pig iron that’s been made into a historic landmark and is perfect for an afternoon adventure. It’s hard to explain this change of heart. Maybe it has to do with the traveling I’ve done lately. The more I’ve travelled, the more I’ve realized that every place I go has something to teach and offer me. Or maybe it’s that, after high school, I figured myself out a little more and found meaningful friendships that have tied me here, emotionally if not physically.

My best guess, though, is that I’ve come to understand better the beauty in collecting small moments, the unassuming afternoons in small-town Alabama, that time my best friend and I decided to climb trees on campus and got reprimanded by campus police, taking the cat to get donuts at 1 am. I’m constructing my narrative out of bits and pieces I collect along the way and are small enough to fit in my pocket.

Now, I keep a running list of places in my state that I want to see and day trips I want to take, and one of my favorite things to do these days is check places off of my list with lovely and creative friends, find the best places to get coffee, and write it all down in my journal.

I like the idea of museums, that they are essentially the constructed narratives of human experience, but that they are perpetually incomplete. No matter how many objects are collected, they will never encompass the vastness and breadth of human experience, but curators continue to curate and buyers continue to buy. I think life is like that too. We go along collecting these bite-sized memories, these objects of beauty that construct the narratives of our lives and we discard others. We snap photos and write poems and tell stories and decide how to remember them. I guess what I’m saying is that lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my role as curator in a narrative that has the potential to be worthwhile regardless of place. I think the whole idea is pretty perfect.

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Like my last post, my entire outfit sans shoes was stolen from my roommate who stole the flannel from her brother and the dress from her cousin. It’s like a nesting doll of ethical fashion. I like it.

– Lauren

 

Back At It

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Every single year, I do this thing where I go back to school in August and completely neglect this blog for weeks. This year, at least, I have a good reason. Here’s what’s going on with me.

  1. I started my last semester of my undergraduate degree. I’m taking five classes, working as the editor of a literary journal on campus, and serving as the president of the English honor society.
  2. I’ve been studying like a maniac for the GRE, writing personal statements, and getting ready to apply for graduate programs in English literature and creative writing.
  3. I have two jobs, the more exiting of the two being a research assistant for a research collaboration between my university and Oxford University.

So there you have it. I’m doing things. And because I’m a sentimental person who’s becoming increasingly aware of the dwindling time I have left in this town, I’m trying to spend as much time with friends as possible. Last weekend, I went to a film festival a few towns over with a high school friend turned college friend, saw some cool films (my favorites were The Fits and Cheerleader), ate a ton of food, and practically went on a coffee crawl throughout the city. These photos were taken while exploring downtown in between films.

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In the true conscious consumer spirit, I haven’t been shopping in ages, which, if you know me, is quite the accomplishment. Instead, I’ve been focusing on wearing what I own in new and interesting ways or borrowing from my roommate. Borrowing or swapping clothes with friends is a great way to cut back on textile consumption, which benefits the environment and doesn’t support sweatshops.

These shorts were originally some truly horrible acid-wash bermuda shorts that my roommate thrifted and made into cutoffs that I’ve practically stolen from her. I paired them with a basic tank top she’s had since we were freshman and some fun sandals I’ve had since high school. Easy breezy.

What are you up to these days?

– Lauren

*Photos by Teah Shaw

Fair Trade Clothing Companies

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Throughout the past couple of weeks, I’ve written several posts about conscious consumerism. I know it can be difficult to search through all of the clothing companies out there and research the ethics of their business models before making a purchase. I completely understand that sometimes it’s a little hard to motivate yourself to put in tons of effort to find a fair trade company when all you’re looking for is a simple t-shirt that you could pick up at Forever 21 for $5. It’s easy to be discouraged when the vast majority of what is available for consumption is produced unethically.

Over the past few months, I’ve compiled a list of some socially-conscious brands that I’ve come across, and I want to share it with you in the hopes that it will make your ethical shopping experience a little easier. I’ve tried to include a vast array of shops that sell everything from everyday clothes to swimwear to undies to jewelry in a range of prices. And to make it just a little easier for you, I’ve linked the website for each shop. All you have to do is click the name of the shop you’re interested in, and you’ll go straight to their website.

I’ve also gotten some requests to include some options for all the guys out there, so every shop with asterisk beside the name has options for anyone who’s looking for some male attire.

Clothing

23 Skidoo

Ace & Jig

Alternative Apparel*

Braintree*

Bridge and Burn*

Everlane *

Gather and See

Indigo*

Les Sublimes

Mata Traders

Modcloth Made in the USA

People Tree*

Raven and Lily

Reformation

Seamly

Slumlove Sweater Company*

Symbology

Tent Marketplace

Threads 4 Thought*

Vintage Style Me

Zady*

Active Wear

Albion Fit

Patagonia*

Threads 4 Thought*

Tracksmith*

Swimwear

Albion Fit

Kortni Jeane*

Denim

Monkee Genes*

MUD Jeans*

Undies/Socks/Jammies

Braintree*

Sudara*

THINX

Wear PACT*

Shoes

IX Style

Fortress of Inca*

Humble Hilo

Nisolo*

Oliberte*

Sseko

The Root Collective

Bags

IX Style

Duluth Pack*

FEED*

Humble Hilo

Love 41*

Market Colors

Mulxiply

Raven and Lily

Tribe Alive

Jewelry/Accessories

IX Style

Greenola Style

Haiti Design Co-op

Indigo

Love 41

Market Colors

Mata Traders

Mulxiply

Raven and Lily

Symbology

Tribe Alive

Home Goods

The Citizenry

Humble Hilo

Indigo

Nkuku

Raven and Lily

Children’s Clothing

Ace & Jig

Humble Hilo

Indigo*

Kortni Jeane*

Seamly

Sudara*

Wear PACT*

Additional Resources

The Good Trade

The Her Initiative Ethical, Conscious, Fair Trade Shopping Guide

The True Cost – Buying Better

Disclaimer: I haven’t partnered with any of these shops to write this post. I’m just passionate about promoting brands that do good things and treat their workers and our planet well. Also, I haven’t purchased items from each and every one of these shops. These are just the ones I’ve found through my intensive internet searches for ethical options and keep on a running list on my computer. I hope it helps!

For those of you who are on a budget (like me), check out my Ethical Shopping on a Budget Part 1 and 2 to see my tips for buying cheap clothes without supporting fast fashion.

What’s your favorite fair trade company?

– Lauren

Ethical Shopping on a Budget | 02

IMG_3864A few weeks ago, I wrote a post with some of my tips for shopping ethically on a small budget. Because I had so many tips, I decided to make my ethical shopping tips posts a multi-part series on my blog. That way, I wouldn’t dump a ton of information on you all at once, and also so that I could create an ongoing list of socially-conscious shopping tips that I can add to as I discover new ones. Last week, I went on vacation to Nashville, Tennessee and thought it would be the perfect opportunity to get some shots for Part 2 of the series. So without further ado, here are some more ways I afford to shop ethical clothing on a student budget.

  1. Be an outfit repeater. Remember that scene in The Lizzie McGuire Movie where Kate calls Lizzie out for being an outfit repeater? I remember watching that scene when I was 9 years old, seeing Lizzie’s utter humiliation, and not understanding why repeating outfits was so bad. It seems like such a silly thing to never or rarely repeat outfits, especially when considering the amount of water, energy, and manpower it takes to make our clothes. Did you know it takes nearly 3000 gallons of water to make one pair of jeans? And it takes about 400 gallons of water to grow the cotton for one t-shirt. That means that one outfit consisting of a pair of jeans and a t-shirt takes at least 3400 gallons of water to produce. Now, if you wear that outfit only once, you’re not only wasting your money but valuable natural resources. Clothes are meant to be worn more than once, and I don’t know about you, but if I have an amazing outfit, I want people to see it, even if that means I wear it multiple times.
  2. Swap with friends. An alternative to buying a new outfit for every exciting occasion in your life is to raid your friends’ closets. If you need a blazer for an interview or a sundress for a wedding, I’m willing to bet you know someone who’s happy to let you borrow theirs. In fact, that’s one of my favorite things about having a roommate: 2 closets to choose from! My roommate has this one white tank top that she can never seem to pry away from me. Another fun alternative to shopping is having a clothing swap party with your friends. All you have to do is have your friends bring to the party all the clothes they don’t wear anymore, and you can trade with each other. You can even order a pizza, watch Pride and Prejudice, and make a whole girls’ night out of it.
  3. Ethical brands. Though they’re not as visible as many fast fashion brands, there are so many really incredible ethical clothing companies that respect their workers and the planet.  When you do decide to buy a new item, make sure it’s an investment piece. Because these companies responsibly source their materials and pay their workers a living wage, their prices are higher, and it may not be possible for you to buy 12 outfits worth of clothes in 1 go. Pick pieces that you know you’ll wear over and over again and can be styled in a variety of ways. That way, even though you’re repeating items of your wardrobe often, you don’t have to wear the exact same shirt + jeans combo every day of your life. Stay tuned for Tuesday’s post, which will be a list of socially- and environmentally-conscious clothing companies.

For this outfit, I’m wearing a romper from the 80s that I picked up at a vintage shop. Although I bought mine in Atlanta, I highly recommend checking out the vintage shops in Nashville if you’re ever in town. My favorite one I visited was Local Honey.

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How do you shop ethically on a budget?

– Lauren

Check out Part 1!

*Photos by JFG Photography

Les Sublimes | Fashion Without Compromise

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On this blog, I talk a lot about making conscious decisions about what we consume, particularly when it comes to fashion. Recently, the Fashion Revolution has been gaining more and more momentum and challenging consumers to be more conscious that their clothes are made by human hands. Recently, I’ve partnered with an inspiring Paris-based start-up brand called Les Sublimes that embodies the socially-responsible consumption and sustainable practices that the Fashion Revolution is all about. Les Sublimes creates stylish wardrobe essentials without compromise. Every item is not only fashionable, timeless, and high quality, but all materials are produced responsibly and with integrity.

When you first make the switch from fast fashion brands to socially-responsible brands, it can be a little overwhelming to wade through all of the clothing brands out there, research their ethics, and determine whether or not they’re making a sincere effort to treat their workers with respect and provide them with a living wage. Much of the time, popular fast fashion brands “address” concerns about the conditions under which their clothes are produced by providing a brief, vague statement on an obscure section of their website about how they are working to improve sustainable practices and provide better wages for the garment factory workers. However, these brands rarely provide details about how they’re working toward these changes. In my experience, brands that are passionate and earnest about social change are forthright about it.

That’s what initially impressed me about Les Sublimes: their incredible transparency. Take a look at their website, and you’ll see what I mean. There’s no question what Les Sublimes stands for. For example, there’s a page on the website that details all of the materials they use, where they’re produced, and why those materials are better options for the planet. On another page, you can learn about Thierry and Madame Pérard – the owners of the multi-generation family business that produces the clothing – and how their business employs mothers and provides them with fair pay, health care, and training programs to help improve their skills. Les Sublimes even reveals how they distribute their profits, which is something I’ve never seen another company do.

Les Sublimes launched a campaign on their Indiegogo page today to raise $10,000 EUR to finish producing their first collection. This campaign is an opportunity to not only support their business but also to preorder the collection.

The collection consists of six styles, each of which is a classic wardrobe staple. My favorite items are the Stockholm Tee, the Buenos Aires Dress, and the Paris Tank (pictured, left to right). Future collections will complement this one and offer more seasonal colors or fabrics.

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Each piece is easily styled, versatile, and suited to a variety of personal styles. I love the way the Pokhara Tee (pictured above) is styled with a leather skirt, but can also be worn with skinny jeans and a flannel. In the same way, the London Dress (pictured below) can be worn with a leather jacket and sneakers or with a fun hat and sandals.

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More Cool Reasons to Support Les Sublimes:

  1. For every item sold, Les Sublimes and their partners provide 1 month of education to a girl in need. By providing education to young girls, the girls can gain the knowledge and skills to find good jobs and lift their families out of poverty. 1 month of education for 1 item sold? That’s pretty amazing.
  2. Not only are the pieces from the Les Sublimes Spring Collection made of eco-friendly materials, Les Sublimes seeks to reduce its waste by donating unused scraps to be made into new textiles. The clothes are also packaged using more sustainable materials than traditional packing materials.
  3. No animals suffer in the production of their clothes.
  4. All of the workers involved are treated fairly and with dignity.
  5. If you sign up for their rewards program, you can earn perks while giving back. For example, by joining the rewards program and referring your friends, you could earn $10 EUR off a purchase or provide reusable pads so that girls don’t have to miss school when they have their periods.

Overall, Les Sublimes is doing great things. Definitely check out the Les Sublimes website and their Indiegogo campaign!

– Lauren

*Photos courtesy of Les Sublimes.

Ethical Shopping on a Budget

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Whenever I tell people I’ve sworn off fast fashion brands and any clothes produced in a sweatshop, the first thing they do is look at me like I’m crazy. The next thing they do is tell me they could never make the switch to ethical fashion because they can’t afford it. Or that they just love Topshop jeans or Nike sneakers too much to give them up. And then, they don’t believe me when I say that yes, they can afford to shop ethically and that they can find fashionable clothing without buying into the inhumane practices of big fashion corporations.

It’s no secret that shopping ethical brands is quite a bit more expensive than shopping fast fashion brands. Trust me, as someone who works only part time and has a tiny income each month, I know that for most people it just isn’t feasible to spend $200 on a dress. The good thing, though, is that there are TONS of ways to shop ethically that don’t break the bank and don’t compromise on style.

So without further ado, here is Part 1 of some of my tips for shopping fashionable, ethical clothing on a student budget.

  1. Shop less. This is one of the most important principles of shopping ethically and sustainably. By shopping less, you not only reduce your textile waste but also ensure that the pieces you do buy are pieces that you genuinely love and will wear again and again. In 1930, the average American woman owned about 9 outfits, but today, the average American woman owns about 30 outfits – more than 3 times as many. This statistic definitely demonstrates the rise of fast fashion in the past several decades, and this rise in fast fashion has been paralleled by an increase in textile waste. Each year, Americans send almost 11 million tons of clothing to landfills. So next time you have a wedding/party/event to attend and you need a new outfit, just think, “Do I really need this? Do I already have something that will work?” If you do decide to buy something new, there are so many really wonderful ethical clothing companies you can check out (more on that later). The clothes will be more expensive, but the idea is to fill your wardrobe with investment pieces that will last you a while. Before buying anything new, ask yourself, “Is this outfit something I will wear again and again and again?” If not, don’t buy it. The idea behind ethical fashion is to reevaluate what you consider to be a need and make conscious, informed decisions about how you satisfy that need.
  2. Buy secondhand. When it comes to buying secondhand, you have several options: thrift stores, vintage shops, and apps like Poshmark or Etsy. Thrift stores are good, because they are super cheap, and personally, I’ve found them to be really good for midi-skirts, flannel, funky men’s button down shirts, and elastic-waist jeans. Vintage shops are my favorite of this category, because they’re really suited to my personal style. They’re a little more selective about what they stock, so the clothing is usually more fashionable. The downside is that they’re also a little more expensive, but they’re normally no more expensive than a store like Zara or Topshop. Finally, the internet. Apps like Poshmark allow you to sell your old clothes and earn credits to buy clothes from other sellers. Similarly, there are tons of shops on Etsy that sell vintage clothing. Each of these options requires some patience and vision, but in my experience, it pays off. All of the clothing I’ve gotten secondhand is both fashionable, unique, and complements my personal style. I never have to worry about showing up to the party in the same dress as someone else, and I get compliments all the time on the uniqueness of my wardrobe. The secret to successful thrift shopping is to know your personal style and go in without expectations.
  3. DIY/Upcycle. When you shop secondhand, don’t pay too much attention to size or department, because much of what you find can be easily tailored to fit you, or you can do it yourself. One of my favorite things to do in the summers is find really awful jeans from the thrift store and make my own high-waisted cutoffs. It’s so easy and fun. Even if you’re not super crafty or good with a sewing machine (fabric glue is your friend), you can have simple alterations done by a tailor for fairly little money. Just use your creativity. I’m really excited to try this poncho!

For this outfit, I found my shirt at one of my favorite vintage shops in Atlanta called The Clothing Warehouse, and I made my shorts from a pair of elastic-waist denim capris I snagged for $2 at the thrift store. I got my sunglasses last summer from a secondhand shop in England.

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When it comes to fast fashion and the exploitation of garment workers across the globe, I think it’s important to remember that what we give our money to is what we believe in, outright support, and allow to continue existing. However, there are so many people who are ignorant of what it takes for fast fashion companies to provide us with $10 shirts or $15 jeans. That’s why it’s so so important to me to be a conscious consumer and encourage others to do the same. We can only make a change if people care, and people can’t care if they don’t know.

I hope you found this post helpful. Stay tuned for Part 2 and leave a comment below telling me your best tips for ethical shopping on a budget.

– Lauren

Check out:

The True Cost Documentary

The Shirt on Your Back Interactive Documentary 

Where Does Discarded Clothing Go?

Fashion Revolution

My Blog Post on Fast Fashion

*Photos by JFG Photography

Days Dazed

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No class or work on Fridays makes for the perfect days for exploring. And exploring is a great way to treat yourself to a fun day that doesn’t cost a lot of money. Last week was a stressful one, so on Friday, I met a friend in Birmingham with no plan and ready to discover some new things in the city. And discover we did. Birmingham is a cool place. It’s even on Forbes’ list of emerging cities. One of my favorite places we found was Revelator Coffee, which has only three menu items and the most stunning decor. There, we stumbled upon some locally-produced kombucha, which made my kombucha-loving soul very happy. For the rest of the day, we just walked – the weather was perfect – and found ourselves in parks, antique stores, bread shops, cool restaurants, and the historic district. 

As for my outfit, everything I wore was either fair trade or thrifted. My jeans were thrifted from my roommate’s closet, and the sunglasses are from a vintage shop in England. My shirt is from Brandy Melville, whose clothes are produced sweatshop free in Italy. And my shoes are Soludos and were, to my knowledge, produced in either Spain or China. Based on everything I read about Soludos, they are a fair trade company with transparency regarding their international factories, but they are working on further expanding their relationships with artisans throughout the world for product collaborations. They’re also made of eco-friendly materials.

P.S. I got some weird looks as I was walking around town, and it took me a while to figure out why. The bottle isn’t beer. It’s kombucha. _MG_7924_MG_7927_MG_7930_MG_7942_MG_7947_MG_7946_MG_7948_MG_7951_MG_7953_MG_7961_MG_7966_MG_7968_MG_7977_MG_7992_MG_7998

What’s your favorite way to spend free days?

– Lauren

Oldies

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I am a lover of old, discarded things. There’s something magical about the way used vinyl crackles on the record player, and finding an inscription in a secondhand book. Stumbling upon the perfect beside table or film camera at a yard sale is a great and satisfying way to spend a Saturday. And some of my favorite art is assembled from banal, discarded items plucked from the side of the road. To me, there is something profoundly beautiful in choosing something that everyone else has overlooked and giving it new life. It really is true that one girl’s trash is another girl’s treasure.

My love of secondhand things extends to clothes, of course, especially now that I’m trying to be a more conscious consumer. I know a lot of people who think that thrift stores or vintage shops are good only for dingy, un-stylish pieces, but in my experience, that hasn’t been the case.  Some of my favorite clothing pieces are from secondhand clothing shops. For instance, I found this men’s Ralph Lauren shirt that’s been tailored into a stylish shirtdress at a vintage shop in Manchester, England called COW Vintage. It’s the coolest vintage shop I’ve ever set foot in, so it was really easy to find some great things.

Usually, thrifting requires some patience and willingness to dig a little, but you can come away with some unique, retro, and cheap items that you can’t find in any old store if you put a little work in. And because it takes a little more effort to find something you love, the find is always more satisfying.

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What are your favorite thrift store finds?

– Lauren

Pink and Dreamy

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As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve decided to change the way I shop. So instead of buying tons of clothes I don’t need that were made in sweatshops, I’ve resolved to buy clothes from ethical and fair trade companies or thrift stores on a more as-needed basis. As a result of this lifestyle change, the content on my fashion posts will change as well. Because of my current financial situation, it just isn’t feasible for me to scrap all of the clothes I own that were not produced ethically – almost all my clothes – and create a new wardrobe from scratch, which means that over the coming months and years, I will be slowly working ethical clothing into my wardrobe and cycling out what I’ve purchased from fast fashion brands. I say all of this to say that the ethical fashion movement is one I’ve come to be passionate about, and as a result, I don’t want to promote in my fashion posts brands whose ethics I don’t agree with.

I love doing fashion posts, and I don’t want to give up on them altogether. So how I’ve decided to reconcile my obstacles with my reluctance to stop making fashion posts is to make the posts more conceptual, not about the clothing pieces themselves and where to buy them but about the combinations or patterns or materials.

Which leads me to my next point…

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TURTLENECKS AND WINTER COLORS. I remember very vividly hating turtlenecks as a child and I was unsure how I would feel about them at 21. But I took a chance and discovered that I really love them these days, especially cropped ones paired with medium length, collarless jackets. I really like how the jacket hangs down past the sweater but the sweater peaks up over the jacket. I’m also really keen on this color combination. Dark denim with a cream sweater and olive green jacket. It’s subtle but really nice, especially when paired with this dreamy pink wall I found while exploring downtown. This sweater + jacket combo has become the outfit of winter.

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What’s your go-to winter wear?

– Lauren

The True Cost

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I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions. I firmly believe that you can start over or set goals for yourself whenever. But as it happens, within the first few days of the new year, I resolved to make a change in the way I live and, more specifically, in what I consume. Over the past few months, I’ve been thinking about the clothes I wear and the people who make them. A friend recommended that I watch a documentary on Netflix entitled The True Cost, and it opened my eyes to the effects of fast fashion on garment workers and the environment.

Until recently, I, like most people, had never thought about the hands that make my clothes. In fact, it never even crossed my mind that my clothes were made by actual people. They just existed on the shelves of my favorite stores, waiting for me to buy them. And it is exactly the type of system that ignores the humanity of its employees that allows for one of the most grievous social and environmental injustices of our time: fast fashion.

Essentially, fast fashion is a term that describes the way in which clothes are produced and sold cheaply  in order to move trends from the runway to the shelves of your favorite stores quickly. Conceptually, this doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. However, in order for clothing companies to produce clothes and sell them cheaply, they must outsource their production to sweatshops in developing countries where labor is cheap. Because of the nature of the supply chain, the CEOs of these clothing companies have the power to deliver all sorts of ultimatums to the factory managers of these sweatshops. They have the power to say, “Produce these garments for this amount of money, or we’ll take our business elsewhere.” And because these factories need business, they accept these demands. However, the only way to produce their goods as cheaply as the clothing companies desire, the workers in these sweatshops are denied adequate wages and many corners are cut in terms of safety regulations.

Basically, these companies base their profit on the desperation of the garment workers. And while some people argue that the workers essentially pick their poison, it is worthwhile to note that it’s easy to look at the plight of the garment worker and say, “They didn’t have to work in a sweatshop.” But the fact of the matter is that these workers lack almost all agency over their own lives. Social mobility is almost impossible, and job options are fairly limited. It is nearly impossible to look at the life of a Bangladeshi factory worker, for example, from a western worldview and truly understand their options. The CEOs of the major clothing companies justify the exploitation of these workers by saying that a job in a sweatshop is better than any other option available to the workers. But if that is true, then something is wrong. We’ve created an inadequate system, and it needs to be scrapped. Garment workers are paid less than $2 a day. When they form unions to demand better working conditions and higher wages (in Bangladesh, they demand only $160 per month), they are attacked and beaten by factory managers. Safety regulations are often overlooked in order to save money, which leads to disasters such as the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013, where over 1,100 workers died and many more were wounded.

I want to put this in perspective. These people are not different from us because they live in developing countries and are driven by desperation into working jobs where they are treated inhumanely and are subject to dangerous conditions. And when I read about the conditions in which these people exist, I can’t help but place myself in their shoes. What if I lived on only $2 a day? What if it were my mother who died when her workplace collapsed because  her bosses decided not to prioritize her safety for the sake of making money? What if I had to leave my child with family or friends and only see him or her once or twice a year just so he or she could be educated? What if, on a daily basis, I were denied my basic human rights and a reasonable wage on which to live? If it were me, would I sit around and do nothing about this drastic injustice? The way I see it, if I wouldn’t be stricken by apathy if it were me, then I shouldn’t be stricken by apathy if it’s someone else.

And from a religious perspective, I believe in a God who is for justice, who cares for widows and orphans and the downtrodden, and who teaches love for the nations.  I read a Bible that tells me to not grow weary in doing good. This is what I say I believe. These are the principles that I say guide my day-to-day life, and I do not see a way where I can claim to follow a compassionate and loving God but contribute to the heartless oppression of so many people.

The reason this system is allowed to persist is because big brands perpetuate the idea through their marketing promotions that the more you have, the happier you’ll be. Today, American women own more than double the number of clothes they did even thirty years ago. The paradox of the system is that these fast fashion companies tell you that by buying their products, you’ll be happier, richer even, but the only people who are actually getting richer are the CEOs and high-up people of the big brands.

Not only does fast fashion exploit the workers of the garment factories, but it exploits the environment as well. The use of GMO cotton and widespread use of pesticides damages the environment faster than it can repair itself, causes disease and deformity to the people in the farming villages, and serves as yet another tool for large corporations to exercise unchecked power over farmers.

The benefit of our free market economic system is that, theoretically, the consumers have control. If we’re not satisfied with a product, we can stop buying it. If a company has questionable ethics, we can boycott it. We don’t have to allow fast fashion to exist. To say that we can end fast fashion by simply refusing to buy from big brands may be an idealized notion. But we have to try; we have to care; and we have to educate. And rest assured that if the fast fashion industry dies, these garment workers will not be left without jobs.

For all of these reasons, I’ve decided to make a major change in where I buy my clothes, and instead of supporting unethical clothing companies, support those that are fair trade. Honestly, I don’t know whether it’s even possible, given the current system, to completely swear off buying products from the big brand companies, but I’m going to try. I’m going to buy less and buy smarter, and I encourage you all to do the same. And yes, it will be a little tougher on my wallet and it will mean sacrificing some of my favorite stores, but a $10 shirt is not worth another person’s life.

Leave a comment and let me know some of your favorite fair trade companies.

– Lauren

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