-Meet The Monster-
Before I do my best to show you the monster let’s stop a minute. Stop and think about what matters most in your life. If your life were a ship and it was taking on water, headed towards sinking and you were forced to throw it’s contents overboard what would you throw out last? What’s that one thing you need most to see you through. What is the one thing every person needs to feel alive, to feel human…. Love. I hope your answer is love. I hope that no matter where you are coming from, what values you hold or attempt to hold that in your heart of hearts love is the goal.
And also let me say this: no specific person or people group created “ the monster”, he is something that was born out of millions of innocent collective decisions to ignore where our clothes were being made, to treating ourselves to fashion anytime it felt good and to ignore who was bearing the ecological burden and the burden of clothing prices being so low. I’m not here to point fingers or make anyone feel badly but I’m guessing your heart doesn’t look all that different from mine and what my heart wants to do is love my neighbor as myself, I’m guessing yours does too. Ok now we can go on
There is a monster in my closet. It amazes me that I am almost thirty years old and until this winter, I truly didn’t have a clue about what is going on. I had never seen the monster. I love clothes. I love to wear them, sew them, buy them, sell them, style them. Textiles have been a huge part of my life from a very young age as my mom taught me to sew and collected and carted boxes of fabric around to every house we moved to as a kid. And since I’ve grown up it has surely occurred to me that someone has been sewing all the clothes that I purchased from stores but I am a seamstress myself so I never thought of garment manufacturing as something that could be linked in any way to exploiting another human being. After all, sewing was a hobby for me, a stress relief. But when morality is compromised and greed is stoked , even something so innocent as making clothes can become a tool of oppression.
The apparel industry has gotten so good at advertising that we, the masses now have an appetite for fashion, and it’s a big appetite, one that has been fed and grown and fed more frequently until it’s become what I call “the monster”. The average American throws away 82 pounds of textiles each year. That’s eleven million tons a year from the USA alone. As a collective we buy, wear a garment two or three times and then toss it out. This demand for new clothes in all of our closets has called for lower prices in the department stores, so quality has been pushed to accommodate, but still the fashion appetite of the masses has grown squishing prices to the lowest low. With nowhere else to penny pinch companies have sent their manufacturing jobs into the places of the world where human exploitation is allowed and tolerated. This is now the only way to compete in the market, to have your clothes made by the lowest bidder. Many garment workers are forced to work in unhealthy conditions, with abusive managers set over them for wages that don’t amount to enough for them to provide for themselves. Workers share one room houses with eight to ten other people in order to afford the rent. The factories themselves are working at such a high demand that they are polluting their surrounding water ways with dyes and chemicals and therefore poisoning the people that work in them.
When I first saw the monster and the people being left in his wake I felt hopeless. I’m one small person and this monster is HUGE! My heart couldn’t bear the burden of this worldwide tragedy so I put in on a shelf in my mind. Later that week I went to my underwear drawer as I was getting dressed and it was apparent that I had a great need for some new panties. All the underwear I owned had been worn through two pregnancies and one being a twin pregnancy, the waist bands alone looked sort of like a balloon after you have inflated and deflated it too many times, they no longer fit. They were crying out for me to let them go and die with dignity. So I got on my computer to shop for new underwear. I decided to just look and see what fair trade organic cotton underwear would run me. I assumed I would have to sell a kidney to be able to afford them, even if I could find them but found I was completely wrong. I could buy organic cotton, fair trade undies, in many styles that I liked, for the same price as the polyester ones I was buying at target. So I thought, maybe the main reason I don’t think to buy fair trade is because I think I can’t afford it or find it. I spent the next few days scouring the internet for fair trade garments, jewelry and bags that I could afford and that I would love to own. I was so relieved! I could do something about the monster! I could use my tiny dollars with wisdom and care and cast my vote for a better world.
And now that's my job, shopping.. er.. a I mean.. scouring the internet, networking with like-minded people, and even possibly in the future coordinating the manufacture of a fair trade product made by our local poor right here in the U.S., so that you can come and enjoy a wonderful, joyfilled, purposeful shopping experience. -Kelsey
If you want to learn more about "the monster" check out the documentary, "The True Cost" . Here is the trailer to get you started.