A New Breed of Conscious Consumers: The Fashionarians

 Guest Blogger: Jillian Szacki

Over the last few years, I have supported many of my friends as they made the carefully-articulated decision to become vegetarians or vegans. These decisions were frequently made after watching an investigative documentary on factory farming or after a Google search on the health benefits of ending a relationship with meat. Then, there was my one existential friend who told me, “Animals die in fear and pain. Why would I want to ingest all that negativity and absorb it into my life?” I nodded my head in agreement, but found my mind wandering onto another thought. We have gained such an interest in where our food comes from and whether the practices are ethical, humane and sustainable. But why have many, myself included, turned a blind eye to the practices of where our clothes come from? How have I managed to overlook the very human hands that make the clothes I wear every day?

 I looked down at my Levi’s shorts and Forever21 blouse, gulping down my naiveté; I imagined where these pieces of cotton were constructed. I questioned whether or not the people who made these clothes were treated with respect, paid an equal wage, or had the luxury of typing any spontaneous thought into an ever-so-infinite Google toolbar. What does the small print “Made in Mexico” and “Made in China” really mean? How do they relate to each other? How do they relate to me? Asking these sorts of questions has been on a lot of minds lately as the one year Rana Plaza catastrophe passed last week.

On April 24, 2013, thousands of workers went to work at the Rana Plaza factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The plaza housed a number of production factories, many of them popular apparel manufacturers. At approximately 8:57 a.m. the poorly-constructed eight-storey building began to collapse. The collapse leveled the entire complex and claimed over 1,133 lives – most of them women. Leaving thousands more injured, the Rana Plaza tragedy was a crucial wakeup call to the Western world’s consumers and begged the question, “At what cost do the clothes we wear have to come with?”

The devastating Rana Plaza collapse sparked the global movement, Fashion Revolution Day, which demands transparency within the fashion production supply chain.  One year later, Fashion Revolution Day commemorated those affected by Rana Plaza by urging consumers to ask the crucial question, “Who made my clothes?”  The organization’s mission is to “bring together those who want to see change within the industry” and “to keep the most unheard in the supply chain in the public eye” (1). On April 24, 2014, the hashtags #insideout and #whomadeyourclothes were trending across all social media.  The popularized hashtags were captions to photos of people from all around the world wearing their clothes inside out with the tags proudly identifying the garment’s origin.   Fashion Revolution Day was a step in the right direction towards creating transparency within the industry. This relationship is frequently distorted and it is time to build exchanges on respect and honesty.

Workers from the British clothing brand, ASOS, participating in Fashion Revolution Day.

TRAMA Textiles is a leader in textile production for developing countries.  Who makes TRAMA’s clothes?  TRAMA is compromised of over 400 women, who span across 18 different villages.  Our supply chain is not a labyrinth of indoctrinated workers, but an honourable relationship between workers and enterprise.  Each village has a representative, who comes to TRAMA once a month to receive textile orders from TRAMA’s president and vice-president, Amparo de Leon de Rubio and Oralia Chopen.  The representative then distributes the work amongst the women in her village and they are able to weave in the comforts of their homes.  Once the work is completed and brought into TRAMA’s headquarters, the work is paid for on spot, whether the textile is sold or not.  The weaving work from TRAMA offers the indigenous women of Guatemala the opportunity to earn an income, in an honorable way to support her family, which was left fractured by the loss of wage earning men during the Civil War.

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The workers of TRAMA Textiles

April 24 will always be a day to reflect and remember the lives lost at the cost of production.  Using a hashtag isn’t enough to solve the impeding problems within the manufacturing industries; however, becoming a daily conscious consumer is a fabulous start.  I urge you to get involved – research some of your favorite brands.  Is production information available? If not, write letters and demand to know where their products come from.

Our purchases tell a story, they become a part of our identities. Let us be proud to share the stories of our clothing.  Let us become educated consumers and care about where our food, clothing, electronics and all products we consume come from.  Let us only engage with companies who respect their workers and only use ethical practices.  Let us become fashionarians.

More Fashion for Thought:

Handprint – a thought-provoking short film from director, Mary Nighy. Handprint aims to raise awareness of the challenges faced by garment workers and jewellery producers around the world.

Jillian Szacki is a new volunteer at TRAMA Textiles.  She is a creative writer, innovative thinker, sustainable liver and lover of all cultura de américa latina. 

[1] Fashion Revolution: http://fashionrevolution.org/about/why-do-we-need-a-fashion-revolution/

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