Love your mom, and garment workers too

May 1, 2013 in Fashion, Social Responsibility, Style, Sustainability by alliemcc

Happy May Day! This post is in honor of our moms, and International Labor Day

blog floral editorial elle vietnam

Image from Elle Vietnam, January 2013, via Jess Loves Fred. Interestingly, Vietnam is becoming the hot new place to produce cheaply, since Chinese workers are becoming too expensive…

Ugh. How many more people have to die so we can get jeans for $9.99?

Remember back in the 80s and 90s when there was a lot of media attention on sweatshops? They didn't go away just because we stopped hearing about them.

My guess is the situation is worse– since the mid 90s the majority of the clothes we buy in the U.S. have been produced abroad, in places with much more loosey-goosey workplace protections. And back then we weren't all shopping at Walmart, Forever 21, H&M et al., whose pricing policies keep putting pressure on factories to lower the floor on wages and safety.

If your heart, and your conscience, are aching after last week's awful news from Bangladesh (on top of the awful news from Bangladesh a few months ago, and before that…), I have some suggestions.

  • Support micro finance: The Grameen Foundation was started in Bangladesh by Dr. Mohammad Yunus, providing highly impactful micro loans to people around the world to lift them out of poverty.
  • Fight against human trafficking and support trafficking survivors.
  • Buy fair trade or ethical trade.
  • Buy secondhand.
  • Shop less often and more wisely.
  • Spend a little more and take care of it to make it last a long time.
  • Experiment with styling and learn some stitching so you can stay up to date without buying more stuff "for less".
  • If the price is fabulously right in dollars and cents, it's probably very expensive in human terms.
  • STOP. BUYING. DESIGNER. FAKES. You're not fooling anyone, you'll appreciate it more when you save up for the real thing, and you'll feel even more proud when you hand it down to your kids. Also, they're all made in sweatshops.

For some mom-specific gift ideas that also support workers of the world, here are some products I actually own and companies I've purchased from that are eco- and health-friendly, and/or employ fair trade principles:

  • True Beauty Box subscription – the alternative to Birch Box
  • Organic Bouquet – say it with organic flowers
  • Equal Exchange – Fair Trade certified chocolates, coffee, and gifts
  • People Tree – fairly traded apparel and accessories, classic and retro with modern prints, including Orla Kiely
  • Ethical Ocean – the Amazon of organic, fair trade, and other sustainable products and gifts of all kinds (p.s. that's my referral link, it earns me store credit only.)

And for more context on worker exploitation and sweatshops in the garment industry, Green America has put out a great backgrounder.