We Have to Talk About It
The factory collapse.
I wasn’t going to write about this because I don’t really know what to say. I like to keep things light hearted around here but my heart feels so heavy. I don’t like to write about things that make people sad especially on a Friday because I am a fun distraction from the work you’re supposed to be doing or the laundry you don’t feel like folding. But I can’t keep it in any longer. I don’t really know how to put it into words and I’m not sure if I’m the one who should say anything. I don’t know the history and I don’t work in the industry. But I keep seeing the numbers rise and every time I do, my heart aches.
As someone who makes clothing, even just as a hobby, maybe, especially because it’s a hobby, because for us it’s frivolous and trendy, I feel like I should say something because I know. I know what it takes to make a piece of clothing. I know that it’s not magic. I know that it’s a craft. I’m sure that I’m preaching to the choir here. But this is where my soap box is located.
Being a part of the DIY movement which is in full swing today, especially in Brooklyn, people are starting to get back to the root of it all. Where does our food come from? How is furniture made? What things can I create with my own hands instead of paying a big company? I like being part of that. Because I feel like I’m more aware of what I’m putting on/in/around my body and I can better appreciate what I have. It’s gotten me in touch with countless other women who have sat down to make things today and over the course of history. It’s reminded me of my great-grandfather who cut patterns in the garment district and my grandmother who made my kindergarden Halloween costume. It’s big.
In fact, I enjoy the thought of someone halfway around the world living a life so very different than mine making something that effects my life. That, even though we don’t speak the same language, we are connected because we both know how to make something that you wear. But I can’t come to terms with the fact that so many people are exploited and certainly a number of them are putting their lives on the line.
When I saw this photograph, I cried. (I thought about posting it here but I think it deserves a warning. But please look at it. It’s very powerful and important.) I thought to myself that I could never buy a regular piece of clothing again. That blood was on my hands. That’s incredibly dramatic and also unrealistic but seeing this photograph made me immediately sit down with tears in my eyes and write this. I’ll admit it: I’m going to buy clothing and I alone am not responsible. We have a broken system.
So what can we do?
Here’s what I plan to do. It’s four steps and they don’t seem very big but this is it.
1. Buy less, make more. I’m not going to pretend I have enough time to make everything that I want to wear. But when I do buy, it won’t just be furiously hoarding sale items into my shopping cart and crossing my fingers that they fit. I am going to make sure what I’m purchasing is something that I need and that I love. Pieces that are simple and versatile and timeless. I’ll be honest with myself: while I’d love to always be on trend, it’s just not that important to my life and the greater good. And I think that we can all agree that we’d love to have more dollars in our wallets and room in our closets. Of course, I’ll supplement my wardrobe as I always have by making pieces that I put care and thought into – garments that I’ll be sure to keep for the rest of my life.
2. Make do and mend. I have lots of cheap clothing that I bought years ago and some that I got last season. None of these $5 tees are not supposed to last long. You get what you pay for. But I’m going to stretch those items as long as I can. I’m going to fix holes and add buttons and I’ll do my hardest to make adjustments even though I’m a novice. I’ll care for these pieces as best as I can when it comes to laundry and storage and I’ll always look out for hand-me-downs and vintage pieces even if they need updating and love.
3. Speak up. I don’t just mean writing blog posts where I preach to you guys. That would be annoying. Like I said, I can’t go the rest of my life not buying clothing. Of course, I hope to be buying from companies that are small and local as much as I can afford. After the collapse, I read a lot about what I could do, where I should be shopping. A lot of new stores are on my radar and I want to share them with my friends. But one article said that garment makers fear boycotts because a drop in revenue can cause workers to lose the jobs that pay them the little money that they need to survive. But I’m not just going to use that as an excuse for lazy consumerism. I plan to get in touch with companies that I buy from and let them know how I feel. The customer is always right, right? I’m going to demand that they be transparent and ethical because I do love their clothing and I do want to buy it. I’m going to tell them that I don’t mind paying more. That they can count on me if I can count on them. I’m going to tell the companies that produce in the US or pay their workers living wages that I appreciate what they’re doing and that I want them to keep up the good work and that I’m happy to spend money with them. It sounds idealistic but maybe if enough of us do it, we can make a change.
4. Teach others. To make, of course. If you teach a man to fish, he can eat for the rest of his life. Each piece that they make on their own is one less that they have to buy and you can pat yourself on the back for that – for teaching someone how to do it for themselves and helping them understand the effort that goes into making clothes. Let’s all dedicate ourselves to starting the cycle of buying less and making more and mending what we have by showing others how good it feels to make a piece of clothing from start to finish.
These are the small things that I can afford to do. I wish they were enough but I think it’s a good start. And if I ever find myself coveting a piece of clothing I should otherwise not purchase, I’m going to take a long, hard look at that photo because I think that sometimes I need to remind myself of my priorities.
What will you do to help fix what’s broken?
Trackback from your site.