Monday, March 17, 2014

The Cost of looking Cute

I have an absolute love for fashion.  I love clothes, I love fashion jewelry, I love handbags, clutches, and all kinds of accessories.  It is a horrible thing to love that stuff, because that is all it is....stuff.  It doesn't love me back and most of the time I get tired of things pretty quickly.  Since  moving 6 months ago, I have gotten rid of 6 garbage bags of stuff.  I am not talking about kitchen size garbage bags, I am talking the giant black garbage bags you rake leaves into. That is a lot of stuff.  After all of that, I still kicked my husband josh out of our master closet to make room for all my stuff.  Having a love for clothes costs a pretty penny, but  I love a bargain, so a majority of those clothes I got rid of were from forever 21 or stores similar.  This way I could buy like 5 or 6 shirts under $100.  What an awesome deal right!? Or so I thought...that awesome deal I thought I was getting for so long was not such an awesome deal for everyone involved in the making of these products.  The reason I was getting such a "good deal" on these products was because the workers making these products were not getting paid a fair wage or not getting paid at all.  Not only are they not getting paid but the working conditions are horrible.  People make cliche statements constantly about child labor and sweatshops but we really need to see the reality of it.  It happens, more than we realize even in here in the United States.  Though not everyone works under these conditions involuntarily for the most part it is because they have no other options.  They work long hours in horrible, and unsafe conditions just to make about $30 a month so they can maybe feed their family.
      I recently saw a video that argued that sweatshops are actually beneficial to the poor.  I will say that this professor did make some decent arguments, but this is a perfect example of the problem with our world.  He makes companies that outsource their manufacturing to other countries sound like heroes when they definitely aren't.  He does state that their motives are not necessarily in the right place, but just because sweatshops are providing a tad bit of income does not mean they are "beneficial." Not only are these people not paid fairly, but they are not treated fairly at all. Some of them undergo severe physical abuse and are exposed to very harsh chemicals.  These places are a safety hazard and I can only imagine that working in one of these places would be damaging to one's self esteem.  This article quotes the National Labor Committee and states "women sewing NBA jerseys make 24 cents per garment that will eventually sell for $140." I can't imagine how long it takes one of these women to sew of those jerseys and all she earns is 24 cents? That is insane!  But you can't just fight for these sweatshops to be shut down and be done with it, where would all of the workers go then? As stated in the video they would have absolutely no income and that isn't what we want for them.  So what is the solution? Yea you guessed it...fair trade. When different fair trade certified companies enter a community, it does a lot more than just provide jobs that pay a fair wage to workers.  It improves the community as a whole.  In this video you can see how one fair trade organization helps communities all around the world.  
     We may think that we can't make a difference, but as consumers we are way more powerful than we think.  Us purchasing products from companies that comply by ethical, sustainable, and fair trade standards, helps these businesses grow, allowing them to employ more people.  Yes, i know...fair trade products are a bit harder to find and a can be a bit more pricey in compared to the prices of stores like forever 21 but think about the people involved in the making of the product.   I also would like to add that "cheap" clothing stores are not the only ones guilty of using sweatshops and child labor.  In this article you will see brands such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Banana Republic, and Calvin Klein have all been involved in some sketchy situations regarding sweat shops and have found loop holes to get out of these accusations. I love a lot of these brands, and have some of their items in my closet but I found this on the blog Delightfully Tacky (which is awesome by the way) and am saving it as a great reminder...

    I love shopping, I love new clothes, I love feeling "cute" but is my love for a full closet compromising my moral and spiritual convictions? YES! That is why I have been trying to make some serious changes in the way I shop...first off shopping less, and secondly shopping with others in mind.  

P.S. You can definitely look and feel "cute" wearing fair trade and ethical items you just have to know where to look, I will post more on that later :) 

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