Raise Your Fashion Sense - Why Ethical Shopping Is Important


"When one tugs at a single thing in nature,
he finds it attached to the rest of the world." ~ John Muir
This quote, as I've stated before, is the theme quote of the mission of Beau Monde Organics. I chose it because it reminds us that we are all connected, and that all actions have consequence, even when we cannot see it. Seems like the more you look, the more you realize so many things we love have a dark side to them. It makes you want to just bury you head in the sand. Sadly, though, that just won't make the problem go away.
But it is this discovery that is the crux of the Organic & Fair Trade movement. We believe it just shouldn't be so that beautiful things come at the cost of another human beings suffering. Last month I spoke to you about the importance of Fair Trade business in the flower industry. There are issues, not just with flowers, but suffice it to say that I encourage you to look for Fair Trade whenever you buy, chocolates, coffees, teas, and many beauty products as well. But today, I am fousing on the fashion industry. I'd like to request you to at least consider to change your shopping habits.
Think, for a minute, about whether you like your job. Do you complain about it? Feeling pressured to perform, think you're underpaid? Your boss doesn't treat you well? It may very well be true. But consider another perspective: how would you like to work for 12-16 hours a day, every day? How would you like to work for $35.00...a MONTH? How would you like to have your boss shout at you, slap and humiliate you and even attack or molest you, and then call the police to arrest you if you complained? You laugh. You think I exaggerate. But you'd be wrong. I'm not even going to get into how ugly it is for some people in third world countries who make the apparel for large companies in the United States. Some care. Most don't, and claim that they "can't" do anything about it. But they can. They should. And they would, if some people would just choose to not buy from them, unless they change their practices. I'm suggesting that someone might be you. Child labor, slave-like sweat-shops, terribly uncomfortable and unhealthy working conditions, and disgracefully low pay are not only real, they are the norm in some countries. It used to be like that in America, too. But, like here, it does not have to stay that way.
If you are interested in learning of the realities, you can use Google to search the issue. You can read 2 stories I like: here and here. Or you can just buy Fair Trade and American made, be prepared to pay a little more, and get some good quality threads that will last and that you can feel good about! Would you be interested to change, or not?

18 comments

  1. Eye-opening post.

    MANY years ago, I saw a lecture on TV by a US-based labor activist who talked about the poor working conditions in overseas clothing factories. Maybe not much has changed since then. And reading the Engine of Poverty article you linked to made me understand it is much worse than I recall the activist describing.

    In any event, I will now pay more attention to the labels on clothing and the companies that are selling them. I am not a "clothing person" and do not buy a lot of clothing, but I will try harder to buy more carefully.

    But I think this is the problem: Even if I make better choices, I suspect it will take millions and millions of people changing their buying habits to change things in these factories, and I do not forsee that happening. I know people who have very little money, and so they buy at WalMart, because that is the store which has prices they can afford.

    I will admit I have bought a handful of items a couple of times at WalMart, but I try to avoid going in that store as much as possible, and I have been prettty successful in that regard. If the Engine of Povery article is accurate, and I believe it is based on a book I read about two years ago about Walmart and its questionable practices, it will take the American companies themselves to effect real change. And that will have to come from ethically driven and committed CEO's and Boards of Directors in those companies, like the CEO of the college apparel clothing company mentioned in the article.

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  2. After reading this post, and commenting on it, I think my mind has a couplet in the making some time soon. Nothing yet, but I will sleep on it.

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  3. Very interesting little article here Stephanie .. personally, I try to buy local and from the production source whenever I can, but this becomes more difficult daily, as the source also usually has to buy materials from other sources – and much of the cotton used in apparel and textiles is produced in America who then sells the raw material to other nations to manufacture (many countries complain that because the USA subsidises its cotton farmers it can sell the raw stuff at lower prices than local farmers can produce it – another problem for these nations), but additionally some of these places will then buy cotton from places like Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan – and I’m fairly sure the people working in the fields in those central Asian nations won’t be living very well either ..

    Companies such as Wal-Mart (the world’s largest private employer) and Nike and all the rest, are making a fortune on the backs of these ‘slave-labourers’ .. with estimated profits at over $20k a minute surely Wal-Mart could think again about their methods? But alas, they are also the 2nd largest donation source for the GOP in the States, a mainstay of wealthy capitalist corporations (Goldman-Sachs being the largest – which should tell us something) and are likely to support any political regime that enables them to continue this trend ..

    So, basically, decent as we try to be, there is a force bigger than all of us working to maintain this abuse for the sake of profits .. something on the order of the 200 wealthiest people in the world owning about 50% of the worlds wealth .. think about that – 200 people own half of everything while the other 6.5 billion are scrambling to earn a decent living with the other half ..

    So, let’s try to be good people, let’s support those companies who attempt to better the economies and therefore the lives of the people who are suffering through this time of insatiable greed by insisting upon decent pay and conditions for those employed by them (even indirectly) .. but, I worry about the part we all play .. maybe a barter system where everyone contributes in a cooperative way is the only option ..

    Great stuff Stephanie, and I admire your bravery in publishing your opinions here .. I’m with you on this .. but, can every little bit really help at all when so many turn a blind eye for the sake of a cheap day at the superstore .. ? .. Yep, I hope so too ..

    Btw: who’s that with their head stuck in the sand ..? haha .. {;o)

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  4. to both MikeB & KevinW: Thank you both for your amazingly informed and intelligent responses. But I will have to reply at a later time...
    as my bed is calling my name... !
    buona notte a tutti; a domani!
    stephanie-

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  5. No worries Stephanie .. I didn't actually expect a response - you said your piece in the post .. better to enjoy the springtime flowers .. fino alla prossima volta ..{;o)

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  6. Thanks KW!(e grazie per tue picole parole in Italiano!) But I do have an additional comment here to add to both your & MikeB's posts -the thing I notice is this: you both doubt that it is possible to change things, yet you both state that you now try to be more aware of your buying choices! My point is - things are already changing. And the more consumers buy ethical & eco, the more companies will respond. In the words of Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
    Thank you MikeB & KevinW, for being 2 of those people! (even if you don't realize it!)Cheers!

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  7. Judding by his post, Kevin W is much more informed than I am. But thank you for your reply to me. I may have something to write in Italian later, as that seems to be the extra language of choice here in the comments and replies.

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  8. @MikeB- Of course we are all in a process of learning. KevinW explains and makes excellent points on how we got to this point, and why change is difficult. But it is not impossible. It was only a few years ago that I learned what really went into the production of cotton apparel, and I was truly shocked, let alone much dismayed. But this knowledge prompted me to change, as I just could not reconcile my conscience with perperuating earthly destruction and human suffering. So I changed. For me, I had to. For others,it may take a while longer, or it may never happen. But, yes, every little bit DOES count, especially when every action is multiplied millions of times arounf the globe...
    -And not sure what prompted me to start spouting in Italian (except that it was late...maybe just getting punchy??) but if you ever want to speak to me in Italian, I'll be delighted! I love all langauges, and Italian is one of my favorites. (I used to speak it just about fluently, but once my Nonna died, well, if you don't speak it, you forget - I am of Italian and Hungarian decent)
    Thank you, gentlemen, for an enlightening conversation!

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  9. Hey now, slow down Stephanie, a 'doubting Thomas' I am not! .. as you paraphrased ed me ("yes, every little bit DOES count") you must have understood that I anticipated your response to my little rant when I wrote, "can every little bit really help at all when so many turn a blind eye for the sake of a cheap day at the superstore .. ? .. Yep, I hope so too" .. I stand by that, I hope so - that is, I have hope .. hope is the great anticipation of time and change making things better in this world - and I do have hope .. though it is probably a very slow process I 'hope' it happens before things get worse .. I don't doubt it is possible to change things, I believe it is happening, but I also think if we become complacent that the balance will swing again - so we must be aware of all the complexities involved in our attempts to be 'ethical' .. that's all ..

    And, hey, not fair using Margaret Mead against me - I used that very quote in my February 21st Blog post 'Everything Must Change' .. {;op .. haha .. anyway .. you are something special my friend, and you have my best wishes - and I DO realise my part in the grand scheme of things {;o) .. per quanto riguarda .. Cheers KW

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  10. @KW- My apologies, Kevin, if it seemed to say that you are not part of the solution; in fact- both you and MikeB are participating supporters...kudos!! yet you both were expressing the uphill climb we have to make the needed changes. Many people will do as you (and MikeB) have stated; just go to Wal-Mart for a cheap shopping day. But to have hope for change, and to not become complacent in the face of things is quite important. And as long as there are people such as yourselves that care to make the effort to make the change, it can and will happen.
    You quoting Mead,to?? -will have to check out your 2/21 post...
    thanks very much for your wonderful wishes, and for being here!
    much gratitude,
    and wishing all a week filled with simple joys!
    stephanie-

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  11. Stephanie,
    Tu sei meravigliosa. Grazie mille per il tuo blog.

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  12. @MikeB... Grazie per i complimenti! Prego per il blog- e tante grazie per le tue parole belle in italiano! Lei è un uomo molto gentile.

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  13. p.s. to KW: saw your 2/21 post - but could not find a place to comment...so I say here: liked it much and agreed with the thoughts expressed!
    http://exemplarart.blogspot.com/2011/02/everything-must-change.html

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  14. Wow Stephanie .. thanks very much - I edited that post due to some awkward and overly-personal writing, but glad you like it .. you might find the most recent post even more interesting - entitled 'Spring Hopes Eternal' it contains some photographs of my current location, all taken in the past couple weeks .. http://www.exemplarart.blogspot.com

    btw: you needn't have apologised, I didn't take any offense at your remarks and I hope you will realise I had my tongue firmly in the side of my cheek with those comments .. as I did when I titled my recent post haha .. keep up the great work .. hugs .. {;o)

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  15. @KevinW- you're welcome! and loving the Spring Hope Eternal' title already-
    yes, I do know; I get, and appreciate, your sense of humor! But had to cover, so to speak. ;-)

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  16. Please take a visit over to http://exemplarart.blogspot.com/2011/04/spring-hopes-eternal.html
    to take a look at KW's latest post-
    @ KW- love, love LOVE it! you really know how to celebrate both the season and the moment!
    (but I do wish you would open up commentsand or at least ratings on that blog!) Fantastic job!

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  17. Stephanie, you are a truly gracious lady .. your praise made me blush .. I do believe in celebrating every day of life – and only wish that dreams could be as true as the creed ..

    Thank you so much for posting the link for your other readers to follow – every little helps haha .. I will consider your suggestion, there were reasons I closed the comments on this Blog, but perhaps .. and thank you again for reading, it means so much to know you enjoy my articles and musings .. (oh, and definitely more coffee pics to come haha) Cheers! .. {;o)

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  18. Kevin- you are too kind, and most welcome! I look foward to sharing more poems, posts, and insights...and cups of coffee!

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