On 24 April 2013, 1133 people were killed and over 2500 were injured when the RanaPlaza factory complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Social and environmental catastrophes in our fashion supply chains continue.
Fashion Revolution says enough is enough.
Fair Trade is more than just a word. It’s a verb. It comes into play when the producer and customer choose to see that their product value goes beyond the “thing”, they recognise that a human laboured to make it, and thus factor into their production or purchase decision; quality of life, the environment, equality and justice.
A very exciting Fair Trade initiative is occurring inside this building. A collaboration of the NSW Fair Trade Network in conjunction with Addison Rd Community Centre. Inside this stone shed will be a shop called the “Fair Trade Emporium”. We are very excited to be apart of this and would love to invite you to join us on this new journey, to do so please pop along and like our shops facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thefairtradeemporium, and also put the 6th of November into your diary if you would like to join us on our opening night.
Rani’s elfin face looked weary and whitewashed, the emotion glistening in her wide, brown, almond shaped eyes. The tears held back, caught by her thick black lashes.
She looked at her child waving excitedly in innocence, as 3 year olds do. She forced a smile goodbye, all the while her entire being mentally reached out to cling onto him. In her mind she was going wild, fighting the urge to pull her child back. But she clenched her teeth and braced her trembling hands to her side; it took all of her will power to do so.
Her stomach churned, as she watched in gutted defeat, as her offspring became a speck, and then a nothing.
This mother’s heart felt an unsurmountable depth of pain. Suddenly, taking breaths was like breathing shards of glass. The tears broke free and she weep aloud with convulsive gasping. The sound a summation of the horror she felt at what she had done.
The decision was made; “it was best for the child” – Wasn’t it? There was nothing more that could be done now. He was gone, and all that was left was a desperate love, longing, and a life long regret.
There was no one there to witness her pain. Her body dropped, thudding onto the ground, her arms limped at her side, her head bowed down and the liquid sorrow streamed down her cheeks, soaking the black hair that was cascaded about her face.
Transfixed by the sense of loss, she stayed there rocking and weeping from sunset till dawn, until she had to leave for work. There she sewed earning enough to survive on, but not enough to provide the life she wanted for her son.
This is why Fair Trade is important, because without it, life is not fair. Below is a diagram that illustrates the disparity of the average minimum wage across the world. Please note that it doesn’t factor into it slave labour (Chart in US dollars).
Have you ever wondered what is the price of what you wear, drink or eat? Statistics like the above and knowing about the exploitation of workers such as that of Elaina’s family (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/20/poverty-tea-pickers-india-child-slavery) made me wonder about this fact and what I would be prepared to do if I was in their situation, hence the fictional piece above. The story’s objective is to highlight the desperation that many slave labour workers live under.
Please consider Fair Trade options. By doing so your choices can change the world and the destiny of many.
Did you know there are brilliantly talented artisans, block workers and bead makers all over the world who are being forced into slum life by mass produced factories? Well I didn’t know either, until I spoke with the founder of Aware…The Design Project.
Aware… began as a simple concept in a hospital room. It seems an unexpected place to birth a dream, but for Yvonne Johnston this is exactly what happened. It wasn’t Yvonne herself who was hospitalized, but good friend Kylie Bear.
“It began as an idea to give my best friend something to think about other than her losing battle with cancer,” Yvonne recalls quietly. “The initial concept was simple; create fashion to empower people out of poverty stricken lives. Give them a chance again to use their own skills to earn a living. Counteract the damage cheap, mass produced factories are doing to the lives of traditional Artisans. Did I say simple?” she adds with a touch of humour.
Kylie, a psychologist by profession, embraced the idea and knew what it would take to make the dream a reality. “Awareness is the key, Yvie. People will buy merchandise when they understand the truth behind the concept.”
Kylie was right, the truth is disturbing and should come to light. In India the craft of traditional fabric production has existed since the 12th century. Delicate, intricate skills involving hand crafted fabrics embellished with stunning designs of embroidery pass from generation to generation with passion and pride. But over the last 30 years, the shift has moved away from traditional methods in favour of fast, factory-produced merchandise (mass production). The consumer push for ‘fast and cheap’ clothing has had a nasty backlash. Block printers and weavers throughout India are now out of work. With no other skills or education to fall back on, many have been forced into poverty. The fortunate find menial jobs to support their families, but the once sought after skills of the Artisan are being tragically lost.
“What needs to be understood is that these people have had their entire lives ripped out from underneath them” explains Yvonne, who is now a member of Fairtrade Australia and a vocal advocate for the Artisans of India. “Their skill is unique and utterly beautiful, tossed aside for machines that can’t begin to weave into garments the love and humanity these people pour into their work.”
Thus, Aware…The Social Design Project came into existence. Created to challenge the consumer to consider buying merchandise that, rather than line the pocket of multi-million dollar business, would instead help a fellow human being to survive another day, to have hope, to believe in their worth again and regain their pride in their unique skills. Aware… is a business that values its integrity, ensuring merchandise is created following the 10 principles of fair trade; fair wages, environmentally fair, and a fair opportunity to provide a chance for a quality of life for those most in need. All products (from fabric to beads) are sourced with this in mind.
Aware… kicked off with a simple dress designed in a hospital room and made by the Artisans of India. It has been incredibly popular. But the dress was just the beginning. Since then the Ahmedabad range has expanded into skirts, hand embroidered stoles that take over 70 days to complete and a jewelry line. “We have also started production of a boutique collection in Lucknow, India,” Yvonne says enthusiastically “and accessories are being made up in Chile”. Aware… is also involved in a street wear T-shirt range created to rescue women out of the sex slave trade in Calcutta. We’re sourcing from all over the world now, changing lives and making a difference. I can hardly contain my excitement, that this project has proven that once ‘Aware‘ people for the most part do care and support Fair Trade.”
Driven by her enthusiasm and passion, Yvonne has expanded Aware… to incorporate education talks and market stalls providing information, fashion and accessories that will inspire the consumer to reconsider what is valuable. This is something Yvonne is particularly passionate about. “The value of something is more than the dollar amount tagged to it” she explains patiently. “Linked to every product is a human, who has the right to fairness, as much as you or I. Our merchandise is an educational tool driving an important message to consumers and the fashion industry alike: Consider Fair Trade. Show humanity the compassion it deserves.”
Yet in the face of success, Yvonne has not forgotten who inspired her dream. “Kylie wanted to offer these artists a second chance at life and Kylie was also my biggest support,” Yvonne smiles. “Because of her, Aware… may never have gotten off the ground. She gave me the courage to chase my dream and make it reality, to make every day count in my own unique way.” Yvonne pauses for a moment, tears in her eyes. “She has been my inspiration from the very start. Kylie lost her battle with cancer, but what I do now with ‘The Kylie Project’ and ‘Aware’ will be a reflection of her heart for humanity and her compassion will be remembered and honoured.”
“We were just two young woman daring to dream, daring to believe that with Fair Trade a reality of empowerment can change the lives of thousands across the world. The Kylie Project is one Kylie would be very, very proud of, and for me its a constant reminder of the heart of my best friend – Its her legacy.”
Written by Christine Banks/ Kylie Dress photo: Photography: Rachel Bardsley / Make- up: Cacey Anderson / Models: Annabel Fry and Genevieve Fry