There's a cost to all the "great deals" we find on the racks of Big Box clothing stores. We're all guilty - every single one of us - of purchasing clothing and shoes and products that were stitched at the hands of one who was exploited. We mindlessly head to the mall or to stores like Kohl's, TJ Maxx, Marshall's or Wal-Mart to get the lowest price on the goods we think we need. In my opinion, we live in a world where we simply have to much, and we have come to expect that the lights will automatically turn on or that the toilet will flush; this is not so in remote parts of the United States, such as the Navajo reservation, or in countries like India, where toilet paper is a luxury, as well as clean, running water. We simply take these "luxuries" for granted here in the United States. The bottom line is that we live in a fast-paced world and fast fashion has become the norm: we want the latest and greatest trendy fashions, at the lowest price available, but have we really examined the cost?
Take a look at this documentary about the collapse of the Rana Plaza clothing factory, where over 1,000 factory workers died on April 24, 2013. Over one thousand lives were lost that day. Wow. When nearly three thousand people died on 9/11, the world stopped, yet because this factory collapse took place in Bangladesh, business continued on as usual, with many people never even realizing that this big tragedy took place. Are the Bangladesh people somehow less worthy than Americans, in the eyes of the media? I do not know, but these people who died - and many who were left behind - lost their lives because of negligence.
These laborers were sewing clothing for companies, such as Wal-Mart, Children's Place, Benetton and the like. At 8:57 that fateful morning, the building collapsed, forever changing the lives of the children, husbands, wives, mothers and fathers who were left behind. This is the true price we've paid for high fashion and a sad reflection of the greediness and selfishness that exists in our world
When we stop to think that the $15 shirt we are purchasing was a made by a person - quite possibly a teenager - who has worked around to the clock, sewing feverishly to meet the increasing demands of the retailers, we must ask ourselves, "Is it really worth it?" There is a better way; we just need to take the steps individually and create the changes.
One idea to avoid this exploitation is to buy second-hand, up-cycled clothing from stores like Savers, Goodwill, Plato's Closet or other vintage second-hand stores. It's not only fun to go hunting around for great finds, you'll eliminate exploitation in your personal slavery footprint.
A second idea: Join the Human Thread Campaign here: Ask Macy's and Kohl's to bring in Fair Trade clothing by simply downloading these postcards and sharing them with your family and friends. Get creative. Bring these postcards to your church or synagogue and let others know that you'd like to see a change in the garment industry. The campaign is running from now until Black Friday, November 25th, 2016. you can also request post cards be sent to you directly by emailing the campaign manager email@example.com
Dorina Leslie is the founder of Shine the Light Project, a grassroots movement to prevent things like human trafficking and labor exploitation, through the arts, education, and awareness. She welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with artists, musicians, authors, survivors, and activists who are passionate about creating a better world, one in which all people are living free of exploitation. Please feel free to contact her and join in the movement. Follow along on Facebook. If you have a story you'd like to share, please feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.