How was your weekend? If you’re doing the conscious closet challenge it’s time to check-in and share what you’ve learned! Just a reminder, to be eligible to win one of the 8 made-in-the-US prizes as part of the giveaway, you MUST FIRST leave your email address in the form on the original Conscious Closet Challenge post, then check in on THIS post with what you learned your week of being more conscious about your wardrobe. I will give everyone the week to submit their comments and choose the winners on FRIDAY MAY 1.
So, I’ll start. Besides the fact that I became acutely aware that I still have too many clothes, and would like to have less (much more on that in coming posts!), I came to terms with the fact that I may have focused too much time/energy on made-in-the-US.
What do I mean?
It’s not all about made in the US. To be completely honest, I’ve latched on to “made in the US” because it’s easy. It’s easier to think that “made in the US” means better working conditions, higher wages, smaller companies/designers, etc., and most of the time, it actually DOES. But it leaves out workers, designers and companies in the rest of the world. Do they not deserve to have a higher living standard? a living wage? a good place to work and support their families? Of course they do, and like it or not, the American apparel industry’s exporting jobs overseas has shifted the economic balance of power so that more nations around the world have more diversified industries, and their citizens have more choice about where to work and how to earn a living. And many of them do make a better living working in factories than they would have otherwise.
Absolutely the system is not perfect. Far from it. Working standards in many of these countries are appalling. And we should be ashamed that American companies would engage in practices in other countries they wouldn’t dare get away with in the US. Of course, that is not the case for many companies and production facilitates overseas; companies like Everlane work hard to be transparent about their factories and working standards, raising them so that workers in China can have the same standard of living as workers in the US.
There is still so much work to be done on this issue. And I need to learn a lot more about it. Which is why I will admit that I’ve taken the easy “way out” to a certain extent by preferring to stick with made in the US. The truth is that all human beings, all people who work, deserve to earn a living wage if they are working 8-10 hours a day, no matter where they live. Why do I give deference to American workers? It’s emotional, for sure. I like to feel closer to the companies I support, and I’m sicked by stories of factory conditions in countries like Bangladesh and Vietnam.
The truth is that all human beings, all people who work, deserve to earn a living wage if they are working 8-10 hours a day, no matter where they live.
It’s easy to say, “okay, so I won’t support companies who produce in those countries by buying their products.” But that will never solve the problem. It’s sort of like not opening bills that come in the mail and thinking they will just disappear and you’ll never have to pay them. Consumers have power, we wield that power by buying and not buying, by putting our money where our mouths are. But just looking at the tag and seeing where a garment is made, and making a buying decision based only on that is a very small part of what we can do to influence change. It IS a part, no doubt, but there is so much more.
Knowledge is power. The more we know about all stages of clothing manufacturing, not just what country the factory is in, the better decisions we can make about what we should buy. Sure, it aligns with my values to buy made in the US, because at a basic level, I know I’m supporting local businesses (most of the time) who are paying workers fairly and adhering to environmental guidelines. Again…those things (wages, labor practices, etc) may not be perfect, or exactly where we think they should be right now, but if they’re not, we know that we can change them, by being more active and voting. Because we live in a democracy. A Republic, really, but still…
Ultimately, I still believe that buying made in the US is a very good thing. I do it because I also like to support small, independent designers here, some of whom I actually know personally. I like to identify with my clothing, know the story and the people behind it. But, now, I know I need to be even MORE conscious of my clothing, beyond where it is made.
good American business practices are our best tool in making the world better for as many workers as possible
And to my husband who, while he likes to just disagree with me, also makes good points 😉 My made in the US “mission” was missing something, and left out a big part of what I believe: I am not an isolationist, I am a globalist, and support everyone’s right to live with dignity and financial stability, wherever they live. I also believe in the power of the free market (done right) and in the ability, even of individuals, to use politics and economics to influence change to make the whole world better. I have that power, we all have that power, and it’s about more than just choosing to buy made in the US.
Now. Your turn. What have you learned this week on your conscious closet challenge?
*aside from the fact that Zady is a Grechen’s Closet partner, they did a PHENOMENAL job last week with Fashion Revolution Day activities, writing op-eds, and generally just getting the word out about their mission to get us to think more about where our clothes come from. Which is mine as well. Please check out their site for a wonderful selection of conscious products, and their Facebook page for links to everything they did/wrote last week. And this infographic they produced for Refinery29? Brilliant.