Celebrating Women on International Women’s Day
It’s International Women’s Day on 8 March, falling straight after Fairtrade Fortnight.
Women are our Mothers, Friends, Colleagues, Sisters and Daughters. We could not exist without women. And yet women are one of the most put upon work forces in the world. So, as well as the dates coinciding, I can see lots of synergies between Fairtrade fortnight and international women’s day, especially when looking at the clothing industry.
A Better Way to Shop
There is a bizarre fact when it comes to shopping and, in particular, fast fashion. Women make up the huge majority – a massive 80% – of the workforce that creates fast fashion. These women often endure terrible working conditions, including low pay and long hours. They often have to live apart from their children and don’t see them for months at a time, and they can be prone to illness and health issues brought on by the kind of work they do. These women spin, weave, sew and prepare our garments, working long hours in uncomfortable and sometimes downright dangerous conditions.
And do you know who to main customers are for the clothes that they toil over? Yes, you guessed it, it’s us! What’s bizarre is that women are the primary clothes shoppers for fast fashion. So, unpalatable a truth as it is, we women in the developed world with a taste for bargains and fast fashion are condemning our sisters in the less developed world to a pretty tragic existence.
We CAN support Our Sisters!
As I say, we make up half the world and we can make a difference. We have the power of our purse! Ok, so its not always easy – we are targeted by brands who want our purse contents and they make it easier to go along with them then to hunt for what we would consciously choose to buy. Big brands with huge budgets can advertise during our favourite TV programmes, put up bill boards in the streets we walk down, fill our inboxes with special offers and offer us simple buying mechanisms. But we can choose not to always take the ‘easy’ path.
Bear in mind the funnel effect. For all the millions of producers and consumers, there are actually just a small band of buyers who are selecting, controlling and fixing prices on a relatively small selection that you actually get to see on the shelves of the major brands. Unless they are clearly telling you otherwise (and no news is NOT good news in this situation), these are produced at the lowest cost possible with producers and makers being paid the minimal amount and brands taking the biggest cut.
However, there are many, many ethically focused businesses who are linking directly with co-operatives, producer groups and artisans. There are businesses run by people who travel directly to these communities, get to know the makers and work with them. These businesses are committed to providing quality products whilst treating with respect the people who make them and ensuring that the makers are not being swept under the carpet with the off cuts. Often these brands have inspiring stories behind them. These brands may be a little harder to discover, but an advantage of the global marketplace we now live in is that you can generally find them online.
Inspiring Brands Supporting Women
Here are a few businesses that we love, who have a strong focus on supporting producers and their communities, especially women. If you are looking for gifts for Mother’s Day then why not explore some of these? It would seem to fit the women supporting women theme…..
First of all there’s us …. (Nothing wrong with a bit of self love!)
Where Does It Come From? – our core ethos is traceability. All our garments are produced with close links to the co-operatives and artisan groups that are involved in producing them. Each of our garments comes with a code on the label so you can get to know the people behind yours. We also have a strong environmental drive too. Our clothing is aimed at those looking for quality, timeless items that they will love to wear. We currently have a range of organic/rainfed cotton tunics for women, organic shirts for men and women, beautiful handwoven scarves and a large range of practical, comfortable children’s clothes.
Here are just a few of the women who have worked to grow cotton, create fabric and tailor clothing, accessories and other textile products for Where Does It Come From?data:image/gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw==
Another great find is the wonderful Bushbells. Beautiful Kenyan woven trousers, shorts, towels and beachwear with profits all going into building and running their own schools and providing infrastructure for the education of local children.
If it’s underwear you’re after then take a look at Y.O.U Underwear – organic cotton undies that give back through a ‘buy one give two’ model.
We also love Arya Candles – luxurious, handmade soy candles and the business puts its profits into supporting women from wartorn communities through a charitable programme.
Be the Change
This is shopping and supporting your sisters at the same time. It’s your choice so don’t let anyone take your purse power away! Be the change you want to see.