Friday, October 2, 2015

Fair trade

Please pray for me. I am weak and textiles are strong. But then I can work up some major league rationalizations. Here we go . . .

A month ago (it was much more than an month—it was almost 6 weeks ago) I posted my personal “manifesto” promising that I would not buy any clothing for one year. Perhaps it wasn’t really a promise, rather more like a thought, something that would have been nice to do. But, you know, things happen and sometimes we (I’m not alone in this, am I?) change our minds.

I have walked through a number of places that sold clothing in the 6 weeks since the manifesto and my resolve did not weaken. But a few days ago I went to Marshall’s, the mecca of discount shopping. I had to go there for the sake of my health. You might need an explanation. I’ve been reading a book about the beauty product industry, how it is not necessary to buy expensive products, that often the expensive products are no better than perhaps petroleum jelly or baby oil. In this book, the author writes that one should use a washcloth only once before laundering it because—horrors!—a wet washcloth can expose you to harmful bacteria if used repeatedly. I’m lucky I didn’t get a terminal case of bacterial face crud in the years that I’ve used a washcloth more than once. Those wet washcloths could have killed me. So I had to go to Marshall’s to buy all the plain white cotton washcloths I could find. It was the only reason I went into the store. There was a cold rain outside and it was the last place I wanted to be. It was a sacrifice, but I did it for my grandchildren.

Although it was truly a drive-by shopping excursion, after securing the washcloths and heading for check-out, I maneuvered my cart through the sale aisle of the women’s clothing section. I would have gone straight through the center of the store but there was a huge group of handicapped mendicant nuns (I think they had orphans with them) in the center aisle and I didn’t want to disturb them because they were blind and barefoot and I was afraid the cart might hurt them. (Oh, gosh—I’m could spend some extra time in Purgatory for this lie but thankfully I don’t believe in Purgatory.) As I raced past the sale rack, a beautiful white embroidered blouse practically jumped into my cart of its own volition. It had been reduced twice from its low Marshall’s price to a mere $15.

I knew it was no cheap blouse made in China. My innate textilian instinct told me that it was really hand embroidered and the tag confirmed that it was made in Mexico. I sensed that some indigenous woman had labored over the hand stitching in this blouse and it was a horrible injustice, indeed a human rights abuse, for this to be hanging so ignobly under fluorescent lights on the rack of a discount store in Vienna, Virginia. So I took it home with me to protect it from further shame.

Once home, I looked it up online. Indeed, my instincts were right. I found it online for nearly $100. Ha! The company had photos online of the indigenous women who shed their blood to make this blouse. Here’s the description that I found:

"One of our most popular blouses, the light weight, 100% Mexican cotton Rebecca features an oversized fit with fine, slimming pleats in front and back and lovely hand embroidered details on the front and the sleeves. Embroidered by the talented women of Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico! Preshrunk. XS - XL * Embroidery may vary due to the handmade nature of this product.”

So, my manifesto be damned! I did this for my people, for the women of Oaxaca and Chiapas, in solidarity with them to support them trying to make a decent living with the work of their hands. I might not even wear the blouse, but just keep it hanging in my closet as a symbol of my commitment to support indigenous people everywhere.

Then again, I might wear it to a Farm Aid concert or something similar, but only because I’m committed to the cause.

Here’s the photo posted on the website of the company that is committed to fair trade and to supporting the artisans of Oaxaca and Chiapas. I feel like I should send them a check for what the blouse should have cost.

No more shopping for me—I can’t take the emotional roller coaster.


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