Enter to win more than $500 of Fair Trade goodies!
I’m wearing Fair Trade underwear! And you could be too. Just enter the contest below to win more than $500 of goodies including PACT underwear, Patagonia yoga pants, prAna T-shirt, Boll & Branch throw, Under the Canopy bathrobe, and TOMS coffee.
Buying Fair and Being Fair is now more than just about your (and Griffin’s) cup of coffee
The fact that I’m wearing Fair Trade Certified underwear is something I can’t believe. (My super soft organic underwear were made by PACT. I love their slogan: Change starts with your underwear!)
You may have heard of Fair Trade coffee, chocolate and other food products. I write about Fair Trade extensively in WHERE AM I EATING. Fair Trade food is nothing new, but fair trade underwear?
This is a big freaking deal!
Right now, I’m imagining you imaging me sitting in my Fair Trade underwear, and I know what you are seeing in your mind’s eye. You are picturing me in wooly yak underwear woven on some wooden loom handcrafted in Nepal. You are imagining me itch myself. (And if you weren’t imagining this before, you definitely are now. Sorry.)
These aren’t those kind of Fair Trade underwear. These are underwear made in an underwear factory just like the underwear factory that made your underwear. Except it’s not a typical underwear factory. It’s a Fair Trade Certified underwear factory. This means that the factory upholds social and environmental standards outlined by Fair Trade USA. (a PDF of those standards is here.) The brands sourcing from Fair Trade factories pay a 1-10% premium that goes to a worker-controlled fund that can be used for however the workers vote for it to be used.
When I wrote the first edition of WHERE AM I WEARING? in 2007 there was no such thing as fair trade apparel. Yes, there were fair trade handicrafts, and you could buy some items of clothing, but traditional Guatemalan poncho pants don’t necessarily work in Indiana. That is a different kind of fair trade. Handicrafts aren’t upheld to the same standards as Fair Trade coffee or, now, Fair Trade certified apparel.
Then the industry was far from even acknowledging that people in faraway lands actually even made their clothes. In 2007 a consumer or author asking about who made his or her clothes and what their life was like was a radical conversation that even the most forward-thinking apparel companies weren’t ready to have.
Seriously. I had a brand tell me that my views were too extreme. My views? Many people who read WHERE AM I WEARING? aren’t even sure what my views are. And that was intentional. My goal was to take a reader along for the ride and for them to meet the folks I met. My view was that maybe we should think about the people who make the clothes we wear every day, and that we should care about them.
Clothes are changing
It is important that we support these companies as they do so. They are clearing a path, and the apparel industry is watching. In the wake of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, companies are looking for alternatives to the industry as usual. Companies are watching consumers to see if they actually care.
Show them you care by:
Meet Ranjit Singh
Because I’m a vocal supporter of Fair Trade, Fair Trade USA asked me to share a story of one of the workers who has benefitted from working in the Fair Trade certified factory that made my underwear.
Ranjit Singh, 37, from Pithampur, Madhya Pradesh, India, works as a tailor at Pratibha Syntex, in the same town. A member of the factory’s Fair Trade Committee, he has been in the garment industry for 18 years, and for the past 6 years at Pratibha. “We have a better working environment and overall atmosphere here. Unlike at other factories, the hours are fixed; you get weekly breaks, and no work overload. Once you complete your work, you’re a free man – no tension!” He adds that he’s most thankful that the “factory provides medical insurance my whole family.” “I’m proud of the quality we produce at this factory.”
Supporting workers is the fashionable thing to do
When I met and wrote about garment workers around the world there was no real tangible way to make a difference in the lives of factory workers like Amilcar in Honduras, Arifa in Bangladesh, Nari in Cambodia, and Dewan and Zhu Chun in China. Now there is.
The more we look for the Fair Trade Certified label, as seen below, and the more we support it, the more we’ll see it in stores.
Happy Fair Trade month!