Last October nine women proudly walked across our makeshift stage on a rainy evening. It was not an easy task to get to that point. At one point, we had around 20 women who attempted participating in the training program, but as you can see, 9 made it to that glorious, highly anticipated finish line. That evening we reminded them of how far they had come, how capable, strong, determined they are. We told them that the future was theirs to create and this was just the beginning. As I looked each one of them in the eyes, I meant every word I said.
Odra (third in from the right) stood on the stage and told of how hard it had been for her to learn how to sew. Between health issues, physical disabilities and custody issues, she struggled to make it to class, she struggled to learn how to sew, she struggled to feel like she had a place in that room- often times overcome with fear that she didn’t belong, or wasn’t enough. She stood there saying how people tried to help her- her new friends in the class, the sewing instructor– and how patient they’d been with her. She looked up and we briefly made eye contact, and as Sam whispered the translation in my ears, my heart stopped- well no, my stomach fell- well, it just did it again. That’s a hard emotion to capture. You see, in that moment when Odra looked directly at me as she said, “I kept waiting for Estefany to give up on me– but she never did.”
And I don’t want to now either.
Those nine standing here, the last evening I saw these women face to face, are now five.
It’s hard to know what to say or how to convey this message, so telling and sharing my story seems to be the best way I can think of. You see- before I set out to work in fashion, I actually didn’t realize how “fast-fashion” had become such a massive, global issue (I knew of the issue, but perhaps not the scale of it.). There are endless facts that could be rattled off, discussing the effect on the environment (it’s massive), the companies (cha-ching), or the individuals at the bottom: the overworked, underpaid, unable to care for their children or have a say in their wage, their working conditions or many alternative work options.
I don’t want to overlook or ignore how others live, but I recognize that it is hard to change over night, and it is hard to know what to do first. I will be putting together some resources over the next few weeks to help out, but until then, here are three simple ideas to keep in mind as you begin to shop:
- Be aware of how much you are consuming- are you buying to buy or buying out of necessity or because it’s pretty rad?
- Think twice before purchasing- is there a way to support a small business or individual, that would feel the result of your purchase?
- Look for gifts that give back in one way or another- it could be made by local or international artisans, or even have a funnel to donate to organizations you believe in.
If you have an awesome small business you love supporting- share with your friends! Feel free to send some my way as well. We get stronger by joining forces and lifting one another up.