Through the Fabric of Life World Fair Trade Day I helped put on last month, I had the pleasure of meeting a fantastic lady: Beth Provo. She found her passion and followed that dream to develop her own social business: Marigold Fair Trade Clothing. Not only is she helping to promote fair trade business practices through high fashion in North America, she is also working to bridge the gap between organic fabrics and fair trade. Today’s media and business seems to be so focused on the environment through it’s nebulous messages of “going green,” that we all seem to be forgetting about the social component of our buying decisions. But it doesn’t have to be one way or the other….if consumers tell corporations that we want a product to be BOTH organic AND fair trade, they will deliver, but we have to demand it.
This is where businesses like Marigold are playing such a crucial role: in the education of consumers. We must give ourselves some credit and realize that if have the courage to listen and learn, and start a conversation about who made our T-shirt, with what materials, under what conditions and where…then consumers will start to ask the tough questions and be a little more conscious of their purchases.
At World Fair Trade Day at Fabric of Life, residents of Edmonds came into the store and saw the beautiful hand-block printed dresses, skirts and blouses that Beth had on display at the boutique. But Beth was there to tell them that not only was that hand-stitched dress gorgeous, but it was made by a woman in a slum of Mumbai, India. But then she was also able to tell them that the woman was paid a fair wage, is a member of cooperative that helps to make her economically self-sufficient, and is not working in a sweat shop. When the customer asked about the fabric, Beth was able to tell her that yes it is cotton, but cotton that is chemical-free and therefore did not harm the farmer, the worker or the environment and community around it. Interactions like these get the average consumer to start to think twice about exactly why that tank top at Old Navy is only $5.00, and whether or not we are OK with punishing the workers down the supply chain in order to have new, cheap, expendable clothing every week.
Kudos to the good work that Beth is doing to promote the use of organic cotton in the production of fair trade clothing! Interested in learning more about the great organizations that Marigold Fair Trade Clothing works with? Check out these links: