Fashion and Ethics: Why Should I Care and What Can I Do? by Katie Metzger

Look at the clothes you are wearing right now….Would you believe that 80-90% of what you are wearing was made in inhumane, unsustainable conditions? Well, the sad fact is, this is most often the case. Sweatshops are not a thing of the past. Buying high-end, well made clothing does not mean that it is made in different conditions than Old Navy or Walmart clothing. This is hard to swallow, and as someone who loves fashion it can seem too overwhelming to even think about. However, information and acknowledgement is where change begins. So why should you care and what can you, practically, do?

Ethical Clothing Brand: Same Thread

Ethical Clothing Brand: Same Thread

When discussing the issue of ethicality in the clothing industry, one may have images of sweatshops and child laborers in developing nations toiling all day in inhumane conditions. Although this image may seem extreme, it is a very real aspect of our current garment and fashion industries worldwide. Sweatshops from Bangladesh to Cambodia routinely pay their workers around $1.20 per day for their work. This is not a living wage, even in poverty stricken communities. The chronic underpayment of garment industry workers creates a cycle of poverty in already struggling communities, in turn contributing to other social issues resulting from poverty. Sweatshops are not only present in developing nations but are also a growing problem in the United States.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in recent years up to 11,000 U.S. based factories were cited as violating workers rights and not paying laborers a minimum wage. This shows the problem of human rights violations in textile and garment factories is not only an international problem but a domestic problem as well. Additionally, many companies touted as being ethically made have had numerous sweatshop scandals. When it comes to clothing ethicality we must learn to be active, not passive, consumers of information.

In 2006, a study was done by the American Sociological Association regarding the marketability of fair trade products; this study found that an overwhelming majority of consumers would pay $1-$5 more for items they know are made in an ethical way. Although large strides towards ethical production have been made in the coffee, chocolate and food industry, the clothing industry remains hugely underserved.

Ethical Clothing Brand: Same Thread

Ethical Clothing Brand: Same Thread

I am someone who loves fashion and clothing. The thrill of a new dress or pair of shoes is not lost on me. But I also recognize that, as a person who believes that each human bears the image and likeness of God, I am required to evaluate and educate myself about the impact of my purchases. As I’ve become more interested in ethicality and the fashion industry I keep asking myself, “What can I, practically, do?”. Not all of us can afford to shop exclusively from fair trade clothing brands, and more often the fashion in fair trade clothing is extremely lacking. So what small changes can we make to have an impact on the clothing industry?

1. Realize that someone is paying the price for your clothing…is it you or the garment worker? Jeans should cost more than $9.99. When you come across clothing that is extremely cheap ask yourself, “what kind of production practices lend itself to producing a $3 tank top”? The answer is usually pretty obvious.

2. Inform yourself about your favorite brands. It is well-known that companies such as Forever 21, H&M, Victoria’s Secret, and Walmart have unethical supply chains. However, information is severely lacking for many brands. Do some digging online and if nothing is available, request information.

3. If you are unsure, shop local and second-hand. Finding local markets and boutiques supports your local economy and makes it easier to engage in conversation and get information. Also, second-hand and vintage shopping can be a cost-effective and fun way to go! Most of my favorite pieces in my wardrobe were found at great vintage stores. I love that shopping locally and second-hand gives me a unique wardrobe and personal style.

4. Start exploring and support fair trade fashion companies. As I stated earlier, finding fair trade clothing that is actually fashionable can be a struggle. Many fair trade clothing companies are either insanely expensive or produce clothing you wouldn’t want to wear. However, lately there has been a surge of new fashionable clothing companies that are competitively priced. Myself and my business partner are actually in the process of launching a fair  clothing brand, Same Thread, that produces fashion forward, ethical clothing that also provides economic opportunity to women in Thailand. I hope to be a part of the change towards ethically and reconciliation that I know will take place in the fashion industry. Join me!

katie
Katie is the Co-founder and Creative Director of Same Thread, an ethical clothing brand for women, and is also on staff at Mustard Seed Associates and The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. She is also a native Pacific Northwesterner with a passion for social justice and bringing fair trade business practices into the mainstream. In 2014 she completed her MA in International Development at Northwest University, where she focused on social enterprise and it’s capacity to economically empower women. She has a background in event planning, marketing, design and retail production. On a typical Saturday she can be found cooking, sewing, drawing, listening to records, vintage shopping, sipping whiskey and playing with her puppies.

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Collaborators for Gardening

Garden day at the Mustard Seed House

Garden day at the Mustard Seed House

Last week I was part of an exciting collaborative meeting. The Food and Faith Initiative of Seattle Tilth and the Interreligious Initiative of Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry drew  together a group of local organizations to explore how we can inspire and educate our religious communities to better care for our environment and our communities by growing food to feed ourselves and neighbors.  Many gardens on the grounds of religious communities already provide food for homeless/underprivileged meal programs, for example, while at the same time offering congregants, young and old, opportunities to cultivate their souls as they do the soil. However there is much more that we could do.

There are already a number of organizations here in the Seattle area that help to connect, educate and create gardens. Though many of them work only in the local area, their ideas and resources are wonderful for those concerned about these issues both across the U.S. and in fact around the world.

Seattle Tilth  is one of the most inspirational organizations I know of for organic garden resources and education. Their Just Garden project helps build gardens, and educate gardeners in low income areas increasing access to fresh produce and improving health in the community. I love the way they engage youth in their work and nurture a culture of gardening for the generations to come.

I also love The Garden Hotline and the very useful leaflets they produce. Their new one – Growing Food in the City is great. Check out the others which can be downloaded for free from Seattle Utilities. Be sure to follow the links to brochures on rain water harvesting and composting.

Lettuce Links creates access to fresh produce, seed and gardens for low income families. They co-ordinate 64 P-patches around Seattle, harvest backyard fruit and help distribute it to food banks. Check out their great resource on giving gardens.

Earth Ministry  works to educate individuals and congregations about lifestyle change and the need for environmental advocacy.

It was great to hear about some of the churches that already host community gardens often providing food for congregational meetings and homeless ministries. St Luke’s Ballard, St Columba’s Kent, Epiphany Episcopal, University Presbyterian and St James Cathedral are but a few of the churches that were represented.

Why We Tell Stories: The Science of Narrative

This is a great article on the power of story.

Ekostories

I was pleasantly surprised to come across a WordPress blog titled Why Story Mattersby Mike Dimartino, co-creator of Avatar: The Last Airbender, a show I’ve written about previously on Ekostories. Discussing a video from the World Science Festival titled Why We Tell Stories: The Science of Narrative in one of his posts, Dimartino teases out some fascinating insights explored during the involved panel discussion. As Ekostories is focused on exploring the potential of stories to generate connections and environmental understanding, I would like to share his key takeaways and comment briefly on them.

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A Celtic Bibliography

Yesterday several people requested a Celtic booklist. I posted this a couple of years ago but thought I would save you all the challenge of hunting for it. Thanks to Tom Cashman who provided this very comprehensive list – and if you know of others that should be there please let me know

Godspace

Yesterday  after I posted about Celtic Christianity Adam McHugh asked for a bibliography.  Being a strong  believer in the fact that we should never repeat good work that someone else has already done, I have adapted the very comprehensive bibliography given to me some time ago by good friend and expert on Celtic spirituality  Tom Cashman.

I have added websites of where you can buy these books in most cases – often through Amazon I am sorry though sometimes I did find them on the Goodreads website.  I would also suggest that you contact Hearts and Minds bookstore as another independent outlet for book purchases.

Adam, David: Flame In My Heart: St. Aidan For Today  SPCK London 1997

David Adam is Warden of the Lindisfarne Community.  He writes poetically and non-academically about the Celtic apostle Aidan, who brought Christianity to the Picts of Northern Scotland, and…

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Creating Sacred Spaces – Do We Really Need Churches?

I am starting a series on Creating Sacred Space and decided to begin by reposting this very popular post from last year which is adapted from my book Return to Our Senses. What is sacred space for you? Where do you you feel closest to God? How can nurture such spaces? If you would like to contribute a post for this series please let me know.

Godspace

Our annual Celtic retreat is coming. We hold it in August on a beautiful parcel of undeveloped land on Camano Island north of Seattle. There are no buildings. Our sanctuary is a cathedral of trees – cedar and maple and alder that rise above is in a breathtaking green canopy. I particularly love to sit in the early mornings before anyone else is awake, drinking in the beauty of God’s awe inspiring creation. This is a sacred space for me, what is often called a thin space where the veil between heaven and earth seems to be translucent and the glory of God shines through in a special way.

Special places where we feel almost physically embraced by the love of God are important places of prayer for all of us. Be they a comfortable old armchair we return to day by day, a special place to walk or a…

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This is a revised version of my 2011 prayer – one of my favourites to meditate on at this season of the year.

Godspace

This is the first of several prayers I plan to write as we move towards the events of Easter.  Hopefully they should provide a series of meditations to see those who are interested through the Easter season.

Jesus you took bread and broke it,

You shared it with your friends.

As you were broken to feed us with the bread of life.

Jesus you took wine and poured it out,

Grapes crushed and drained of life.

As you were crushed and drained of your life blood.

Jesus you prayed fervently in agony of spirit,

That God’s cup of suffering might pass away.

Your sweat fell like drops of blood yet you endured the pain.

You hung upon a tree and were crucified for us,

But looked in compassion on your murderers.

Look too in compassion on we who caused your suffering and your death.

Jesus you died for us and…

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This week I plan to reblog my Good Friday prayers from the last few years. Here is the first

Godspace

Today we walk with Christ in the dark shadow of the Cross,

Knowing we have weighed him down,

Our burdens crushed his shoulders,

His suffering is for us,

For us he willingly endured death.

May we trust in God alone,

And walk the way of the Cross together,

Let us move forward without fear into God’s eternal purposes.

Then we will never know disgrace,

And we will learn to praise our God who does not abandon us.

In the midst of grief and despair,

May we know that without darkness nothing is birthed,

Without light nothing will blossom and flower.

May we sense Easter springtime coming,

Death’s dark and overwhelming night will give way to resurrection life.

May we throw off our grave clothes,

And all the weights that hold us down,

Looking and listening for signs of resurrection life,

May we take on the life of the one who…

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