Tag Archives: labor

Who Made My Clothes? Digging Deeper Into Fashion and Consumption

Who Made My Clothes? is a program of the Fashion Revolution. I’ve been following them and its co-founder Carry Somers since she came to Oaxaca in February 2016 to take one of my natural dye and weaving textile excursions.

Pedal loom weaver Arturo Hernandez, San Pablo Villa de Mitla, Oaxaca

I introduced her to some of the weavers who make my clothes and the rugs that adorn floors and walls where I live in Teotitlan del Valle and Durham, North Carolina.

When I got notice of an online course Who Made My Clothes? produced by Exeter University and Fashion Revolution, I decided to sign up.  The first of three sessions over the next weeks went online yesterday. I’m eager to tell you about it.

But first, what also prompted me to pursue this course was the discussion we had during the WARP Conference about recognizing and naming the people who make our garments.

African indigo tie-dyed cotton that I sewed into dress and skirt

This is true here in Oaxaca, where many of us value, buy and wear beautiful locally made dresses and blouses. If we can afford it, we might buy from Remigio Mesta’s Los Baules de Juana Cata, from the Textile Museum Shop, or from Odilon Morales at Arte Amuzgos. Buying fewer pieces and choosing better quality can be one justification for paying a higher price.

This is a mantra of the Fashion Revolution: the high cost of fast fashion, disposable clothes. Who is paying the price? Our planet and the workers.  In the end, we are, too because we are contributing to a system of over-consumption.

  • 75% of garment workers are young women
  • the world purchased 400% more clothes than we did 20 years ago
  • in the USA in 2012, 84% of unwanted clothes ended up in the landfill or incinerator

If we buy on the street, we have no idea who made the garment or what they were paid for their labor. Usually, it’s a reseller who takes this work, either buying outright or on consignment.

  • What are we doing to make our own clothes?
  • What are we doing to mend our own clothes?
  • What are we doing to buy at up cycle/thrift sales?
  • What are we doing to buy directly from the maker?
  • Do we read labels? Check clothes “ingredients?”

The WARP conference was also about fashion designer theft, talk of label switching by designers in the NYC fashion industry, and mainstream appropriation of indigenous cultural patterns.

A challenge in this week’s online lesson was to read about the 2013 tragic Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh, when more than 1,100 people died, mostly young women. From this rubble, the Fashion Revolution was born.

The women in the building were making clothes for brands we all know: Gap, Walmart, H&M, Sears, Tommy Hilfiger and more. Questions came up: Who is ultimately responsible for worker safety? The brands, the subcontractors, the government? All of the above?  How does one person make a difference?

Family mourns death of loved one, Rana Plaza, Bangladesh

So, the course developers are asking me to look in my closet, evaluate what’s there, choose my favorite garment(s), ask whose lives are in the making of these clothes? What materials: cotton, synthetic, linen, flax? How old is the oldest thing in my closet?

The dress and skirt I made (above) last week, took me hours of labor, a total of about four days. I’m particular. I like French seams. I also made my own pattern. I appreciate good garment construction and fabric.

There may still be room in the course.  We have a week to finish the first module, and its insightful, reflective and purposeful to ask: Who made my clothes?

If we care about the food we ingest, we can also care about what we choose to say about ourselves in what we wear.

Mexican Immigrants Help North Carolina Friends Dig Out, Clean Up After Hurricane Matthew

I got this message today from dear friends who live near the tributaries of the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. The important note is that they are safe, and that they could employ Mexican immigrants (we don’t ask if they have papers) to help them dig out.

THANK YOU,  to the Mexicans who travel here in search of jobs, we appreciate your work ethic and desire to pitch in, to send money home to your families, and we honor and respect you.

Here’s part of the message:

“Most folks who know us are aware that our 12 acre property was under water during Hurricane Fran 20 years ago, the day we were to move into our new home. There has been occasional minor flooding since then. Although we have carried flood insurance, we have never had to use it until now.  This time was a little different with the creek behind our property overflowing upstream and coming across the front yard, in addition to the back 3 acres flooding over the lower banks.  The house, which is slightly higher than the ground, quickly ended up as an island amidst rushing water on all sides.  Two neighbors who came down to offer help were also stranded in the house with us when we finally called 911.  The 4 of us and our 2 goats were evacuated via a Swift Water Rescue motor boat.

It must have been quite a sight! Unfortunately our youngest goat drowned earlier.  That tragedy has been the worst part of all.  The 12 chickens spent the night in our upstairs bathroom and the dog and 2 cats stayed together in the upstairs bonus room.  The 2 horses were on high ground and entertained by all the excitement and extra loving. Our neighbor is the anchor for the nightly news so once again the farm was featured!

Fortunately water did not come directly into the house.  Yesterday there was 2 ft. of standing water in the crawl space beneath the house, about 2 inches from the sub-flooring.  After pumping 24 hrs. we still have about water so are unable to assess the full damage to the flooring.  We do know that we lost ducts, installation, all of our HVAC units and a hot water heater.  The yard and pastures were littered with debris.  2 freezers we used for animal feed storage floated away as well as the chicken coops and tack shed inventory. Minor water is in the vehicles.

God mysteriously touches us when we least expect it. We located 8 Hispanic migrant workers who were out of work due to the loss of the  tobacco crop.  Greeting us with grateful and smiling faces, they worked all day yesterday and today to rebuild fences and shelters for our animals.  

It is a beautiful Fall day and hard to believe that so much has happened here.”

I’m so happy my friends are safe. That they have help. And, that I am here to vote against the wall.

Tlacolula Market Christmas Preview: Oaxaca Glitters

I grew up in Tinseltown. My memory is imprinted with pink, blue and white flocked Christmas trees for sale on pop-up corner lots along Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. Glitter was not only reserved for Hollywood. Garlands of sparkling silver ropes and plastic poinsettias could make any California dream of snowmen come true even in sunny December.

Checking email, texting or whatever -- Tlacolula, Oaxaca, Mexico

Checking email, texting or whatever — Tlacolula, Oaxaca, Mexico

Little did we know that poinsettias, called nochebuena here, are native to Mexico, bloom in November and December, have become the North American symbol for Christmas. They are all over town.

 

Welcome to Tlacolula, Oaxaca, Mexico, where traditional Mexican Christmas decorations of moss and bromeliads mingle with shiny stars, dangling bulbs, plastic farm animals and colored Christmas trees — a cross-cultural holiday morphing that points to the immigration back and forth across the border (sorry, Donald Trump).  And it’s sunny here, too. Sometimes downright hot in December.

Everything you’d ever need to decorate for Christmas

Evoking Frida Kahlo: Making Memory Altars and Shrines, February 25-28, 2016

So many of Mexican parentage are United States of American citizens and they come home to visit family this season. We can debate the impact of change and commercialism on the culture of indigenous Mexico and what the word authentic means.  People come back together after being separated and that in itself is good news.

Bromeliads from the Sierra Juarez, traditional decorations

(Don’t forget, Donald Trump, that Mexicans have lived in the United States for over 400 years, and that the southwest was stolen from Mexico in a trumped up war to gain territory.)

 

Poinsettias that are planted in tierra firma bloom here every holiday season — a natural part of the environment. So, there’s no excuse for fake here, although I see plenty of imported from China nochebuena flowers sticking out of vases on restaurant tabletops.

A 30-lb. turkey (or more) at 1,300 MXN pesos, led on a string

Those who can afford it will have turkey —  pavo,  guajolote — on their Christmas table.  This will  usually be dressed with mole negro or mole amarillo, depending on family tradition. There were plenty of live turkeys for sale on this Tlacolula market day, the last one before Christmas. The ladies were vying for customers.

The poultry sellers market, Tlacolula, Oaxaca

I could hardly get through the crowds, even at my usual 10:30 a.m. arrival time when typically there are fewer people. The crowds don’t usually come until after noon. But, the aisles were jammed with vendors, either stationary at tables or sitting on mats, or trying to move rolling carts from one spot to another.

Couple this with families out shopping for Christmas gifts and visitors from the city and you can imagine the skill required to negotiate the camino without tripping over someone or getting stepped on.

Fancy day-glow tennis shoes, a perfect Christmas gift

What I noticed most were a different variety of displays this time of year destined to become gifts: day-glow socks, lacy underwear, art work, fleecy hats, piles of oranges, embroidered little girl dresses and fancy tennis shoes.

Mamay fruit also known as Zapote Chico

Wall decor for holiday giving, some original, some reproductions

Plus, lots of fireworks for sale. Pyrotechnics are a big deal here and kids love shooting off firecrackers and spinners. Are they regulated? Heck, no.

 

Waiting in line for remittances, Tlacolula, Oaxaca, Mexico

The line out in front of the money exchange was a block long all day long. People were waiting to collect the remittance dollar being sent from the U.S.A. by family members who are there working for the benefit of those at home.  Since the exchange rate is now over 17 MXN pesos to the dollar, this is a Christmas bonus for many in the Tlacolula Valley.

  Notice the Michigan Black Beans sign above. Wonder who picked them?

Tourists love it, too. This is an especially good time to go shopping in Mexico. I noticed the market had more than its share of gringo travelers. Let’s hope they left with some treasures and left their pesos behind.

Oil paintings and watercolors for sale on Tlacolula street

Oil paintings and watercolors for sale on Tlacolula street, kitsch folk art

Piñatas for Christmas? Yes, it’s someone’s birthday!

I am waiting for my  family to arrive this week for holiday celebrations. We are going on a Collectivo 1050 Degrados tour to Atzompa tomorrow, a mezcal tour next week, maybe a visit to Hierve el Agua and a stop in Mitla on the way back. It’ll be busy, but I’ll try to keep up with Oaxaca comings and goings.

Packed parking lot — first time in my memory here.

 

 

 

 

 

Give Thanks to Latino/a Labor on U.S. Labor Day

Participate in the Facebook Event: Give Thanks to Latino/a Labor on Labor Day

Today I’m picking weeds in my garden, getting ready for a big Labor Day shebang that Stephen is preparing for in our North Carolina yard. Sweat is streaming from my brow, dripping onto the earth, and after an hour I have to take a break.  A LONG break.  That got me to thinking about Labor Day, its origins, who is doing the physical labor in America, and what Labor Day means to me beyond the annual Bar-B-Que in the back yard with family and friends signaling the end of summer.

For the most part, the labor required to do America’s back-breaking physical work is done by Latino immigrants who tend to our agricultural farms, till the soil, plant the vegetables, cultivate and harvest them, and put food on the table for our enjoyment and sustenance.

They work in orchards and nurseries, on landscaping and construction crews and restaurant kitchens in cities and towns across America.

We depend on Latina labor to clean our houses and care for our children.  I see immigrant women of all ages in every town I visit in America working as caregivers and orderlies in health care units, hospitals and nursing homes.

In North Carolina, our chicken plants are staffed by Latino Labor who do the work that is dangerous, bloody and stinking, and repulsive to most.  They kill, clean and process the fowl that become chicken breasts, legs, thighs that are carefully packaged for our consumption that show up neatly, row upon row at our local Harris Teeter or Lowe’s or Food Lion or Kroger.

For every low paying job imaginable, think of a Latino/a worker.  I want to honor and give thanks to the men and women who work to serve the needs of America.  Won’t you join me?

Participate in the Facebook Event:  Give Thanks to Latino/a Labor on Labor Day