Thursday, July 24, 2014
   
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Mitla Moda is an e-shop dedicated to direct, fair trade that gives back to the artisan
communities. They are committed to sharing the beautiful artisan traditions of Mexico
in a method that assists the artisans in sustaining these traditions. Each purchase
helps to further their mission of reinvesting all profits back into the artisan
communities in Oaxaca and Chiapas that make and design each item of their carefully
curated collection. You can read more about Mitla Moda on their website, and follow 
along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Hi everyone! Thanks for having me here today! I’m Dusana and I’m the founder & CEO,
marketing and general manager, stylist, photographer, and even impromptu model of
Mitla Moda. That’s the joy of being a very small small business – I get to wear a
dozen different hats on any given day and do things that may have initially
embarrassed me (like being my own product model), and things that initially terrified
me (like speaking to strangers about my business). Of course though, being a small
business owner means that you have to put your fears behind you, and just go for it.
I feel extremely fortunate that my husband is as passionate about fair trade and Mitla
Moda’s mission as I am, and I’d have to say, I think we make a pretty great team.
Jonny grew up in poverty in Venezuela, and knows firsthand how much fair wages mean
to an artisan family, in both their livelihood, and in the sustainability of artisan traditions.

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From 2010 to 2011, we were so fortunate to live in Mexico through a grant program,
and we took advantage of every holiday and long weekend we could to travel around
Mexico by bus. We fell in love with so many different types of artisan goods – from
embroidered tops to beautiful textiles to elaborate bead work; and this planted a spark
in our minds. We were saddened to see people at artisan markets attempting to bargain
down elaborate, handmade items to the price of mass produced goods, not taking into
account the time and detail the artisan spent carefully crafting the item, or how much a
fair price truly affected their livelihoods. This prompted me to sign up for an entrepreneurship
class at the Mexican university I was attending at the time, and I began brainstorming and
doing market research for my fair trade shop that would give back to artisan communities.

I created and presented my business plan to the class, in Spanish, and was grilled
harshly by my professors on certain details. I vividly remember leaving that room quickly,
holding back tears. And, while that’s embarrassing to admit, I love the reminder to not let
little things like that hold us back from projects we’re passionate about. It’s never easy
starting a small business, and even less so since many, like us, start out on small budgets
that can make building brand recognition a bit of a slower process, but it’s been an amazing
journey, and extremely humbling to receive so much positive support for Mitla Moda (like
the opportunity to share with you all here).

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We still can’t say that we’ve met our goal to make a significant contribution to bettering the
lives of artisan communities and sustaining their work; that will take many more years of
hard work. For the time being though, we’re happy to be able to spread the word about the
importance of fair trade and to share some of the beautiful traditions of Mexico. We’re thrilled
that our first collection was well-received by such a supportive fair trade community, and to
be able to make our very first trip back to Mexico since fully opening Mitla Moda in 2012. I’m
writing this from Mexico right now, where we spent the most wonderful day getting to know an
artisan family – the Sosa sisters, and learning about the beautiful work they do. The three sisters
have a cooperative in the Oaxacan countryside, where they work together to create beautiful
woven tapestries by hand. They complete the entire process themselves, first turning the wool
to make their own yarn, dyeing it with natural materials, sketching the different designs on a
notebook they share, and then beginning the patterns on their looms. They shared with us how
their aunt taught them how to use the looms, and how they began with simple, solid colors,
telling us that they improve their skills each day. They take great pride in their work, and
explained to us the importance of the small details, such as using a narrow weave for items
such as coasters and wallets, so that they never cut the tapestry and lasts for many years
to come. The attention to detail and the pride that artisans have in their work inspires us to
keep going, and  we’re proud to support fair, direct trade that helps sustain the eco-friendly,
non-factory-made Mexican artisan goods. And, I can’t wait to share the beautiful new
collections I’ll be stocking the shop with in the upcoming weeks!

Thanks again for having us Chicago Fair trade!  

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Jamie Hayes is a fashion designer and member of Chicago Fair Trade. Her line,
Production Mode, will launch in late summer with a line of ethically made hand-
printed vegetable tanned leather jackets and accessories. Learn more at
jamielhayes.com and productionmodechicago.com. You can follow her brand
on Facebook here and Instagram here

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As the owner and designer of a fledgling fashion line, I think often about how I can
work to change the fashion industry so that preventable tragedies like the Rana
Plaza factory collapse never happen again. As a small manufacturer, I can visit
and vet the facilities where my line is cut and sewn, and I can choose to support
contractors and suppliers who are manufacturing ethically rather than patronizing
sweatshops. Alternately, I can choose to manufacture in-house so that I know
exactly how much cutters and stitchers are paid, and to insure that work is not
subcontracted out at an unethical wage. Making these choices certainly helps me
to sleep better at night. However, I wish I could do more, but as a small designer,
I lack the financial leverage to pressure contractors to pay cutters and stitchers
fair wages. Likewise, as a consumer, I can avoid brands that use sweatshop labor
and instead purchase clothing from ethical brands or buy vintage and thrift items,
but the loss of my disposable income alone is not enough to cause big brands like
Walmart, Gap, etc, to monitor contractors and ensure that workers are paid a fair
wage, that no child labor is employed, and that workers labor in a healthy and safe
environment.

While I believe that our individual choices are extremely important, clearly we can
do more to create change when we organize as a group to amplify our voices. So
today I’m highlighting several exciting and oftentimes unexpected groups who are
banding together to organize across the globalized garment industry.

Chicago Fair Trade leads the Chicago Sweatfree Communities campaign

 

Jamie Hayes speaks at a press conference launching CFT's Sweatfree Chicago campaign in May 2014.
Jamie Hayes speaks at a press conference launching CFT's Sweatfree Chicago campaign in May 2014.

The Sweatfree Communities campaign began in 2003 after grassroots organizations
in several different states won groundbreaking campaigns to change the way that
cities and states use our tax dollars for procurement. These campaigns fought to
ensure that uniforms and other garments purchased by government bodies were no
longer made in sweatshops. Here in Chicago, Chicago Fair Trade has been leading
the push for the passage of a Sweatfree ordinance in the City of Chicago. We’ve
had great success so far--the ordinance was introduced by Alderman Ameya Pawar
at the May City Council meeting and is currently under review (for more information
on the Chicago campaign, click
here).  

It’s exciting to see this campaign take shape here in Chicago, because the campaign
merges of the strengths of labor movement and the fair trade movement. Historically,
the labor movement has focused on organizing workers, while Fair Trade movements
have focused more on the organizing of consumers; the Chicago Sweatfree
Communities campaign focuses on and links both groups together--all the more
important now that more than 95% of our garments are made abroad, often in
countries with the weakest and most poorly monitored and enforced labor, health, and
safety laws. In fact, when United Students Against Sweatshops hosted survivors of
the Rana Plaza collapse here in Chicago, Chicago Fair Trade arranged for a
Bangladeshi worker and labor leader to meet with members of the Mayor’s Office
in order to raise awareness of the wage and safety abuses rampant in the garment
industry.

In addition, historically, Fair Trade has promoted artisanal, small-scale production,
while the labor movement has focused on large-scale factory settings. Here again,
the Sweatfree Communities campaign is building bridges across the the two
movements. In choosing to lead a Sweatfree Communities campaign, Chicago Fair
Trade recognizes that we need a broad range of tools in our tool kit. Certain goods,
such as uniforms, are not and will never realistically be made in small-scale, artisanal
workshops. Instead they are made in factories. It’s important that we, as consumers
and tax payers who tax dollars fund our cities’ large-scale procurement contracts,
support the workers who labor to produce our clothing in factories as well as in
small-scale workshops. Campaigns such as Sweatfree Communities give us the
opportunity to band together in order to create a sea change in the industry. In a
Sweatfree Community, in order to win city contracts, vendors must make their supply
chains transparent. All the links in the supply chain are then inspected. If any link in
the chain is not yet sweatfree, then vendors are given a list of recommendations to
correct any issues, and ample time to implement changes.  If they choose to not
comply, then the vendor loses the lucrative contract.

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Bangladeshi garment worker and Rana Plaza collapse survivor Aklima Khanam (middle right) and 
Aleya Akter (middle left), General Secretary of the Bangladeshi Garment and Industrial Workers 
Federation, met with CFT members and city leaders during the spring of 2014. 

The Model Alliance Teams up with Bangladeshi Garment Workers and Retail
Workers in the US

In the September of 2013, members of the Model Alliance, an advocacy organization
for models, and members of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity organized
together to interrupt Nautica’s Spring 2014 runway show, in protest of Nautica’s
failure to sign a factory safety accord to protect the health and safety of Bangladeshi
garment workers. While at first glance, models and garment workers seem a world
apart, both industries are staffed primarily by young women, in fact, often under the
legal working age. Both groups are denied many basic labor rights, and often suffer
from discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace.  

In addition, the Model Alliance has recently collaborated with the Retail Action Project,
an organization of US retail workers that fights the low wages and scheduling abuses
so prevalent in multinational retail chains. Together, the two groups have organized
events to draw attention to the impacts of fashion fashion on retail workers and
models.

 

(For an in-depth look at these exciting new campaigns connecting models, garment
workers, and retail salespeople, read Annemarie Strassel’s article
Work It! The New
Face of Labor and Fashion
, published in the Spring 2014 issue of Dissent.)

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It’s an exciting time for activism in the garment industry, and not a moment too soon
if we wish to prevent future tragedies like the Rana Plaza factory collapse. New
movements are expanding our definition of garment workers to include not only
cutters and stitchers who labor overseas but also the models, unpaid interns, and
retail salespeople in the US. Fair trade activists are linking up with labor activists
to connect consumers in the US with garment workers overseas. Pressure is being
placed on US-based brands to monitor their supply chains overseas and no longer
shirk responsibilities for workers’ rights at their contractors, or the rights of frontline
workers here at home.

 

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This post is part of our Voices of Ethical Fashion series. Once a week for six 
weeks, we will 
feature stories from people involved in the ethical fashion movement, 
from designers, 
to entrepreneurs, to consumers. In a post-Rana Plaza world, we 
continue to encourage consumers 
to find out as much as possible about where your 
clothes are made and who made them.
 

 

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Anna, who writes the blog October Rebel, lives in the Carolinas and enjoys nature
& art. Sometimes she wishes it could 
be autumn all year long, hence he name of
her blog. You can find her on Blogger
Twitter, and Tumblr

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Hello! I'm Anna, and I blog over at October Rebel

When I can, I try to incorporate fair trade, second-hand and vintage into my wardrobe.
I love getting the most out of my clothes, so I'm always thinking of different ways of
wearing the same thing. One of the most useful wardrobe items for summer is a
breezy sundress. I love this one by Liz Alig, made by Global Mamas in Ghana, and
purchased online through
 Greenheart Shop (ed. note: a CFT member!). It's a pleated
fit-and-flare ladder-back dress made from a recycled flour sack! I'd like to share three
ways I wear it.
 

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Here's a casual way of wearing this sundress. I might wear this to the library or to run
errands. No matter how hot it is during the summer, I always get cold in the grocery
store or air-conditioned buildings, so I styled this dress with a thrifted denim jacket.
The screen print messenger bag comes courtesy of Malia Designs (ed. note: also a
CFT member!)
.
 

OR photo 3

For a picnic, hike, or other outdoor summer excursion, I'll add a straw hat and large
pair of sunnies (remembering to wear lots of sunscreen too)!

OR photo 4

Although this sundress is perfect for summer - I've worn it in more wintery weather
too! Last year, I dressed it up with tights and a tweed jacket to go out to dinner. A
sundress doesn't always have to sit in the closet all fall and winter.

If the flared silhouette and flour-sack goodness is not quite your style - any basic sun
dress will suffice, and fortunately there are so many great fair trade options right now.
I hope this sparks some ideas!

Sincerely,

Anna

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This post is part of our Voices of Ethical Fashion series. Once a week for six
weeks, we will 
feature stories from people involved in the ethical fashion movement,
from designers, 
to entrepreneurs, to consumers. In a post-Rana Plaza world, we
continue to encourage consumers 
to find out as much as possible about where your
clothes are made and who made them.

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Stop Traffick Fashion, a Bend, Oregon-based fashion brand, provides opportunities and hope for survivors of human trafficking while offering a unique line of clothing and accessories. Find STF on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Pinterest, or visit their website and online shop here.

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Stop Traffick Fashion provides opportunities and hope for survivors of human trafficking. Survivors and those at-risk of human trafficking make all of our products and are paid a fair wage for their work. This empowers them to create a sustainable income and live a free, happy life. In addition, a portion of all sales revenue is donated back to organizations that rescue victims and provide rehabilitation and training for victims of human trafficking. Our bags, t-shirts, and jewelry are produced around the world, including Cambodia, India, and Thailand.

STF photo 2

In addition to empowering survivors of human trafficking, STF empowers consumers. It can be overwhelming to hear that an estimated 27 million people are victims of human trafficking around the world, but we’re convinced that everyday people can fight huge problems—one small step at a time. And purchasing power is one of the greatest resources consumers have to create change. While many supply chains are filled with hurt and harm, ours is brimming with hope and help.

We partner with organizations around the world who are working hands on to provide rehabilitation and job skills training for women. Our curated selection of fashionable products helps grow the market and increase employment opportunities that empower women. Jobs are critical to the fight against human trafficking: they give a sense of dignity and confidence, and they provide resources so that women and their families aren’t at risk of being trafficked again.

STF photo 4

One of the women who makes our products, 18-year-old Srey, has lived at Hagar for almost two years, receiving shelter, clothes, food, counseling and skills training. Srey has blossomed from a shy, scared girl to a courageous problem-solver. She enjoys her new skill of tailoring clothes and is even looking for an additional part-time job on the weekends so she can keep improving her skills. She is saving money to open her own tailoring shop someday.

When you shop with STF, you’re helping someone (like Srey!) make a fresh, free start in life — and freedom is a beautiful thing.

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This post is part of our Voices of Ethical Fashion series. Once a week for six weeks, we will feature stories from people involved in the ethical fashion movement, from designers, to entrepreneurs, to consumers. In a post-Rana Plaza world, we continue to encourage consumers to find out as much as possible about where your clothes are made and who made them.

 

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Transitions at CFT

Since Chicago Fair Trade's (CFT) inception, Executive Director Nancy Jones has been instrumental to building CFT as the vehicle to passionately teach others about the people behind our products and growing the Fair Trade movement in Metropolitan Chicago.

Nancy's relentless spirit and vivacious drive to share the message of Fair Trade has been nothing short of amazing. With a background in community organizing, Nancy brought in many talents and gifts to CFT to help build our mission and vision for a more just world and growing conscious consumers. With Nancy at the helm, CFT led the campaign to declare Chicago a Fair Trade City, and we have expanded our network to over 70 organizational members that include businesses, community organizations, faith-based institutions, universities and schools.

After nine years of hard work and dedication to Chicago Fair Trade, Nancy Jones will officially step down as Director in June of this year. From our annual Globalfest benefit, World Fair Trade Day at Daley Plaza, the Sweat-free campaign, and the many other activities we hold annually, Nancy's worthwhile efforts will continue. To advance our commitment for global social justice, Katherine Bissell Cordova will be appointed Executive Director of Chicago Fair Trade as of June 1,2014.

Katherine has an extensive background working for social justice for over 20 years. Her experiences include providing direct services to torture survivors at the Marjorie Kovler Center for the Treatment of Survivors of Torture, working as human rights defender in Guatemala with Peace Brigades International, and opening a field office for a social enterprise, Greenwood Alliance, in Honduras. She also served as Executive Director of ARISE, where she partnered with low-wage workers organizing to improve working conditions in Chicago. Katherine's journey to Chicago Fair Trade started in 2007, when Katherine was hired by Greenheart to open a Fair Trade store in Chicago. She served as CFT's Board Co-Chair from 2011-2013 and will now be leading Chicago Fair Trade as the Executive Director.

Please help us to welcome Katherine as she takes on her new role as Executive Director for Chicago Fair Trade!

Sincerely,

 


 
Joann Arellano
CFT Co-Chair


 


Shelly Ruzicka
CFT Co-Chair

  Who Made Your Clothes?

Daley Plaza apparel installation or the "brands smack down" helped to bring awareness of the differences for workers who produce fair trade garments and those who produce mainstream brands.  It was part of the two day festival that offered a fair trade marketplace and an opportunity to learn about the benefits of fair trade for sustaining the planet.  The event also raised awareness of Chicago Fair Trade's sweatfree campaign. An ordinance will be introduced in Chicago's City Council May 28th.  Alderman Ameya Pawar was on hand for the live broadcast of Worldview to explain what this ordinance would do in garanteeing that our tax dollars won't support sweatshops.

 

Listen to Worldview live broadcast!

 

 

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On May 7th, 2014 I woke up bright and early, hopped on the El, and made
my way to the Daley Plaza. There I found some of my coworkers, friends from Chicago
Fair Trade, and many Fair Trade enthusiast and venders. It was World Fair Trade Day
and we were preparing for a two day festival complete with a fashion installation, radio
show, Fair Trade education, a Fair Trade marketplace, a Fair Trade activist dressed as
Godzilla, and a drum circle.

            I am relatively new to the Fair Trade movement. I have supported Fair Trade
for years, but I have only very recently started my job as an intern working to promote
Fair Trade in the Archdiocese of Chicago. The Chicago Fair Trade, two day, World Fair
Trade Day festival was my first big event working for Fair Trade and I was nervous. Daley
Plaza is just a few blocks away from State Street and Michigan Avenue, two large, corporate,
shopping hotspots. What if people question my ideals? What if I get nervous and tongue
tied and confuse people even more? I was already noticing the questioning looks people
were giving us as we carried mannequins across Washington Street.

            During the two days we spent at the Plaza, however, we met people of all ages,
with different backgrounds, from different parts of the world, who live different lifestyles…
but we were all together, learning. Some people knew all about Fair Trade, others had no
idea. It was truly a great opportunity for discussion and education. By the end of the two
days I can happily and confidently say that we all learned something new, met someone
new, and grew deeper in the human community, whether it was by connecting or networking
with Fair Trade enthusiast or purchasing a Fair Trade product from our brothers and sisters
around the world. 2014 World Fair Trade Day in the Daley Plaza was a success.    

 

- Kayla Jacobs

Intern at Office for Peace & Justice, Archdiocese of Chicago

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Tomorrow morning after the alarm goes off and the shades are pulled, you have the opportunity to dress in solidarity with garment workers across the globe. But what could be such a monumental action before 9 am, you ask? Wearing your clothing inside out will visually remind people around the world that April 24th, 2014 is the one year anniversary of the tragic Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh. Here over 1,133 garment workers perished in what is known as the deadliest garment accident in history.

While the news coverage and the tragic images shook many of us, the Rana Plaza collapse is not an isolated event. Numerous well-known fashion brands are still employing cheap labor and families are still struggling to survive. While companies are outsourcing their labor to the cheapest location, the impact is felt on the temporary employees while unbeknownst to the shopper. Wages are 20-24 cents an hour, verbal and physical abuse is constant and 15-17 hour work shifts are common in garment factories. Social and environmental catastrophes still plague the fashion industry – tainting our favorite dresses, sweaters and pants. So how do we as global citizens raise awareness about the true cost of fashion?

Wearing your clothing inside out on April 24th is a way to reveal where the garment is made and engage with the fashion company. This action is the vision of Fashion Revolution. Fashion Revolution is a global movement, bringing together everyone in the fashion value chain for a positives campaign. Fashion Revolution is cosponsoring events across the globe. Locally in Chicago students at Kelly High School, Portage Park Middle School and more are participating in #InsideOut, collecting photos of their clothing tags. In the evening at DePaul University a fashion show will showcase fair trade fashions starting at 8pm – find out more here.  Come and join us!

So tomorrow when you are getting dressed, flip that top and pants inside out, snap a photo of your tag using #ChiInsideOut and #InsideOut and post it to social media. Send this photo to the whichever clothing brand you are wearing and ask them WHO MADE YOUR CLOTHES?

http://fashionrevolution.org/

- Elise Hawley

Chicago Fair Trade Outreach Communications

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 Guest Post by Jamie Hayes, CFT member and local designer.

Aleya Akter, the General Secretary of the Bangaldesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation and Aklima Khanam, an 18-year-old survivor of the Rana Plaza collapse, came to Chicago last week as part of their tour the US to share the struggles of apparel workers in Bangaldesh. Between visits to United Students Against Sweatshop chapter events at UIC and University of Chicago, they took time out of their busy schedules to meet at City Hall with Chicago Fair Trade and with Adolfo Hernandez of the Office of Community Engagement.  

Aleya told the harrowing story of her journey from garment worker to labor organizer. She started working in the garment industry at the age of 12 and after years of forced overtime, abysmal pay, and unsafe working conditions, she began to advocate for herself and other workers. As a result of her organizing efforts, she has been beaten and harassed by the management at the factory where she works and by the police in Bangladesh. Thanks to her organizing work, the bravery of her colleagues, and international pressure in the wake of the Rana Plaza Factory collapse, this past year she and her colleagues finally won legal recognition of their vote to unionized. 

Aklima shared her experience of working in Rana Plaza on the days leading up to the building's collapse. Workers were forced to continue working even though it was clear that the building was structurally unsound. When the building collapsed, Aklima was trapped for 12 hours under machinery before being rescued. Over 1,100 workers were killed that day, and many more injured. Almost one year later, she is still awaiting compensation for her injuries. 

Aleya and Aklima shared their stories at City Hall because a sweatfree ordinance passed by the City Council would increase pressure on major brands to improve worker conditions. The ordinance would require that all garments purchased by the City of Chicago be produced without the use of sweatshops, meaning that: no children would be employed in the making of our city's uniforms; that workers would be paid a living wage; and that workers would have the right to unionize. Vendors who do not come into compliance with these very basic labor standards would not receive our tax dollars. 

Aleya and Aklima asked City Hall to please support the ordinance which could help create a sea change in the garment industry, wherein sweatshops are still the norm, not the exception. They also asked the City of Chicago to sign a petition urging major brands manufacturing in Bangladesh to sign on to a fire and safety accord that would help to ensure that preventable tragedies such as the Rana Plaza collapse and the Tazreen fire never occur again. You can support them as well by signing here and also by joining CFT in our campaign to make Chicago a sweatfree city! We hope you will download the support letter to your alderman and reach out to share what an important statement we can make as a sweatfree community.  We anticipate the ordinance will be introduced in May.

Contact info@chicagofairtrade.org for more information 

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637 S. Dearborn 3rd fl. Chicago, IL 60605 | 312-212-1760 | katherine@chicagofairtrade.org