THE BEGINNING OF ONE FAIR DAY

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” – Dr Seuss

On One Fair Day in May a blog is born.

Today is World Fair Trade Day! A fitting birthday for a blog dedicated to finding beautiful Fairtrade items.

I hope that you’re inspired by the items I share because they’re beautiful and affordable. I hope my posts make you feel empowered, informed, and positive that through your purchases you can help improve the lives of people we share this world with.

I don’t want my posts to make you feel depressed or guilty! As a good friend of mine, Akram Azimi, says: we can’t feel guilty for the state of the world because we didn’t choose the circumstances of our birth any more than people who live in extreme poverty did. We also didn’t actively choose the current system. But we can help actively change it.

For a long time I felt guilty. The journey towards creating this blog began in 2011. I don’t remember when exactly, because the weather on that day was so perfectly mild –- not particularly hot or cold, sunny or overcast — it was as if that day didn’t belong to any season at all.The weekend before I had bought a new jacket that I had been coveting for a while from an Australian store. And somewhere in the process of deciding whether or not it was cold enough to wear it, I looked at the tag: ‘Made in China’. A tag I’ve seen so many times before. But, this was the first time I actually thought about what it meant for something to be made in China. Who made it? What conditions did they work in? And, how much were they paid? The answers? I had no idea.

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So I jumped on the computer to find out. I thought it would be a relatively simple process. Instead, it was one of the most frustrating days of my life.

By the end of the day I was no closer to finding out precisely what the working conditions were like for the people who made my jacket. The sheer size of the supply chain made it very difficult. The conditions could be very different for the person who designed the clothes, for the people who farmed and manufactured the material, and for the person who sewed the clothes.

As I dug deeper I realised that, more often than not, these conditions were not good. The reports are confronting and uncomfortable. I read articles about 12-year-old girls who worked 12-hour days without overtime making clothes for brands I liked and bought regularly. I read about 30-year-old women who hadn’t had a day off in over ten years, and were losing their eyesight after spending most of their lives in poorly lit factories, sewing clothing that was sent to countries like mine and worn by people like me. I learned about the reality for millions of people working in the fashion industry; not the glamorous side of the fashion industry I was familiar with, but a much darker side where people worked in undignified and usually dangerous conditions for as little as $0.20US an hour, a rate that prevents people from working their way out of the cycle of poverty.

How did the reality get this way? Put simply, this reality evolved from the relationship between companies and consumers. For companies, the natural tendency is to want to make a profit, which involves either selling the product for more or making the product for less. For consumers, as Chris Haughton (a designer for People Tree) says, the natural tendency is to buy the cheapest available product. The result? To be competitive, companies resort to making the product for less, which means outsourcing to developing countries and purposely or recklessly exploiting the world’s most vulnerable people.

The reports I’d read weren’t confirmed – but nor were they denied. Some major clothing chains made statements about their policies on their websites, but they were vague and weren’t really consistent with the reports I’d read. I wondered whether the clothing chains were being truthful, or were blind to the reality, or worse – obscuring the reality from consumers like me. I didn’t want to be involved in a global market that was unfair; I didn’t want to buy products made under the conditions I had read about, but I couldn’t know either way in an industry that lacks transparency and accountability.… Unless the product is Fairtrade certified.

Fairtrade certification is a guarantee that the certified product is made under Fair Trade principles, meaning that no children or slaves are involved in making the product, all workers involved receive a fair minimum wage, and the best environmental practices are used. But Fairtrade is more than a guarantee that the people making our products aren’t being exploited. Fairtrade actively helps people improve their lives. For every Fairtrade product made, workers receive a ‘Fairtrade premium’, which is a sum of money that is invested in social, environmental or economic development projects. Fairtrade has been described as the epitome of democracy; voting with your money for the type of world you want to live in.

That’s why I have been shopping for Fairtrade clothing ever since that fateful day in 2011… That’s what I would say if beautiful things did not tempt me. If I’m being completely honest, I spend as much time on the Internet reading about celebrities as I do reading about world news. On more than one occasion since 2011, I’ve bought an item of clothing because it’s beautiful, and turned a blind eye to how it could have been made.

Until 24 April 2013, when over a thousand clothing manufacturers, mainly women and girls, died in a building collapse in Bangladesh. The building was sub-standard factory for popular clothing brands, including a brand that I had bought 5 items of clothing from, in January 2013. The reality hit hard; with my money, I had tacitly voted for the type of world I didn’t want. So, I made the decision to truly commit to buying Fairtrade and help change the world from the bottom up.

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Image from New York Times

But not out of guilt. Rather it was the realisation that I can help change the world by changing my life. I’m resolving to change my life. And writing about it, here, on One Fair Day. I’ve created this blog to share my decision and document my learnings, because I want to remain accountable.

This blog is more than a pledge to anybody and everybody reading that I am only buying clothing that produced fairly. I am realistic. I know I found it difficult to buy Fairtrade items because I love beautiful things. If I resolve to not buy things, I will probably fail. If this is my challenge, then it’s likely that it’s someone else’s challenge too. That’s why I plan on creating an online space filled with beautiful things: clothing, home style, hair and beauty products, gifts. The type of beautiful and affordable things that make a beautiful life, but also make a beautiful world. Since we’re on the topic of living a beautiful life, I’ll also be writing on what I learn about creating success and happiness through health, fitness, and travel, friendship and love.

I am also realistic in that I know that it is going to take a collective change in the habits of buyers to change the fashion industry for the better. That’s why I want to create a guide to help navigate the existing Fairtrade market, and help make Fairtrade style achievable so that you can incorporate buying Fairtrade into your life and convince major brands to produce more ethically.

I’d love for you to tell me a bit more about yourself and your story. I’m also on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. You can also follow One Fair Day with Bloglovin. Let’s connect! And, if you are having any trouble finding or buying Fairtrade, please let me know. I’ll explore and write about it.

Yours Fairly,

Ashlee

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