Who made my clothes?

Where are my clothes made? A simple answer: I don’t know, and I won’t know. It seems like I’ll never know. I questioned multiple companies, asking if they could tell me more. Tell me more about where their products were made, more of the conditions the workers are in, even what cities their factories belong to. No answers. No company “had access to that information,” and then emailed me apologizing for the inconvenience.

Companies close the information regarding where and how their products were made. Three companies I have shopped at; NHL, Garage, and Jerzees, could not answer an easy question of where is their main factory located. Why is that information kept from the consumers that the company claims to want a strong, positive relationship with? Every buyer should have the right to know all about their purchase.

I additionally went to call Free People, hoping their company would be more willing to tell me who made my shirt. They agreed to send any and all information to my email in the next two days.

It was understandable that the customer service representatives I spoke to did not know anything besides me of where the clothes were made, but it just led my mind to think more. Why are we denied the knowledge of another human’s life spent toward making my clothes? I wasn’t even given a city name, factory name, worker name. They wouldn’t even direct me to a person that was able to give me any further information.

It makes you think. I can call a fair trade company and they can go on-and-on all day of how their products are made. The country, the working conditions, all of it. The people are proud to talk about it. Why aren’t all companies like this? Are they not proud of their business? Are they hiding information for legal purposes? Whatever it is, it seems that since some companies can answer the question of where my shirt was made, why can’t others?

Claire Werynski
Cleaning Out My Closet Conscience

Through school, my teachers and friends showed me the world of fair trade. As a recently named a certified fair trade school, there is a constant everyday reminder. Through tea and coffee in the lunchroom to signs advocating fair trade posted around the building, it is hard to avoid being aware of it all.

I try to buy fair trade as much as possible. It makes for a cleaner conscious when I choose to buy fair trade over something else. I am recently trying to redo my wardrobe with fair trade clothes on top of the jewelry and little knick-knack items I have already purchased. When buying gifts for another, I try to make that step to purchase something from a fair trade store to spread the message to new people. I shopped fair trade for my family during the holiday season and I try to shop fair trade for any birthday gift for a friend.

 
 

A fair trade uniform becomes so much more than just a skirt or shirt in your closet that you have to wear for school everyday. A fair trade uniform give you the confidence to walk in the hallways knowing that you contributed to help the life of a woman in Guatemala. It’s an easy change from buying a school uniform to buying a uniform from One Seed Heritage. The only difference between the two uniforms is the impact you can make.

 

Claire Werynski
a new perspective

When I decided to go Guatemala there was much I was in search of. An off-the-beaten-path adventure, a better relationship with my sister, and the possibility of pursuing a new career that could help me evolve personally and professionally.

In San Pedro, I found my adventure. There were rides in tuk tuks and on lanchas. Late-night dinners at the local taco stands that lured you in with the billowing smoke from their grills piled high with chicken and chorizo. I even abandoned my usual hotel snobbery to stay a night in barebones accommodations, featuring amenities like a suicide shower with exposed wires and no hot water and a 5 a.m. wake-up call from the coop of cackling chickens next door.  

 
 

Panajachel, where we visited after being in the Lake Atitlan region for a few days, is where I took a more vocal step forward in bettering the relationship with my sister. As you read in an earlier post, my sister and I are complete opposites which for whatever reason has sometimes come between us for better or for worse. She is full of wanderlust, and her desire to help others exponentially outweighs any desire to help herself. She is a woman who is not afraid of the fall that accompanys taking new risks. While I on the other hand need stability and have prioritized this over achieving complete fulfillment in a few aspects of my life, mostly my professional one. While in Panajachel, we met a micro financer from Whole Foods who asked me what I had enjoyed most about Guatemala. While the expected response would be food or the beautiful scenery, I instead focused on how the country had allowed me to reconnect with my sister and begin to understand what her path is and why it is so different then mine. I like to think in that moment my sister had the confirmation that I believe in her business, and more importantly her.

 
 

The most profound experience I had in Guatemala was in San Juan, where I spent many days with the women of Tinte Maya because of my sister's business partnership with the cooperative through One Seed Heritage. To again reference the earlier post my sister wrote, throughout the latter part of my life I have attached fulfillment and success with possessions. I think it's a byproduct of living and working in the New Jersey and Ney York area, where what you have is the most immediate way people assess your societal worth. The women of Tinte Maya made me question this very Western point of view that I had subscribed to for the last decade of my life. While by our standards the Guatemalan people have very little living in a country where 75% of the people are in poverty, I actually found that at least the women of Tinte Maya are rich in ways many Westerners struggle to or will never know due to societal norms and pressures.  The Mayan people I engaged with at and around Tinte Maya have found peace, purpose and happiness in their everyday that is deeply rooted in caring and providing for their families and extended communities. And it was in seeing how my sister is partnering with these women in a way that allows them to maintain and enhance their culture, not change it to one that places a premium on a paycheck, that moved me to question my own professional future.

Emily Dell
How to Get A Sewing Machine From Ohio To San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala in 15 Easy Steps
 

1. If you want to transport a sewing machine (or more than one) to Guatemala, you must first buy a sewing machine. If you plan on taking a used machine, you only need to worry about buying bubblewrap. 

2. Next, map route. If this doesn’t deter you, proceed to next steps.

3. If bringing more than one machine, convince friend, family, or foe to join you and carry other machines in their luggage.

4. Leave any new machine in its packaging for safety. Do not throw away invoice. Pack used sewing machines with personal belongings as to avoid issues with customs agents.

5. Depart at Cleveland airport, check bags, board flight, sit back, and relax… this will be your last opportunity to do so.

6. Arrive at airport in Guatemala City. Wait for bags at baggage claim… keep waiting… and wait some more. If all bags have been removed by other passengers from the conveyor belt and no more appear after 10 minutes, your luggage and machines have not arrived with your flight and your new status is #nakedinguatemala.

7. Do not believe that your bags will arrive in a few hours, that night, or the next day. Have no expectations and pass time enjoying the sights and sounds of Antigua.

8. Return to airport 2 days later.

9. Do not be alarmed that your boxes have already been opened when you arrive. Answer all of the customs agent’s questions. Open boxes for customs agent. Show invoices for new machines. Describe purpose. Close boxes. Wait for customs agent to research your claim. Open boxes for new customs agent, wait for them to discuss. Repeat process 3 more times.

10. Pay taxes on new machines. In order to avoid paying taxes, make sure combined value of your items is less than $500. 

11. Load boxes into taxi, leave airport, and return to Antigua.

12. Schedule shuttle to San Pedro La Laguna because there is no direct to San Juan La Laguna. Do not be surprised that shuttle driver refuses your extra boxes, then checks tire pressure, and then asks for extra money to carry your extra boxes. Give shuttle driver money and pray that your items do not fall off the roof during the next 5 hours.

 
 

13. Arrive in San Pedro La Laguna. Hire tuk tuk to take you, your friend, luggage, and machines to hotel. Somehow, it all will fit. 

 
 

14. Drop off luggage. Hire new tuk tuk. Pay extra because the road is not well maintained. Fit two machines in “trunk” and one on each lap… hold on to your hats… tuk tuks do not have four wheel drive.

 
 
 
 

15. Arrive at cooperative. Receive thanks and smiles and excitement. Frustration from previous complications disappear and it's finally time to get to work.

 
Hilary Dell
Style Opposites
 

Emily and I face skepticism of our shared DNA all the time, but not just because of our very different looks. She is a successful no-nonsense PR professional and owner of a fashion truck business living the American dream in New Jersey with her husband and her new Audi. Most people are convinced I’m a nomad, but I’ve spent the majority of my adult life in Denver, Colorado. I’ve also made a few less-than-conventional life choices like quitting my job a year and a half ago to move to Guatemala to start a business.

Neither of us are adopted. We’re not half sisters or step. She’s short, bleach blonde with olive skin, and loves diamonds. I’m of average height with freckly pink skin and have been told once or twice that my style is “crunchy” (I prefer “boho-chic”). My sister and I are opposites in almost every way you could think of except for one: we’re both badass girl bosses.

Emily races her fast fashion truck all over the Big Apple. She styles built-for-one-night looks for busy Manhattan women and never leaves home without a perfectly coordinated designer bag by her side. Our two fashion worlds rarely collide…. until this past thanksgiving. She told me she wanted to learn more about what I do and she wanted to come to Guatemala with me to do it. I, of course, agreed. I also told her to leave her designer bags at home and that this would be a wet and dirty ride.

 
 
follow her @uncommonblonde

follow her @uncommonblonde

and follow her truck @shoptherunaway

and follow her truck @shoptherunaway

 
 

Today we're leaving for Guatemala. Emily has never given much thought to the people that make her clothes, only what the clothes look like. She shops through racks of “made in ___?” at apparel wholesalers in the fashion district of Manhattan for her fashion truck business. I can’t wait to see this experience through her eyes. Similar eyes I had 8 years ago when I flew to Uganda and met a group of seamstresses that would change my life forever. I wonder how Em will feel after this trip. Will she change how she shops for the clothes on her truck? Will she start selling fair trade? Will she curate her own wardrobe differently? I can’t wait to find out... stay tuned.  

 
Hilary Dell