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A21 Everyday Advocacy Human Trafficking

Join the Story of Freedom: Film Screening + Fundraiser for A21

Join us for a screening of Missing Persons: A 10-year short film by A21

Saturday, June 23, 2018 @ 7:30 p.m.

Wexford, PA [RSVP for address]

Let’s kick off summer by using film + art + fashion for good!

You’re invited to a screening of A21’s 10-year short film “Missing Persons.” Join the story of freedom being written by this global anti-human trafficking organization, and discover how you can support local efforts to spread awareness and end modern-day slavery.

View the trailer.

We’ll show the film at around 9 p.m. when it gets dark. Before and after, shop original art + paper goods by Sarah Nelsen of Atlas Art Press as well as sandals + bags and more from Sseko Designs. Sarah will donate a portion of her proceeds to Walk for Freedom Pittsburgh, and we will be raffling stuff off and accepting donations at the event. Spread the word, and invite friends!

RSVP via Facebook or contact me!

Can’t make it? Shop! Now through June 30, make a purchase toward the event at ssekodesigns.com/kelly_sjol  or atlasartpress.com/shop/.

Dressember Ethical Fashion Everyday Advocacy

Dressember 2016: Join me, Pittsburgh!

Dressember Pittsburgh

Hey, local friends, want to help end modern-day slavery by wearing dresses?

Dressember is a collaborative movement leveraging fashion and creativity to restore dignity to all women. In just the past three years, thousands of women have raised more than $1.5 million to end human trafficking—I participated for the first time last year; this year, you can help me bring this movement to Pittsburgh!

Started by Blythe Hill in 2009, Dressember began as a quirky style challenge with a clever name that spread like wildfire. In 2013, it took on new meaning, opposing the worldwide trafficking and exploitation of women by aligning with International Justice Mission, a human rights organization that works to rescue victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression. In 2015, Dressember added a second grant partner: A21, which exists to abolish modern-day slavery in the 21st century.

When you participate in Dressember, you become an advocate for freedom and dignity as well as a voice for the millions of voiceless women, children, and men around the world who are enslaved. How? You commit to wearing a dress every day in December, telling people about it on social media, and sharing your personal fundraising page. That’s it!

Responses to common objections:

No, you do not have to own a ton of dresses to participate. The founder originally wore the same dress all month and just paired it with different accessories. I’m probably going to rotate three or four dresses.

Yes, it’s okay to wear your uniform, scrubs, etc. to work, and no, you don’t have to wear a dress when you work out or go to bed. When you have a choice of what to wear, wear the dress.

Yes, you can wear leggings under your dress when it gets cold.

No, skirts don’t count unless you wear them over your dress.

Yes, it’s fun. And easy.

Ready to sign up? Here’s what you do:

1. Join Dressember Pittsburgh.

Visit support.dressemberfoundation.org/pittsburgh and click on “Join Team.”

2. Set your fundraising goal.

You could start off at $50 or $100, but why go small? Last year was my first year, and I set a goal of $500. I raised $750! This year I’m going for $1,000, because why not?

3. Choose your personal url.

This is where you direct your supporters so choose something they’ll recognize, like your name: support.dressemberfoundation.org/yourname

4. Change the world.

5. Win prizes!

The first three people to join Dressember Pittsburgh will receive an official Dressember pin! Everyone who signs up and raises at least $50 will be entered to win a Noonday Collection necklace! Plus Dressember does giveaways and offers prizes to the top fundraising teams! So yay!

Questions? Contact me or visit dressember.org/faq for answers.

Finally, share away on social media! Feel free to share links to this blog post as well as the team page to encourage your friends to join you. Every time you post, use #dressemberpgh and #itsbiggerthanadress, and feel free to check out my Instagram feed from last December for inspiration. You certainly don’t have to post every day; it was my way of staying on track, and my tiny group of fans really liked following along.

Can’t wait to do this with you!

xoxo

Ethical Fashion Everyday Advocacy

Ethical Fashion: Our Clothes Tell a Story, Part 1 (of 2)

your clothes tell a story

Imagine this scenario:

You’re shopping at Target. That doesn’t require any imagination so scratch that; it doesn’t involve enough imagining. And your kids are definitely with you if you’re at Target, so there’s not a whole lot of actual shopping going on. Imagine you’re shopping in the designer jeans section at Macy’s with your best shopping friend. Not in the clearance section either, the full-price designer jeans.

All of a sudden your friend (who has seemingly become quite “enlightened” lately) tells you she knows for a fact XYZ Company employs forced labor to produce its jeans and that workers at its factories are often abused and paid a substandard wage. Would you try the jeans on? I’m going to guess no. How would you feel toward XYZ as a brand? You would be angry with them, right?

Now imagine you are approached by a researcher doing a study, and you’re asked to rate five brands of jeans that differ along four measures—the style (boot cut or regular cut), the wash (regular or dark), the price and, lastly, whether the company used child labor.

You’re told that due to time constraints, you can only view information about two of the four measures before you come up with your ranking. Be totally honest with yourself: Which two would you choose?

This was an actual experiment, conducted as part of a study by researchers at Ohio State and the University of Texas at Austin. The results were published online in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

When asked which two criteria they would use to rate the jeans, more than 85 percent of participants opted to not find out whether the company used child labor.

According to a write up about the study on NPR online,

“If we’re actually told that a specific product was produced in an unethical way, we won’t want to buy it. Yet given the choice, most of us would rather not know the backstory. We won’t make the effort to, say, download an app or check out a website that could give us ethical ratings of manufacturers. And the reason we avoid this extra checking-up is at least partly that we’re unconsciously afraid of being upset by what we’ll discover.”

The thing is, we likely would be upset by what we discover.

 

cheap clothes fast fashionThe fashion industry has changed dramatically in just the past 20 years, and not for the better.

Two reasons: Cheap clothes and fast fashion.

Clothes became cheaper because we started manufacturing them in developing countries, where production costs are a lot lower. Today we spend a much lower percentage of our incomes on clothes, around 3 percent, and produce them almost entirely overseas.

In 1960, the average American household spent 10% of its income on clothing and shoes, 95 percent of which were made in the United States.

Today, we import 98 percent of the clothing we purchase, so only 2 percent is made in the United States.

“Trendy clothing is cheaper than ever, and cheap clothing is trendier than ever.” —John Oliver

So the question becomes, how do the big brands compete when the clothing is so cheap? The answer is simple: large volume and low quality. To keep their prices really low, retailers have to sell a ton of clothes, and in order to sell a ton of clothes, brands have to produce them quickly and cost effectively. This is the essence of fast fashion retailers H&M, Forever 21, and Zara.

These retailers design clothes to fall apart. Their bottom line depends on it: They need you, the consumer, to buy often and in excess. The clothes typically only last a few washes before they start to fall apart, and then you have to go out and buy more.

Also because of fast fashion, we move through trends at lightning speed now. In the early 90s, there were two to four fashion cycles per year, they were centered around the seasons and planned months in advance. Today, there is no such thing as cycles, only trends, and they are changing constantly. H&M and Forever 21 receive new inventory every single day. This “trend cycle” explains why we feel like we can never catch up to the “it” style of jeans—is it the Boyfriend? Wait no, that was last fall or spring maybe? Now? It’s the Ex Boyfriend. I’m not kidding, look it up.

Add all of this together, and we’re buying way more clothes. According to the 2013 article “Why America Stopped Making Its Own Clothes,” In 1960, the average American bought fewer than 25 garments a year. In 1991, it was around 40. Today, each of us buys, on average 70 pieces of clothing per year, or more than one per week. That amounts to almost 20 billion garments per year, or around 28 percent of all the clothes in the world.

There’s a high environmental toll as well, because we’re throwing away more clothes than ever, overloading landfills and secondhand stores, which can’t keep up. Textile waste has increased by 40% since 1999. Appropriate to mention, because Earth Day is this week. We’re shielded from the environmental and human impacts because our clothing is being produced overseas—the problem is far away.

So hang with me, I’m about to bring it a little closer.

Cheap clothes equal cheap labor. According to Jenna Lusk in a May 2015 article for the Village Blog, most of our clothing is produced in China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. Most Chinese workers make about $1-$2.50 an hour; in Bangladesh it’s less than $1. It’s true the cost of living is lower in these countries, but these poverty wages don’t even begin to cover basic necessities like food and shelter. Women often work 14-16 hours a day just to meet their families’ basic needs, which doesn’t enable them to send their kids to school or save for the future.

“The reality is, the fashion industry is a 3 trillion dollar a year industry, and only 2% of apparel companies source from suppliers that pay their workers a fair and living wage.”—Shannon Whitehead in “The True Cost of Fast Fashion”

And wages aren’t the only problem. Sweatshops employ children to meet demand. Men, women, and children are victims of indentured servitude: As of 2016, there are an estimated 27-30 million people in slavery across the globe. Working and living conditions are often unclean and unsafe. Almost three years ago to the day, on April 24, 2013, the Rana Plaza complex, which housed several garment factories in Dhaka, Bangladesh, collapsed, killing 1,134 people and injuring 2,500, most of them women. The cause was substandard construction—adding floors on top of floors without proper support—and owners had been warned several times it wasn’t safe.

That’s hard to hear about. All of this is hard. The idea of children being forced to work, women being trafficked and enslaved, mothers and fathers being mistreated and underpaid just for trying to provide for their families, it’s very hard. The world is full of so much hard. We have enough to fight for in our own lives; we have enough difficulties facing us in our marriages, with our kids, at our jobs, in our finances. What’s wrong with a little willful ignorance every once in awhile?

Therein lies the problem. Because there are people behind the clothes we wear.

your clothes tell a story

Every item of clothing, every piece of jewelry, every accessory has a story to tell.

Every factory worker getting paid a substandard wage or being treated unfairly is a person, made in God’s image. And as Christians, we should care, and not only that, we should stand up for the vulnerable and advocate on their behalf.

Right about now you might be thinking, “This is all good information, ethical fashion lady, but what does it have to do with me?” or “Fashion? Seriously? She obviously doesn’t understand my life.” This does have something to do with you, I do understand your life, and I’m about to tell you about some very small steps you can take toward becoming a more conscious consumer.

Because “in order to make purchases that support our values, we must be willing to be conscious, thoughtful consumers—even if it means spending more on quality items.” (“The Case for Thoughtfully Buying Expensive Things”)

Excerpted from an April 21, 2016, presentation I gave on ethical fashion and continued here.

Dressember Ethical Fashion Everyday Advocacy

Dressember: It’s Bigger Than a Dress

If you follow fashionable people who follow fashion bloggers on Instagram, you’ve likely encountered the style challenge. It’s exactly what it sounds like: Said fashion blogger throws out style inspiration and a hashtag, and fashionable followers come up with their own interpretations and take and post selfies. It’s fun, if you have time and the wardrobe for that kind of thing.

Blythe Hill was a fashion blogger pre Instagram. She was also a bored college student in 2009 who came up with a personal style challenge to wear a dress every day in December, calling it “Dressember.” She completed it herself and thought that’s where it would end. Until the following year when her friends wanted to join her, then their friends, and their friends’ friends. Four years in, Hill had the idea of making Dressember into something bigger.

It was around 2005 when I started hearing about the issue of human trafficking. I began learning that slavery exists in every city in the world, around every major sporting event, at brickyards, brothels, truck stops and massage parlors. It’s estimated that there are currently over 30 million people trapped in slavery—more than any other point in history.

When I started hearing about trafficking, I felt an urgency to do something, and so naturally, I looked at my skillset for a way to engage. The problem was my interests and talents didn’t seem to line up with making a difference. I’m not a social worker, I’m not a lawyer, I’m not a psychologist. I’m not a cop. I’m someone who’s interested in fashion, trend analysis, wordplay, and blogging. My interests felt shallow in the grand scheme of things. I remember feeling powerless, and thinking, “There’s nothing I can do.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I feel that all the time. But Blythe stepped back, realized she’d created a “movement” without even meaning to around the style challenge of wearing a dress every day in December, and decided to align her interest in fashion with her desire to do something. In 2013, she aligned Dressember with International Justice Mission, a human rights organization that works to rescue victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression. They raised over $165,000. In 2014, more than 2,600 participants raised over $465,000. This year, Dressember is also supporting A21.

I found out about Dressember because of Noonday Collection—Noonday is a huge supporter and brand partner—and decided to participate this year along with a bunch of my fellow ambassadors all over the country. Every day in December, I’m wearing a dress. I’m also learning as I go about human trafficking, the stolen lives of its victims, and the triumphant stories of rescue made possible by organizations like IJM and A21.

You can join me! You don’t have to wear the dresses. Follow along each day on Instagram. I’ll also be posting occasional updates on Facebook. Learn more at dressember.org, and contribute to my campaign at bit.ly/givetodressember.

Of course follow me here, and let me know in the comments if you’re participating this year or plan to next Dressember!