Further Adventures in Just Living: Fashion Revolution and Plastic Oceans

Do Something is the third and final section of the Who Made My Clothes course so here is my Fashion Revolution Pledge.

  1. Ask Who Made My Clothes? i.e. contact brands and ask them about their supply chains
  2. Buy fewer new clothes and purchase what I need not what I want. I have a ‘rest day’ coming up soon so am planning to peruse some of the local charity shops.
  3. Buy from ethical and fair trade brands. I have just found Monkee Genes and am looking forward to buying some – next time I need jeans!
  4. Sign petitions, such as this one from Labour Behind the Label, and email policy makers
  5. Spread the Fashion Revolution message (that’s what this blog is about!) Look at the easy-to-read Fashion Revolution white paper, follow them on Facebook and get involved with Fashion Revolution Day in 2018.

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July was Plastic Free July. Hopefully you read an article in the press or on social media about the problem with plastic, particularly single use plastic. If you want to find out more, have a look at the Plastic Oceans Foundation’s website.

Or you can watch this episode of Octonauts featuring pelicans and plastic debris as Small Boy and I did this morning!

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I’m making simple changes:

  • Saying no to plastic bags
  • Not buying bottled water
  • Switching to reusable sanitary protection – feel free to ask me if you want to know more about Mooncups and cloth sanitary pads!
  • Using a deodorant bar

Today a friend has given me some reusable nappies to try with Little Miss and I’ve ordered solid shampoo and conditioner. Hopefully, these will be successful!

 

I know I’m not Kate Middleton but…

Initially my quest to live more justly was experimental, novel and fun. Changes were made, new items purchased and knowledge gained. Now though, I’m feeling a bit glum.

Turns out trying to live more ethically often involves a cost. Sometimes financial – buying the more sustainable or fairly-traded item is usually more expensive. Sometimes personal when my desires for the shiny and new are not sated.

I am surprised to discover how materialistic I really am. I like the endorphin kick I get from new purchases and I am looking forward to shortly unwrapping a large pile of birthday presents (hopefully all chosen from my carefully compiled wishlist).

I know I’m not Kate Middleton but I feel embarrassed that in a couple of recent Facebook photos I’m wearing the same ‘special occasion dress’.

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Does this matter? Should it? Does it matter to you?

I find it hard to resist purchases for my children despite knowing their happiness is not dependent on having the latest toy.  Many of Little Miss and Small Boy’s playthings are from charity shops and some even used to belong to me or Mr Pilgrim. A sofa, blanket, chair and laundry basket can become a house or a boat or a train providing hours of entertainment, laughter and joy.

I’ve started reading L is for Lifestyle (another book by Ruth Valerio). Not a new purchase – we found it in a box of books under the bed! She quotes Richard Foster’s 10 principles for the outward expression of simplicity from the classic Celebration of Discipline.

FullSizeRender (23)I’m feeling challenged afresh as I look at the list:

  1. Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status
  2. Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you
  3. Develop a habit of giving things away
  4. Refuse to buy the latest gadget
  5. Learn to enjoy things without owning them
  6. Develop a deeper appreciation for the creation
  7. Look with scepticism at ‘buy now, pay later’ schemes
  8. Obey Jesus’ instructions about plain honest speech
  9. Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others
  10. Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God.

One of the reasons I like writing this blog is that it helps me to sift and clarify my thoughts and feelings. As I come to the end of this post, the sad feeling I mentioned at the start has dissipated. Reflecting on Little Miss and Small Boy’s joy and delight in simple pleasures helps me to focus on what’s important in life: people not things. 

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With love from Radhamma

 


To: dido.pilgrim@gmail.com

From: radhamma@imakeyourclothes.in

Hi Dido

Thank you so much for the invitation to Little Miss’s birthday party. I can’t believe that she is going to be one already! It’s wonderful that she is going to be wearing the dress I made. I’m absolutely thrilled that you loved it. You’re right – blue denim and pink is such a winning combination.

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This dress is 100% cotton and made in India. It’s very likely that it was made at the Best Corporation, one of Mothercare’s leading suppliers. The Best Corporation is situated in Tirupur, Tamil Nadu – a region in South India which is well-known for garment production. 

I’m so sorry I can’t make it but I will be working. But don’t panic! It’s not forced overtime anymore. Things have really changed since the Flawed Fabrics report came out. Life is much better.

The Flawed Fabrics report was published in October 2014 (when Small Boy was nine months old) and highlights human rights violations faced by the young women and girls working in the factories and mills in Tamil Nadu. 

In Flawed Fabrics, Best Corporation workers are recorded as saying that: 

  • They were forced to work overtime.
  • They worked more than 60 hours per week.
  • There were not enough toilet breaks. 

However, Best was the only factory investigated where workers were occasionally allowed to leave the grounds. 

I’m just doing some overtime to earn a bit more money to send back to the village for my parents.

The young women and girls who are recruited to work in the garment sector in Tamil Nadu are usually from impoverished rural villages whose families desperately need the extra income and one less mouth to feed. 

You’re so lucky having your family close by. I miss mine so much but at least I can call them on my mobile for a chat.

Flawed Fabrics states that in many of the factories and mills, the young women and girls (the workers are mainly female and the supervisors male) were not permitted to use mobile phones and could only telephone agreed phone numbers. Best employees were the only workers who were allowed to have mobiles. 

Children grow so quickly, don’t they? It won’t be long until that dress is too small for her! I wonder what you’ll buy next?

I wish Little Miss a very happy birthday.

With love from Radhamma

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PS: It’s going to be my birthday soon too. I will be 18.

A more recent report (2016), Forced Labour in the Textile and Garment Sector in Tamil Nadu, South India: Strategies for Redress by Dr Annie Delaney and Dr Tim Connor,  states that in 2012 the Tirupur People’s Forum estimated that the majority of the female workforce were younger than 18 years old with many less than 14.


Hi Radhamma

Thank you so much for your email. I’m glad that life has improved recently. To be honest, it’s been hard to find out what your working and living conditions are actually like. I’d like to see your factory and hostel for myself.

According to the Forced Labour report, human rights violations still exist in the Tamil Nadu garment industry.

I’d like to visit you, to meet you face-to-face and to say thank you for all the clothes you have made for Small Boy and Little Miss over the last three and a half years: the everyday vests, the tiny sleepsuits that were worn for what felt like five minutes and the special occasion clothes, such as the denim giraffe dress that I knew I just had to buy as soon as I saw it.

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I hope that conditions have genuinely improved since Flawed Fabrics was published. I’m pleased to read that Mothercare now release an anti-slavery statement and earlier this year sent out a Responsible Sourcing Handbook to all suppliers.

I’m reassured by their new factory assessments programme:

‘The assessments include initial factory reviews on proposed factories and follow up visits with active factories.

‘The top issues identified were excessive working hours, too many consecutive working days, issues over minimum wages or overtime payments and health and safety issues. In these instances an appropriate corrective action plan was put in place and active factories received a follow up visit and on going support.’

It’s good to read that Mothercare’s suppliers in ‘vertically owned supplier mills’ have agreed to only hire workers who are 18 or older.

It does look as if conditions are changing for you and I hope they continue to do so.

Love, Dido x

Fears and Tears

I’ve chosen An Area in which to be creative (as I mentioned in my last post) and I’ve been finding it frustrating, demoralising and an assault on my self-esteem. It’s tough being a (recovering!) perfectionist.

I have to frequently remind myself that developing a new skill is not about achieving; it’s about exploration, experimentation, education and expansion.

On my recent holiday, I had two sailing lessons – one in a traditional boat and one in a modern dingy. For many years, I have wanted to learn but have been too scared. I used to live near a beautiful urban reservoir and as I strolled around it on summer evenings I’d watch the white sails and wish I were brave enough to learn.

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So this summer I finally had a go – two goes, in fact – as I booked a second lesson. I was afraid but I loved it (well, I loved the traditional ‘Swallows and Amazons’ boat – not too keen on the modern one!). I’m looking forward to having another go in the future and maybe a sailing holiday in the Norfolk Broads one day! Thank you to the Glenridding Sailing Centre for two fantastic, gentle and encouraging teachers.

As well as the sailing, I also had a morning of mountain biking coaching alongside Mr Pilgrim which I simultaneously loved and hated. There was nausea, tears and bruises (all me, I hasten to add).

I had to win a mammoth mental battle with myself in order to overcome the inner voice which screams: ‘You can’t do that. You’ll never be able to do that. Don’t even try.’

There is a short video of me mastering pedaling and braking (it’s harder than it sounds!). I did keep trying and I did do it. This Girl Can.

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Huge thanks to Rich at Cyclewise at Whinlatter for his patience and tremendous coaching skills.


Most of us are deeply disturbed at the prospect of being horrible at something, even temporarily. When you try something new, you’re usually very bad, and you know it. The easiest way to eliminate that feeling of angst is to quit practicing and go do something else, so that’s what most of us do.Josh Kaufman, author of The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything Fast

I’m not the only one who struggles to learn new skills. Josh Kaufman’s words encourage me to keep going at my new activities, even when I’m not doing very well and my self-esteem takes a knocking.

Small Boy and Little Miss, who have both developed some pretty impressive skills over the last three and a half years, also spur me on with their personal determination and self-delight as they grow and see their worlds expand.

I dare to hope one day they will be inspired by their mama’s perseverance and achievements.