Ecological concern · Ethical living · Social justice

The Circle Game

I have been intentionally living more justly for over a year (I even avoided ordering avocado in a restaurant the other day!) and recently realised I now only buy clothes from three sources:

  1. charity shops – I found a bright and colourful pair of trousers for £4.99 from Age UK on holiday last week causing Small Boy to exclaim ‘Mummy, I love your parrot dress!’
  2. Marks and Spencers (for underwear, socks and leggings) – I like their commitment to ethical cotton and some items are best bought new
  3. ethical retailers such as People Tree, Nomad and Rapanui.

Using organic cotton and passionate about supply chains, each Rapanui product has a code which can be scanned to discover its origins. As Fashion Revolution declare we must keep asking ‘Who made my clothes?’

Not only are Rapanui transparent about the origins of their products, they care about the end. When Rapanui clothes are no longer able to be worn, they can be sent back to be recycled and you receive £5 in store credit! They believe the circular economy is the future for the fashion industry.

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I have worn slogan t-shirts since I was a teenager (although I’m not sure I’d wear some of the one I wore as a teenager now!) and I’m currently wearing this long-sleeved t-shirt designed by my church.

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Women’s baseball jersey designed by Wellspring Church and available from Teemill

This was created and bought through Teemill, an online print-on-demand company pioneered by Rapanui . Charities, companies and individuals design their own t-shirts, sweatshirts and bags which are then created to order.

Little Miss and I have matching ‘Adventures are for girls’ t-shirts designed by For Joy by Kathryn Jane. Purchased through Teemill, this t-shirt inspires me to be a little bit braver and to help Little Miss have her own adventures.
Small Boy then wanted a t-shirt which was ‘the same as Mummy’s’ and I discovered Cheeky Monkey, Loyal Penguin on Teemill so we now have matching monkey tops. Our Penguin Friend has a similar one!
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 Rapanui and Teemill t-shirts are made in a wind-powered factory and printed in the UK using low-waste, environmentally friendly inks. What’s not to like?

And just in case you’re wondering, I’m not being paid by Rapanui or Teemill to advertise their t-shirts. I just really like their ethics!

 Rapanui do plain t-shirts as well as a creative statement tee isn’t always appropriate. Mr Pilgrim has some black ones which are now no longer fit to wear so we will be sending them Back to Rapanui  to be turned into new ones!

“And go round and round and round 
In the circle game”
Joni Mitchell, The Circle Game
Ethical living · Social justice

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

Ethical living · Social justice

Adventures in Just Living: Books, Bags, Boxes and Supply Chains

After last week’s blog on mental health, I feel on more secure ground writing about some of the ways Mr Pilgrim and I have tried to live more justly and what we are discovering.

Books: I’ve found a great alternative to Amazon: Better World Books – for every book that’s sold a percentage is given to literacy schemes and they’ll also donate a book to someone in need. They’re great for many reasons and I recommend looking at their website in more detail to discover more about their marvellousness! I’ve also used Eden for purchasing specifically Christian books.

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Bags: My eyes opened to what I was throwing into the black bin (for landfill), I realised that as a family we use a lot of sandwich bags. I googled ‘reusable sandwich wrappers’ and found Re-Wrap-It – we have bought one with robots on for Small Boy to take to preschool and then I’ll use it when I return to work and he goes to nursery. They’re designed by Shona from Glasgow who writes:

Manufacture is predominantly done by the inmates at Kilmarnock Prison. I felt very strongly that as a “green” product they should be made locally not imported from overseas. The inmates learn a skill which hopefully helps with their rehabilitation and could lead to job opportunities in the future.’

Boxes: We had a fun family visit to Church Farm, a social enterprise near Stevenage. The farm runs a grocery box scheme and we ordered one of their vegetable boxes and a selection of organic meat. I loved walking around the farm and want to return to find out more about their farming practices, for instance I was fascinated to discover the chickens live in an orchard because the chickens are a natural insecticide!

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I’m so impressed and grateful that Mr Pilgrim is willing and enthusiastic about eating less meat. We’ve found that meals have become more of an event – a time to talk and share about our days. Our cooking has become more creative and we’re appreciating food and time together in a new way. Mr Pilgrim, Small Boy and I made a beetroot cake with our veggie box beetroot and I’m enjoying more healthy and interesting lunches. The tomatoes smell like the ones I ate in childhood grown by my grandad in his greenhouse. One disappointment was the unappetising lentil and spinach curry I cooked – I should have paid more attention when the author of the cookbook herself stated that it wasn’t very good!

Supply chains: The more I read about how to shop ethically, the more I value the importance of the supply chain. One of my favourite ever academic modules was a qualitative research course I took with Dr Ian Cook (a radical geographer) then at the University of Birmingham – a course which changed the way I looked at the world. His PhD was on the journey of a papaya and the difficulties he had in writing about the supply chain of this particular fruit. He has a short article about this in the first edition of the Journal of Consumer Ethics and has set up Follow The Things  – a non-academic website looking at commodity chains.

Starting 26 June, Ian Cook is leading a free online course with Future Learn called ‘Who made my clothes?’ which I’ve signed up to do.

Next time: I still have to write about my beautiful organic cotton hoodie, tuna, my new washing up liquid and laundry detergent, and my unease at being ‘a consumer’ (I think I need to consume less but how and what?), the power of small changes, and how so much of living justly seems to depend on privilege, wealth and time.