It’s 6:29pm on a Tuesday and I’m counting down the last few seconds to the half hour—to the last to-do of this fourteen-hour day. I take a deep breath and let out a quiet sigh as I walk into the classroom, not out of despair, but simply out of exhaustion.
When Ayesha first walked into the classroom, my mind was wandering. The professor had mentioned some affiliation with sweatshops, and my mind immediately connected the dots in my usual cynical manner. Sweatshops—bad—nonprofit—advocacy—not again. Having majored in International Studies with significant focus on NGOs and humanitarian aid, I spent four years “talking” about issues that undoubtedly mattered, but there never seemed to be answers to the multitude of problems. Nonprofits and NGOs were merely the tool through which good hearted people did inefficient work in invisible places; my youthful days of senseless grit and passion for believing that the world can change were long gone.
So here I was, bracing myself for version 264b of the same storyline I’ve heard countless times.
But when Ayesha started sharing her story, I couldn’t help but fix my gaze at this eloquent woman who suddenly gave faces to invisible girls—the makers of my clothes. She shared the stories of curious, hopeful, and technologically savvy girls not unlike me, hailing from the other side of the world. But these were the girls being overworked and underpaid in cramped factories, paying the true price for the t-shirt that cost less than my Starbucks order.
I realized. This wasn’t just another far-removed situation out of my purview and this wasn’t just another nonprofit with lofty ideas asking for funds to fulfill a utopian dream. The clothes on my back were the perpetrators of this very injustice, and Remake was giving me a chance to make amends.
Stumbling into my apartment just before midnight, I rushed to my closet and went through every single production label, embarking on a grand tour of Southeast Asia with bits of North Africa sprinkled in. I felt betrayed as my Madewell jacket wasn’t actually made well, and my Lululemon yoga pants refused to namaste the hands it came from.
But I turned my distress into action because I now knew that there was a way. There was a real, tangible, and practical way for me to make a difference and it wasn’t about tax deductible donations with an unknown fundraising efficiency or some volun-tourisim trip to Bangladesh.
It’s about starting to understand the real cost of these fabrics touching my skin. It’s about continually realizing my power as the consumer in this destitute situation. It’s about ultimately knowing where my clothes come from, and considering ethically made clothes an investment worth making for me, the maker, and the world.