As a dual degree student enrolled in both environmental management and business school, I’ve spent more time in class and buried in spreadsheets than I’d care to admit.  However, few experiences inside the classroom have taught me as much as what I learned from my trip to Mexico with Remake.

As the winner of the Net Impact Wear it Wise competition, I was privileged to go to Mexico with the Remake team and a group of phenomenal influencers and design students where I got to know the women behind the label “Made in Mexico.” In just a few short days, we engaged with artisans and garment workers, learning their stories, sharing meals, and exchanging family photos and stories. As a non-Spanish speaker, I was initially concerned that I wouldn’t be able to connect, but as it turns out, we connected in deeper ways than I could have imagined.

Photo: Leticia (left) is a fierce woman leader, who supports her family and mentors her colleagues.

These women are truly incredible. For instance, there is Leticia, who started working in a factory after she recovered from cancer to create a better life for her and her children. She takes care of multiple family members, and mentors her colleagues while working long hours for less than $60 per week.

Or Alejandra, who started working with false papers because she was too young to legally work. She sews pockets for 200-300 pairs of jeans per shift. She is a devoted mother of two, and supplements her garment wages by selling shoes through an Avon-style program. She loves to dance – salsa is her favorite.

Photo: Behind Made In Mexico labels, Alejandra (left) sews pockets to support her family.

These women don’t always have it easy, but they are resilient, brave and committed to providing a better life for themselves, their fellow workers and their families. It has motivated me to think beyond the labels in our clothes, to think about those who actually make them and how, as a consumer, I can engage better with the brands that make my clothes to highlight issues I care about.

While there isn’t a perfect answer or silver bullet to fix some of the darker sides of the fashion industry and its effects on the people who sustain it, there are actions that can be taken to make the industry better. The top three are:

1. Engage with brands

Never forget that fashion brands ultimately cater to you. If you are unhappy or concerned about the treatment of makers, reach out to your favorite fashion brand through their website, social media presence or in-store. The more feedback they receive and the more they understand that consumers care about the people that make their clothes, the increased likelihood they will listen to your concerns.

2. Match your $$ to your values

As someone who is in graduate school and on a limited budget, I understand the desire to maximize your budget with the cheapest clothes possible. However, if you’re getting that t-shirt for $4 in a high mark-up industry, consider the impact on the person that is making the clothes. Cheap and fast fashion seems economical, but it’s harmful to the people that work in it, and ultimately to your wallet, as you have to constantly replace the cheap clothes.

3. Choose better brands

If you don’t know where to find brands that are doing the right thing, check out Remake’s Shop Better list! They offer vetted brands that are working to produce more inclusive and sustainable products that take into account people and the planet. They truly make it easy to wear your values.

Photo: Turning fashion into a force for good, Remakers and garment makers join together in solidarity to further women’s rights in the global fashion supply chain.

Made In Mexico has motivated me to think beyond the labels in our clothes, to think about those who actually make them and how, as a consumer, I can engage better with the brands that make my clothes to highlight issues I care about.

While there isn’t a perfect answer or silver bullet to fix some of the darker sides of the fashion industry and its effects on the people who sustain it, there are actions that can be taken to make the industry better.

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