Fashion with integrity

Yesterday was my first day back to school. This is a week filled with teacher meetings, planning, and reclaiming the classroom after squads of overzealous cleaners have piled bookcases and tables with whatever was in their way while trying to wash floors, windows, and shelves.

It was wonderful to reconnect with colleagues and catch up with our summer endeavors. I was talking with one colleague and mentioned something about what a great color her shirt was. She replied, “Well, I certainly don’t dress with the same style as you do. This shirt is as wild as I get.”

Hmm…I do definitely dress in a unique way. When I was young, my mother dressed me and my brother and sister with whatever was clean. This meant that our shirts and pants did not really match. We would wear patterns with stripes or disparate colors. I must have made a virtue of such mismatch because I love to do the same now; I purposely put my clothes together in these unusual ways. I select them for their aesthetic qualities.

Equally important to the way my clothes look and feel on me,  is where they come from. Most of my attire comes from MarketPlace of India. It is a non-profit organization which has supported women workers in India to build sustainable and independent economic lives since 1980. These women working in over 14 different cooperatives receive almost all of the money from the sales of their fashion creations. There are no middlemen to reap huge profits and provide meager sweatshop wages. MarketPlace works with the organization SHARE which gives financial and production training to the members of the cooperatives whose leadership intentionally changes every two years. This extends and empowers the women in these cooperatives to grow in ways the traditional culture might not always have supported.

The point here is that it is incredibly important to me to understand the consequences of all the choices I make; that in order to support the values that are important to me, even selecting the clothes I wear (especially in selecting the clothes I wear) is part of a larger, wider circle of building constructive, sustainable, and empowering community.

Puspika Freitas, the President of MarketPlace, best sums it up,

MarketPlace: Handwork of India is about Opportunities and Choices: to earn a fair wage, to have work that draws on their talents, and to have lives that are joyful….our artisans find gratification in being able to support their families and engage in social activism, celebrating events and festivals together.

In embracing MarketPlace’s distinctive clothing and home décor, you have the opportunity to shop in a way that resonates with your sense of style, but also your sense of integrity. In doing so, you participate in a process that allows the artisans to support their families, educate their children, engage in social activism and embrace joy– a process that is changing the lives of entire communities in India.

Check out their blog :  http://marketplacehandworkofindia.wordpress.com/

And check out their website: http://www.marketplaceindia.com/Main.aspx?status=home

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