All of us (especially girls) are somehow related to fashion in one way or another. At the end of the day, we all consume clothes and pay way too much attention to our looks. But do we pay THE right attention? This question has been bothering me for a while and from time to time between work and sleep I digged in to do my own research.
Since I'm more a visual person, I decided to find some interviews or documentaries on the topic without even knowing what I’m looking for. And the very first thing I’ve discovered was “The true cost” documentary. Please please please watch it if you are sensitive to the subject. It’s a simple film, but very powerful and mind blowing (in a bad way I should say). The subject is much broader, but I’ll just sum up from a consumption stand point in two words: that H&M skirt you just've purchased for $10 and most probably will throw out in a year represents the labor of a poor worker in Cambodia or Bangladesh, who needs to feed his/her family by putting himself to work on garment factories with very unfair, unsanitary sometimes, unhealthy working conditions. So many families over there suffer and are exploited and taken advantage of because they don’t know a better life.
Why am I saying all this? Well, I’m a sensitive person when it comes to talking/thinking/seeing poverty and threatening life conditions. Yet I haven’t decided for myself how I should be involved in the process of making things better, but what I have decided for now is to reconsider my way of shopping and shop smarter. I try to purchase less clothes from huge companies (and less clothes in general) and have become very careful with choosing who I collaborate with. Also I prefer to support small brands and local producers who are more genuine, authentic and fair.
Few months ago I’ve had a long Skype talk with May Yang, the founder of Lidia May, to understand better what’s behind the brand. Located in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Lidia May is a high quality handbag brand that does not only differ from many others by its unique design and handmade craftsmanship, but also by its social commitment directed mostly on training and employing women and educating kids in poor families living in urban slums. As per May, most families depend on a husband with a low-paid job, and women stay home taking care of kids (2-4 per family). Most kids don't have any access to education and even if they do, there is no much attention put that way - sometimes they are forced to go out in the street or simply don't have any structure or resources within the family to pay enough attention to the educational process.
Lidia May focuses on training unskilled women and providing them with jobs that not only give extra earnings to a household, but also give them a flexibility to work from home while being with their kids. Due to understandable reasons, the life in slums, as May describes, is very chaotic, unstructured and has no routine. Her social work also focuses more on educating these women about time and money management and healthier nutrition, so with time they can become a contributing part of a household and obtain some negotiating power in the community, can provide their families with more purpose, structure and better quality of life and eventually get out of the slums.
Lidia May also initiated the establishment of The Lidia Hope Centre School - an after-school program for kids, where they can focus on doing their homework (since most of the time it is left neglected) and experience a better organized learning environment.
Honestly, I'm in awe of what May is establishing and how much meaning is behind her small company. Most of us are just sitting on our comfortable sofas in New York, London, Paris or elsewhere, surfing online and putting more clothes on our shopping bags, getting upset if packages don't arrive on time or if an ordered item doesn't come in a right size, and c-o-n-s-t-a-n-t-l-y taking what we have for granted. To conclude, in this post I only ask you for a few small, but not easy things - to be a bit more conscious when it comes to shopping and to think together on if not creating, but definitely supporting those who create fair working environment, provide with opportunities for those in needs, empower women around the world despite their social status, and simply do business with respect to others.
I hope to visit Bangladesh some day and show you more from my own perspective. Until then, I'll just post these Brooklyn Heights photos with Farmland Saddle Burnt Orange, one of Lidia May's designs. And I would really love to hear about your thoughts on the topic.
* All thoughts and opinions are my own.