The horrific Bangladesh factory collapse that took the lives of over a thousand of some of lowest paid workers in the world awoke consciousness about who makes the clothes we wear. And the sheets we sleep in at night. And the onesies we put on our babies.
Dozens of the companies millions of us spend our money with, places we shop at regularly like Sears, Joe Fresh (the Canadian Loblaw’s grocery store brand of clothing), Mango, Benetton, Gap, The Children’s Place – had their apparel found in the rubble, or are known to operate in Bangladesh in what can only be imagined are similar sorts of factories and working conditions.
Those companies, and we their shoppers are in positions to demand stricter working conditions, better pay and controls over the places and processes used to make their apparel. Despite the top-of-the-news factory collapse, very few companies have actually pledged to do anything about it.
So it continues.
The ethics behind a dress, or a baby blanket are important. In my view it isn’t ethical in the least to wear something made by someone working in a sweatshop, and it isn’t ethical to support those companies who continue this cycle of abuse.
But we love cheap, don’t we? Somewhere along the line, well-made, high quality work with long-lasting materials has gotten lost in the huge piles of cheap stuff.
Before we change what goes on in Bangladesh we need to change why and how we spend our money and what type of products we choose for our families. It’s all tied up in the Handmade Movement. Slower cloth, slower food, slower buying. More conscious, more careful.
A good part of the reasons behind the materials we choose at SewnNatural, and the way we handmake our pieces is exactly this: make them well, with high quality ingredients, so they last and last and can be (hopefully) passed along to someone else. That costs a lot in terms of our time, our natural and eco-friendly materials that leave a smaller footprint on the earth, and our wages to provide fairly for our families.
We are delighted that so many of our customers are pleased to pay much more for one non toxic, durable organic nap mat than they would for a cheap PVC napmat for their child to use at daycare and preschool. Every time we send out a handmade organic dress, in the child’s custom measurements, with a few extra inches of fabric in the hem and shoulders to let out as she grows… our hearts sing. That child can wear the dress now, with the hem let out as she grows taller, and then as a tunic and later a blouse.
We make gorgeous picnic blankets with vintage fabrics too long ignored, and ends of bolts of Marimekko fabric we find on sale so that couples and families can own one stunning, all-natural picnic blanket that will serve them for years to come. We make them triple layer (with flannel inside) and lots of quilting so they last and feel comfortable and help keep dew and damp grass away. Extra details like our picnic blanket roll-up system, with buttons on the carry strap, help ensure our blankets will be an indispensable part of family life in the summer.
That’s why we do it.
And today we celebrate being chosen by Etsy as a Featured Seller, something we are so grateful for, and could never have imagined 5 years ago when we opened a simple shop with organic baby sleep bags and quilts.
Thank you to all of you who have supported us, offered advice, and contributed ideas along the way.
While we celebrate today, there are no laurels to rest on. The Bangladesh disaster tells us that we have lots of work to do to continue to make consciously, fairly and safely made products for children and their families. And, more importantly, to help to spread the word about the need for equitable conditions of labor for the people who clothe us and our children.