Jan 13, 2014


How often we hear about garment workers, the conditions in which they work, the abuses they suffer, the corporations that turn their backs on the situations. Added to the injustice is that they are often locked inside the buildings, fires break out, and the bodies are all that remain to tell the tale. The latest tragedy involves an entire building collapsing in Bangladesh, killing 1135 people and injuring 2500. Whenever I hear these tales, I ask myself, "what can we as consumers do?" and then I renew my vow to never buy from certain manufacturers whose lines are produced in these conditions

and I return to buying only hand- made garments or shopping at second-hand stores, mercados, etc. 

After many years of collecting fabric pieces from my former social enterprise, Mariposas San Miguel, I realized that I had a bag of strips of colorful fabrics, too small to be used in that project. So I used them to create a huipil. 

The leftover strips serve as a metaphor for the those workers who are so disposable, simply used and tossed aside by the very corporations who produce the highest quality, most fabulous designs, that all of us have been told we "must have" in order to be happy, successful, loved and admired. 

The strips were easily sewn onto a huipil made of other recycled pieces patched together. To add impact, I asked some friends to send or bring labels from their clothes, to affix to the huipil itself. Then I invited some others to join me in an art+action in San Miguel. 

So, one beautiful afternoon in December, Joy Wesson, Melissa Bastos, Ronny Khalil and Rebecca Peterson stood in the central plaza with me, between the Parroquia and the jardin, to interview passers-by. 

I wore the huipil, one of the few that actually can be worn. We took turns holding a poster that asked the question "who made your clothes?" / "quien hizo tu ropa?" that also featured a photo of a young girl in a maquiladora in Ciudad Ju├írez. 

As people stopped to read the sign, we told them what we were doing and asked invited them to participate. When they did, we asked if we could look at the labels in their clothing.

To our suprise, many were clueless about sweatshops, and had never actually thought about what's "behind the label." Others offered their opinions about how to change the system, the power of boycotting and the necessity of putting pressure on clothing manufacturers. 

As Ronny got some video footage and Melissa grabbed the sound bites, Joy photographed and Rebecca and I convinced some to donate their labels to the project. 

When they agreed, they were asked to pin their label on the huipil, increasing their level of interest and participation. 

We found that it can be a great deal of fun to interact with others about possible solutions to disturbing issues. Working together to find solutions helps us all feel more empowered to create change. 

And as the afternoon was winding down, a strolling musician clown livened things up and we danced together in the street. I love art+actions, let's do another soon!

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