We Wear Fairtrade Campaign w/ Rachael Wang
After a super duper short (4 days!!!) and second trip to New York for dear friends Mekdes' and Joshua Kissi's wedding (I am sure you were able to follow along on IG), I am slowly but surely getting back into the routines of Berlin life again - whether I want it or not - my school work, part time work, personal work as well as *running work* is stacking up and I need to stay focused for the upcoming weeks. So many exciting, but also demanding projects. Some of which I will share with you all soon!
While I am drafting this, I just got caught up in reading more about the massacre happening in Sudan. Specifically, I came across this woman's IG post(through my friend Moya) in which she shares her grief for her people in her country. She says that she cannot stay quiet anymore, but has to let it all out as she's in her office crying. For the past weeks, I've been thinking about this quite a lot. This phrase comes into my mind 'the personal is political' and it makes me reflect on my choices past, present and future. The more time I spend with people, friends, family, student-mates, but also with professional partners and brands, I do think about the politics. Whether or not, we're on the same page, if we're aligned, if there is potential for communal growth. If there is an open space for listening, trust and honest discussion. Don't get me wrong, it's okay to disagree, but when there is limited energy available, I do ask myself: what do I tend to and is this conversation / person / project worth mine? I also recall this quote by Allyson Felix, who recently spoke up about her Nike pregnancy story: "Athletes are told to shut up and play. We are told that no one cares about our politics. We are told that we’re just entertainers, so run fast, jump high, and throw far. And don’t mess up", which I was able to relate to.
Up until recent years, I never considered myself as political, nor was I highly engaged. I think back in the day, I found it hard, somewhat abstract, elitist, didn't have the language and in high school, it was something for these 'old white people' to figure out.. I guess. As a first generation immigrant, it was always about 'keeping your head down' and studying as hard and working as much as you can. It was what it was. There was no urgent or strong need to stand up or stand for something. Although I wasn't much engaged in what was happening in the *outside* world; early on, I did have to learn to stand up for myself, in front of my parents, the classroom, my teachers and eventually my bosses. Nevertheless, the last 5-7 years, I would say, were completely defining and have changed my life tremendously.
If it wasn't for running, I would have never turned more 'green', becoming more conscious about our environment, thinking about sustainability, taking month long shopping breaks and eventually going vegan for one full year [I am not vegan anymore, but would say I am plant based.] If it wasn't for that one ex-boyfriend, I would have never learned about the deployment of drones and I would have never joined him in taking down posters of a nationalist party at 2am in the middle of the night. If it wasn't for all the mothers surrounding me, I wouldn't appreciate their feminist legacies. If it wasn't for my life in New York and friends like Faith and Aisha, I would have never participated in a protest in the city and would have never read the amount of books, articles and authors I am curious about today. If it wasn't for my people, I wouldn't understand that all of us are connected and that our voices do matter. If it wasn't for all the experiences I have made on this journey, I wouldn't be the person I am today. Another reason, why I had returned back to Germany, was that I wanted to be in a country where I can vote. Thus, for this European election, I was able to participate in a political decision. In a *bigger political* decision.
I know now though, that my survival and self-care is political, to quote Audre Lorde: "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare", that there is power in the decisions and choices I make on an everyday basis. On how I invest my time, my brain space, yes, my money and spending power, and even how I use my platforms and voice. To me, today, "my personal is also my political. By choosing to love myself and to honour myself, be comfortable in my identity in a society that tells me I shouldn’t, I am starting a revolution", says Amandla Stenberg in this podcast w/ Oprah.
Yes, while there are also a million things to start getting involved in, I also say: take care of yourself and choose your battles. See what's possible with your time and resources.. maybe just start by volunteering in your community, participating in discussions with friends or reading more and staying critical about the news.
Thus, I am returning to the actual topic for today: sustainability and Fairtrade which was an integral part of the early days of my blog.
Some of you might know that I used to be a Fairtrade ambassador in my hometown here in Germany. Apart from school and work back then, I just wanted to get involved in something and thus, a friends mother [again mothers are amazinggg!!] introduced me to the whole movement. I ended up writing articles, help with communications and event organisation as our town became a Fairtrade town. As a student, it wasn't always easy to only purchase Fairtrade only articles, but I did my best and reduced my non-Fairtrade shoppings to a minimum. For the ones who don't know:
What is Fairtrade?
Fairtrade is a global movement, determined to help producers and workers in developing countries achieve better conditions and to "get a fair share of the benefits of trade". By promoting sustainability, this "is based on a partnership between producers and consumers. When farmers can sell on Fairtrade terms, it provides them with a better deal and improved terms of trade. This allows them the opportunity to improve their lives and plan for their future. Fairtrade offers consumers a powerful way to reduce poverty through their every day shopping." by Fairtrade International.
On top of this, I also love that with fair pay wages and an actual fair trade, the communities also receive extra funds for their own projects. The workers themselves can decide what will happen with that *extra money*, e.g. a new school can be built, someone's child can receive a scholarship or a new initiative can help provide clean water and stable infrastructures.
So, when I visited New York right after running the Boston Marathon, my friend Sydney (second picture) had told me that she was part of Fairtrade USA's first ever lookbook called We Wear Fair Trade styled and directed by Rachael Wang (first picture). Of course, I was super curious and came out to support both of them as Rachael participated in a panel discussion while I was there, too. "The lookbook features exclusively Fair Trade Certified apparel modeled by contemporary human and environmental rights advocates and honors the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed 1,134 people."
As I continue to practice my public speaking, I did raise my hand during the Q+A and was able to ask a few questions. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to learn more about Rachael's thoughts on all things sustainability and asked Sydney about her consumption as well:
How did you become interested in the sustainability or green movement, what was the turning point for you?
What I love about fashion is it's transformative power to shift, bend, redefine and express a person's identity. What I never loved about the fashion industry was it's warped standard of beauty, it's exclusivity, it's prohibitive price tag, and it's utter disregard for the people who make the garments and the natural resources from which it draws voraciously. In 2016 I traveled to Standing Rock to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline and I was so moved by the indigenous led resistance that I returned to NY a changed person. In order for me to be able to continue working in the fashion industry, I needed to find a way to implement my values into the work that I was doing. If I was going to promote consumption, I needed to promote mindful consumption and I needed to educate myself so that I could educate other s on what that really means.
Something I asked during the panel.. how can brands as well as fashion journalists do a better job in marketing and advertising sustainable fashion but also sustainable living, without it being dry, elitist, granola etc.? As a young creative and writer, I always found it difficult to reach my peers.
I think you've had a hard time because the products traditionally on offer were quite boring and uninspiring. I think as consumers demand transparency, the product offerings will get better. Sustainability is being taught in design school now and extremely talented young designers are starting to incorporate these values into their designs which in turn leads to a more inspiring and diverse fashion offering for you to be excited to promote.
Do you have any tips for people who are interested in leading a more sustainable (fashion) life?
What someone can do is relative to what their individual budget, schedule, and overall energetic capacity allows, but I think the most impactful thing we can try to do is to be mindful about how we consume, every time we consume and just try to resist, every day, the urge to consume more than we need. We can try to use/wear what we already have, rather than buy something new. We can consider tailoring old things or second/hand things to make them feel new to us. We can demand that our favourite brands become transparent about their manufacturing practices and their pay scale so that we can decide if we want to give them our hard earned money. We can consider how we dispose of our goods and whether they can decompose naturally or if they can be turned into something new. We can consider buying things made from fabrics that don't strip the land like organic or recycled cotton, hemp, Tencel or fabrics that encourage a circular system like Econyl. We can consider giving up animal products from our food and our closets.
How do you find your right balance in your every day? Be it shopping, food, media consumption?
More so than balance actually I think it is important to focus on intention. As long as you are doing things consciously, meaning you know why you are doing/consuming/buying/reading whatever it is, then I think you're on the right path.
Do you have any tips for young people, especially when so many of the sustainable brands aren’t really affordable?
Shop second hand, fix your own clothing, buy clothes your friends make and trade clothes with your friends.
How do you feel when wearing fair-trade, sustainable, second hand clothing?
With second hand clothing, which is the majority of my wardrobe, I like knowing my clothes had a life before me, it makes me feel like I'm wearing something with secrets of its own. But really, regardless of wether you are buying something second hand or brand new, your clothing really has had a life before you and, similarly, impacted many people's lives before it got to your hands during the design, manufacturing and distribution process. When I wear second hand or fair-trade I can know there was some good energy in its life cycle and I think that rubs off on me, I believe in that.
Learn more about Rachael's work here.
Follow my girl Sydney as she creates amazing content.
See the whole We Wear Fairtrade campaign including opinions from workers here.
If you're in Germany, read more about the movement and certification standards here.
Go watch this video by 16yo climate activist Greta Thunberg now.
Started watching Our Planet on Netflix to learn more about the realities of extinction.
Read this really good article "The simple, yet elusive, key to fighting the climate crisis".
Learn about the Planetary Health Diet.
Stay tuned for Faith's documentary film project on women's running,
indigenous lands and our environment.
Thank you again Rachael and Sydney for your time and responses,
and thank you to everyone reading!
Appreciate your love and support as always and hope this letter motivates us to lead a more conscious life. Have a wonderful rest of your week!
P.S.: If you have any feedback, comments etc. please feel free to email me directly. Also, if you have anything interesting about women's health, running, nutrition, style, sustainability, don't hesitate. Happy to have a conversation and always looking for contributors.