5.22.2011

Invest in People, not Corporations.



On Saturday I did another craft show at FENTON while reading Cradle to Cradle - a book on rethinking the way we make things. These guys have ideas for days - ideas that could revolutionize our world to make it actually sustainable, but until then, I'm still advocating for buying handmade. I will definitely be posting lots about this book, though, so read up! We could have an environmental/crafty book club! Anyone down? See it here on Amazon

Well, while sitting out there on such a nice day, I really realized that there is an inherent difference in the way we shop at malls and how we shop at craft shows. It was kind of an Aha moment for me, although it was just depressing.

Last week at Fenton, people just weren't buying because it was raining. Understandably, they didn't want to spend their day walking around in the rain- I didn't really want to either. But yesterday, after watching people walk by booths with multiple DSW bags in their hands but not buying anything from the handmakers across the street, I just started getting a little sad. People scrutinize over anything they buy from a person at a craft fair that is handmade because they don't trust it, or maybe that's just DC. Handmade markets are a novelty to most people outside the culture, not so much as an ingrained part of living like farmers' markets are becoming. We are so used to buying something standardized; we've fit our bodies into these unforgiving sizes so much that just trying something on that doesn't have a size is unthinkable. Who's going to tell me how this is supposed to fit???

I make clothes and bags as many of you know, and I've noticed that people are just thrown off when it comes to thinking outside the box. I upcycle thrift store finds. I don't really make sizes - my pieces just fit who they fit. Everything is going to fit people differently and we shouldn't limit ourselves to prescribed standardized sizes and looks. Someone's dad asked me if I had a dress in another size on Saturday and I had to find a way to explain my design process. "I sew organically," I told him. And "organic" is not a word I like to use to describe anything but food. It makes me sound like an annoying hippie and at that point no one is going to take me seriously.

The people who do the best out at craft shows are the people that screen print already made bags and t-shirts. Why is that? I went to the mall later that day and saw soo many people just shopping for no reason - to pass the time. Just lots of people hanging out in the mall stuffing their faces and getting things they don't need. But people don't extend these consumptive behaviors to craft shows. They only buy if they are reallly sold on the product, and it doesn't have anything to do with price. I price my clothes at H&M relative prices, sometimes a lot less, and I'm still not raking in the cheese like they do. Most people I do fairs with also competitively price their products and they aren't rich either.

My theory is (yes, another theory) that in our consumptive culture, we can only handle creativity in small doses. Plenty of people buy from Forever 21 knowing that what they buy is not going to last six months - it's basically disposable clothing - but they still buy from there! People see more risk in buying handmade clothes and jewelry than in buying from a big clothing corporation that they can trust to tear after 6 months. As one lady in my office said, "When I buy jewelry from craft shows, it always breaks!" - I don't think she knew I do craft shows lol. But how often do you buy jewelry from a store that breaks? Probably just as often, but you expect it and don't care.

So I know not everyone is like this. But I don't think we can deny that the vast majority of our culture does not consciously shop. Even I buy clothes from H&M and Urban Outfitters pretty often, but I try to limit it to work clothes. I have started a new shopping policy where I allow myself to shop compulsively on Etsy, at handmade markets and in thrift stores, and save the scrutiny for the mall.

We are truly just lucky to be so rich in this country, and it shouldn't be taken for granted. I am seriously worried about consumption. I see it in my own family who vacations to shop. I think we need to become more conscious of our consumer choices because individually, they contribute to a system that causes environmental devastation and further widens the gap between the rich and poor of this planet. As the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. The more we consume, the less natural resources there are on the planet and the harsher conditions get for people in nations losing that NATURAL CAPITAL. We live in a society of extravagant wealth and spending. If we directed our vast consumer power toward sustainable business practices, though, - handmade, FAIR TRADE, local production, etc., we could make a HUGE difference for people's lives and economic stability and our failing ecosystems.

So what I'm saying is.. invest in people, not corporations.

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