MIIS students assemble a socially conscious event for the holiday season

December 7th, 2017

This post was originally published by Walter Ryce, The Monterey County Weekly.

The event team includes (clockwise from top left) Tangut Degfay, Ash Gauer, Jillian Flavin, Airon Whitt, Melody Jensen and Celina Lima. Ruth Lai and Zara Currimjee are not pictured.

As shoppers make their way through this holiday season, there is an uncompromising maxim they may or may not want to remember: “Fast fashion is a disaster for women and the environment.”

That’s the title and the assertion of a piece reprinted in Forbes in July 2017 – originally posted to Quora by socially conscious entrepreneur Ayesha Barenblat – about the “fast fashion” business models of retailers like Zara, H&M and Forever 21, which mass-produce runway styles to capitalize on trendiness. But to move those clothes to market quickly, tens of millions of poor people will suffer low wages and abusive labor practices, and the environment will pay with toxic byproducts, and disposable clothing clogging landfills.

That is shown in bold strokes in a documentary called The True Cost.

This Friday, Dec. 8, the Middlebury Institute of International Studies’ Fair Trade Club and their partners are showing that film in conjunction with a pop-up ethical marketplace.

“It’s ‘out of sight, out of mind,’” says event logistics coordinator Ash Gauer. “A person on the street wouldn’t say they support these [harmful practices]. But our purchases say otherwise.”

Celina Lima, vendor outreach coordinator, says the film shows female factory workers leaving their kids for a year at a time to get work, and rivers in India and China so polluted with dyes that farmers can predict the next fashion season’s colors.

“I was numb for days after watching this film,” Lima writes by email. “I pledged to stop purchasing any fast fashion clothing ever again.”

After the film (4pm), there’s going to be a panel talk by the MIIS Environmental Policy Program; and at 5pm, a pop-up market of sustainable, ethically sourced goods, five DIY craft workstations (5-8pm), a live auction (7-8pm), live bands and a DJ (5-7pm).

Vendors include local goods like vintage clothing and accessories of Cats Meow Fashion, and natural soaps of Monterey Soaps & Sundries. Local intermediaries will sell crafts by women from Rising International, and accessories and decor from Trades of Hope. Food and drinks will come from The Wild Plum, Julia’s Vegetarian Restaurant, Bakai Wine + Tapas and others.

The vendors were vetted for locally made stuff, and for aligning with the values of the MIIS Fair Trade Club.

Melody Jensen, who came to MIIS after a Peace Corps stint in the Republic of Georgia, is handling marketing.

“[MIIS Fair Trade Club] saw an opportunity, especially with the consumerism of the holiday season, to give people an outlet to shop ethically,” she says.

The organizers will have a donation box for people to recirculate their lightly used clothes; 12.8 million tons of clothing are sent to U.S. landfills per year. Whereas trends expire, most of that clothing is not biodegradable.




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