Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Developing Transparent Relationships

What are you wearing? The tag on your shirt might say "Made in Bangladesh" or "Made in China," but what does it mean? Who actually made it? What is their life like? When you shop, does it make you responsible for the way in which the worker is treated? Or how the factory treats the environment? What role does the consumer play?

 What does it mean?

I never asked myself these questions until I started One Mango Tree. When we began working on our organic apparel line, I toured LAP Textiles, a large (now closed) apparel manufacturing facility in Kampala's industrial area. The factory was clean - it didn't match up with the idea of a "sweatshop" that I'd had in my mind. The sewing operators were almost entirely women - at that point in time, there were 300 women working at LAP, and they were stitching button-down shirts for EDUN, the clothing line started by Bono and his wife Ali Hewson.

What gave me pause during that visit was learning that sewing operators at LAP Textiles made 90,000 Ugandan shillings per month. At the time, that was equivalent to $45. Sure, these women had jobs, but how much could they buy with $45 per month? Not much.

What about other factories, where dangerous toxic chemicals are discharged into rivers? Or where women workers are raped, tortured and abused? Or where toxic chemicals emitted from clothing actually cause workers to pass out?

Producers and factories are responsible for their labor and environmental practices, but we think consumers are responsible too. In a way, shopping is like voting - every dollar you spend is placing a vote.

The second principle of fair trade is about transparency and accountability:

Develop transparent and accountable relationships.

The Fair Trade Federation defines this principle further:

Fair trade involves relationships that are open, fair, consistent, and respectful. Members show consideration for both customers and producers by sharing information about the entire trading chain through honest and proactive communication. They create mechanisms to help customers and producers feel actively involved in the trading chain. If problems arise, members work cooperatively with fair trade partners and other organizations to implement solutions.

For One Mango Tree, this transparency and accountability is the foundation of what we do. From paying our workers a fair wage to sharing the details of our supply chain with our customers, we build this principle into our model. We strive to build a better workplace for our staff in Uganda - ensuring fair wages, providing child care and respectful leave policies, and trainings on financial literacy and savings. Our producers organize to determine their own labor rates. We strive to educate our customers on our processes and help them learn to make more conscious buying decisions.

We also bring you a face with each product by including a signature from each woman on the hangtag of a completed product. You can go online and see this woman - once you see the producer behind your purse or your t-shirt, you'll find yourself asking that very important question:

What am I wearing?

We need more active consumers to make big changes in our world. Want to learn more? Here are a few good places to start - 
Follow us on twitter @onemangotree for daily updates on these issues and more

The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli
Slow Fashioned - check out the blog & take the Slow Fashioned Pledge
Read Ethical Consumer's Shopping Guide to see how designer brands measure up

This post is part of a series about Fair Trade Federation's Nine Fair Trade Principles. The series was inspired by Using Fair Trade Principles to Empower Women in Uganda, a talk given at the Library of Congress by One Mango Tree's founder in November 2010. You can watch the video here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Annual Back-to-School Sale! 30 to 70% off everything

Oh yes, you read that right. It's that time again - the kiddos are heading back to school, and even though Labor Day was just yesterday, there's already a nip in the air and a crunch in the leaves. Fall is coming! It's the perfect time to stock up on all those summer favorites before they're gone forever. You won't believe some of these deals - $5 wristlets, $10 weekender bags, $10 yoga bags, $5 eye pillows, $10 aprons!

And 50% off our entire Summer Handbag Collection - we know you wanted that Hobo Bag in Lakshmi - it's only $16 now!

That pocket skirt you had your eye on all summer? It's only $22.40! Wear it with tights and boots this fall!

And, remaining stock in our tiered skirt, cap-sleeve jacket, cowl neck tank, gauchos, dolman sleeve tops and perfect tanks are now 50% off! Perfect for fall layering.

We love bringing you good deals, so spread the word! Everything is on sale!


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