Hi everyone, I’m Michelle, Terri’s eldest daughter and today I’m taking over her blog on this last day of Fashion Revolution Week, April 23-29, 2018.
On April 19, 2013 I joyfully celebrated my Bat Mitzvah with United Hebrew Congregation of Joplin, Missouri. Bat Mitzvah means Daughter of the Commandments. Henceforth, I was fully a Jewish adult with all the rights and responsibilities that entails. That night I read the Torah portion Kedoshim found in the book of Leviticus. Kedoshim contains the Holiness code; some of the most well-known passages found in the Torah such as revere your parents, do not turn to idols, leave harvest gleanings for the poor, do not place a stumbling block before the blind, love your fellow as yourself, and other laws detailing religious separations.
Repairing The World
As part of the Bat Mitzvah ceremony I presented a speech about what I learned from this Torah portion. This talk is called a D’var Torah. During my D’var, I discussed not just the Holiness code, but what I felt compelled to do to further the work of Tikkun Olam. Tikkun Olam is the Jewish concept of repairing the world, which we as Jews are called to do.
A few weeks prior to my Bat Mitzvah, my mother Terri, gave me a book entitled Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion , by Elizabeth L. Cline. This book impacted both of us deeply. Shocked by a horrific Bangladeshi garment factory fire killing 112 in November of 2012, that night Mom and I vowed to take the Refashion Pledge. We would not buy new manufactured clothing for a year. Little did we know that the worst garment factory disaster was to come on April 24, 2013.
The Rana Plaza, a five-story commercial building home to five clothing factories, a bank, several shops, a child care center, and apartments, showed cracks along its lower floors prior to April 24th. A local TV channel recorded footage showing these cracks on the 23rd. The building was evacuated, but the owner told the media the building was safe and workers would return soon. The next morning, thousands of workers were pressed back to their jobs, despite their concerns. Garment workers are typically young women that depend on these meager wages, so their families can survive. Many were told by factory managers they would lose up to a month’s pay if they refused to go back to work. The Rana Plaza collapsed the morning of April 24th killing 1,134 men, women, and children.
The day after the collapse, Bangladeshi photographer Taslima Akhter captured her countries national grief with her haunting photograph “Final Embrace”, showing two garment workers killed in the tragedy, a man and a woman, embracing in the rubble. This photo is heart wrenching. Time magazine selected the image for the magazine’s top 10 photographs of 2013. Due to the graphic nature of the image, here is a link:
Taslima took many photographs of the aftermath and later interviewed survivors a few years later. One survivor named Asma, was trapped in the rubble for three days. She did receive some compensation to rebuild her life, but that has been difficult. Asma is still unable to fully return to work and her 13 year old son now earns more than she.
Fashion Revolution, a Foundation based in the UK formed three years ago bringing together designers, producers, makers, workers, and consumers. Their blog has chronicled other stories of survivors. The Foundation challenges the fashion industry for more accountability throughout the year but marks the anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy with the #whomademyclothes campaign. During this week, brands and producers are encouraged to respond with the hashtag #imadeyourclothes and to demonstrate transparency in their supply chain. The Foundation encourages usage of other hashtags such as #imadeyouryarn, #imadeyourhat, and #imademyclothes. Their blog details Asma’s story and other survivor’s stories. Please take the time to read a few.
Earlier today I posted a picture to Instagram holding this sign.
Through social media I have connected with amazing women that share my passion for fabric, sewing, fashion, and DIY. I’ve participated in Sew-a-longs, photo challenges, stalked my favorite sewing bloggers, liked and complimented dozens of handmade creations. However, in my enthusiasm I had rather forgotten what initiated my sewing lifestyle to begin with. Seeing this Fashion Revolution hashtag flood my Instagram feed this past week was almost like a shofar blast hitting my ears, reminding me this isn’t just about me, my sewing machine, and the amazing women I’ve met along the way. It was my wakeup call that for these men and women, sewing is not a weekend hobby, but their livelihood. Justice demands garment workers receive a living wage and a safe work environment. Women like Asma, who is only 29 years old, but appears much older shouldn’t be living with a lifelong trauma.
I said this five years ago, if enough consumers opt out of the current system and demand change, change will happen. This is something all of us can work towards regardless of religious affiliation. In sum, I’m rededicating myself to do what I can for women like Asma; to sew my clothes mindful of the women who do not have a choice, thrift my clothes when possible, and taking care of what I already have. If I absolutely need something new, I will only buy from brands who have signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety In Bangledesh.
I will end with the closing paragraph from my D’var five years ago. The Holiness Code entailed in Kedoshim contains some of the most well known passages in the Torah. Many of these laws discuss distinct separations, but at the same time we are told to have an awareness and connection to the greater world and humanity. That is what I’ve learned the most from this portion. Choosing an identity as a Jewish woman, I have separated myself from the religious culture of the American majority. However, as a Jewish woman I have to stay connected and committed to my family, our community, and our world.
What Mom Thinks
Hello, this is Terri.
It was ironical that The Rana Plaza disaster occurred about just one week after Michelle and I made a pledge together to not buy fast fashion for one year.
The initial decision to join Michelle in the “no fast fashion pledge for a year” was to honor Michelle with one of the most important decisions of her life; to become a member of the Jewish faith. I’m not sure that either of us knew how that decision would change both of us.
Michelle became an excellent seamstress. She wasn’t always; take it from her proud mother who at times tried to teach her. This one, she really did on her own, with help from some pretty great Crafty (an online learning site) classes.
For myself, I found that I could live without TJ Maxx. Who knew? Michelle was already thrifting and I decided to find out was the draw was. Well, we all know where that ended up don’t we?
By the time I started my blog two years ago, Slow Fashion was in my blood.
Yesterday we were in Joplin celebrating Michelle’s birthday and she mentioned a new D’var that she had written for her Temple service last Friday. I read it and asked her to do a blog take over today.
I link up with some great blogs every week. To see who they are go HERE.
Thank you for stopping by. I’ll have another blog bit next week for the 2nd Loved 1st Friday Linkup. You are certainly welcome to leave a comment or two or three. I love to hear from you.
Again, thanks for stopping by. Take care……..