It has been more than three months since I attended the Magic Trade Show in Las Vegas, in early February, 2020. The convention brings together buyers, retailers, designers, influencers and media from the fashion industry across North America. It felt, at times like an alternate reality, and that was pre-Covid 19.
Las Vegas, from the outset, is not really my thing. I get anxious around huge groups, and I’m not really one for massive light spectacles, over-priced steaks or gambling at 2am. But to each their own. I went to the event as a first-time participant, a young entrepreneur starting out in the fashion industry and hoping to dive right in.
I saw a lot in Vegas that week. The thing that really upset me was not the raucous frivolity on the Strip, but the clear divide between the fashion industry managers and designers, and the garment workers that actually execute the work that enables the sale of massive quantities of clothing for dirt cheap. It was telling that the “Sourcing” workshops and booths were located on one side of the highway, in a massive tent in the middle of the desert, whilst the major labels, media and sponsors ran their business in the air-conditioned convention centre across the street. The “Sourcing” tent was populated by workers from countries such as Bangladesh, India, China and Thailand. Some had their children with them, sleeping in booth corners or catching up on math homework at common tables. I did not see any of that across the street, where Amazon gave away free lattes and happy hours happened on the hour for those surrounding the major brands and companies.
I am reflecting on this today three months in to a global pandemic that has forever changed how and where we work. It hopefully will shine a light on the glaring indecencies we have allowed to persist in the global fashion industry, and call on us to reconsider the real cost of our clothing.
I am happy to know that women like Palmenia, Sussana and Yenny from the collective we work with earn above market wages for the pieces they produce for us, and every member decides where and how long her workday lasts. It is a slower process, undoubtedly. One that prioritizes local knowledge and local resources, both human, natural, and social. It is also an investment in something we know works, something that will last, something that will be in our wardrobe, our living room, our kids beds for generations. Weaving is dignified work, and our goal with Florezca is to highlight the innovative indigenous makers of the world and see their products shine. We think slow and steady can win the race.