About a year ago, I was going through a mid twenties life crisis, asking myself what the hell I was doing working a 9 to 5 office job.
“You work in fashion? Oh really, How fancy! So you design clothes?”
No darlin’, today’s fashion world does not only revolve around designers and drawings. Today we call it fast-fashion and there is a lot more than creative work to make it all happen. More specifically, I was answering emails, logging data and sending packages across the borders. Not only I felt useless, but I did not feel that I was doing any good..to anything or anybody.
Was that it? Could it possibly be that people spent their lives looking at a screen all day, working impossible hours so that at the end of the day they can afford this piece of clothing that might or might not please you, but that you will for sure get sick of after a few months? Or will it even LAST a few months…
As I had grown to be a health conscious person, I was also interested in the environment and ways to make the earth a better place. I found myself quitting my job and taking a trip to Nicaragua to do some volunteer work with local organic farmers. “From fashion to agriculture ?!” That’s a hell of a jump you’d say. Well let me tell you that there are much more connections between those two industries than you’d think. Nonetheless, I spent 2 months and a half getting a real taste of the Nicaraguan culture by living with a family in something, somewhat close to a farm (almost every income in that part of the world relies on farming – cows and chickens were almost sipping their coffee with me every morning).
Apart from the cultural exchange, my main project was to promote organic agriculture and a healthy lifestyle among the villagers of Carazo, a rural part of Nicaragua. It was such an amazing experience but all the more an eye opener. No I did not return as a brand new person and no this trip did not change my whole life. What it definitely did is help me understand our society much better. Equity and sustainability are values I truly cherish and I never understood the impact of our ‘’mass consumption society’’ until I actually lived in the opposite world. Now I am convinced that things need to change.
So many questions started running through my head. Why is it that some people in developed countries have the luxury to even think about the next designer top they’ll be buying when some people, not any different, can only think about how they are going to feed themselves and their families? The express ”Carpe diem” has a completely different meaning in a third world country. This is a motto they actually have no choice but to live by. Farmers are never 100% sure if their next crop is going to fulfill their needs. When I was in Nicaragua, it was technically the rainy season – the element of a successful harvest. It’s like baking powder to a cake – without it, the cake won’t rise.
The problem is that in 2 months and a half I could count on my fingers the number of times it rained. In result, most of the families in the village had no choice but to buy their food (mainly coming from their neighbor Costa Rica) which was like an open stitch in their pocket. I think that the expression ”first world problem” is more than relevant in today’s north american society as our issues are not real issues because they do not interfere with our primary human needs.
I invite you to ask yourselves these questions when you come to face a problem before entering panic attack mode or throwing a severe tantrum : Do I have food on my table? Do I have easy access to unlimited clean water? Do I have enough clothes to sustain my basic needs of environmental protection? Lastly, do I have a solid roof on my head I can call home? If you answered yes to all these questions, please take a deep breath and realize how lucky of a person you are.
“It’s not fair” – I recall having this thought linger in my head repetitively throughout my entire stay. Don’t get me wrong, these people were far from unhappy. In the contrary, they were peaceful, joyful and grateful human beings. They had learned to accept their situation without complaints but I knew that they were poor and deserved much more. Our excessiveness results in their deprivation. When I came back from this trip, I was able to appreciate all the things I had. Even the smallest insignificant things that you would not think about but that are so practical in your everyday life, like being able to walk barefoot on a floor that is not actual dirt.
I’m not going to lie, I love fashion. I love creation and the ability the human being has to express one’s self throughout art and clothing. What I hate is that fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world. Yes, it’s a fact and It’s a shame that fashion has become a lucrative and superficial business demeaning it’s creative purpose. The truth is, I still work in the fashion industry. You might say that I am contradicting myself but massive change is a slow process and keeping a foot in the industry can only help me pin point where and how to make these changes. Unlike my Nicaraguan family, I refuse to accept this situation and wish to help promote positive change so that the fashion industry becomes friend with the earth and all that is alive. Who said you can’t be stylish and altruist at the same time? Cruela is so 2000.