Ten years ago this month we had our first conversation about whether or not to start a nonprofit that would sell fair trade items to create employment in developing countries. Our goal was to alleviate poverty and we felt so strongly that employment could make that happen. As February starts and we take time to celebrate relationships and love and connection, I can’t help but take a few minutes to share what we have learned.
Employment isn’t enough. Economic development, a good job, lots of money and opportunity are not enough to end poverty and the emotional havoc that it wreaks. It’s the relationships, the connections between the maker, the designer, the supplier and the customer. Every person who carries a product carries love to another.
Three years ago when we were rebranding Route I read and at one point spoke (yikes!) on the essay “I, Pencil”. It’s a brief essay marveling on how supply chains are so complicated and really beautiful in their intricacy. In our world, supply chains are simple, but reflecting on that essay I have come to almost charish how are products are passed on. It is the passing from one person to another that creates the relationships that carry the love and the appreciation and the value. AND then, when we are able to return again and again to those same people for more product, (which of course means more economic support) we also return to them in friendship and support and encouragement.
In ethical fashion, these exchanges are more often than not done through women. So this year, at Route we are going to salute the women who are committed to supporting each other, encouraging each other and giving strength in community to do impossible things.
Thank you to the women in our community who dream with us and challenge and support us. Here is to each one of you, from maker to customer and every incredible person in between. We LOVE you and THANK YOU for carrying the love.
I began this journey, as I talked about last week, with a very brief education. However, I am ashamed to admit, the first few months following my passion I was not practicing what I was learning. I was still lured in by sales at H&M, Aldo, and Nordstrom with the thought that once I found brands that were “sustainable” I would stop shopping at these fast fashion behemoths and start practicing my newfound knowledge. I was living two lives, the life of sustainable education, that aligned so seamlessly with my morals, and the life of the deal hunting fashionista who was tempted by 50% off.
Everything negative I was reading I was still embodying.
How was it that I had found something I was so passionate about–everything I was reading and talking about was focused on it–yet I was not changing my behavior? I dug deep into the psychological aspect of consumer buying habits with the help of Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell. Shell eloquently explains that as consumers we are wired to focus on the dollars saved not the dollars spent.
This is due to the phenomenon of ‘earned savings.’
As consumers we believe that when we find a good savings deal we have earned that deal, we worked hard to track it down, maybe driving many miles to the outlet store or sifting endlessly through the sale racks at our favorite store. This mindset allows us to disregard how much we spent on an item and focus solely on how much we saved forgetting that dollars had still left our pockets.
I realized while reading Shell’s words that I was afraid of losing out on the deal, on my earned savings. I believe this is a hurdle for many others as well. As consumers, we have associated deals with earning savings without question to the quality of the purchase because why would we? We found a good deal and can do the same tomorrow if the garment falls apart. It’s this mindset that I believe needs to be changed and can be changed. Getting a good deal should not be focused on price but on quality.
Our preoccupation with low price makes it easy to forget that every penny we save on markdowns must be taken from someone else or, failing that, extracted from the value of the object of our desire. In discount nation, what once was solid, permanent, and dependable has become disposable, ephemeral, and dicey.
Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture, Ellen Ruppel Shell
So how do we change what is fundamentally wired into us as consumers to seek out the best deal? We start by changing our relationship with our clothes. We stop seeing our wardrobes as revolving doors, a constant stream of in and out, and realize that our cheap fashion purchases are not a cost savings but a constant drain on our wallets and our environment.
As an experiment, I went back over the last year and added up all the wardrobe purchases I had made, the ones that I bragged about getting such a great deal on. The cost SHOCKED me. For every dollar I ‘saved’ I had actually spent $15! Rather than having earned any savings I had spent and spent and spent.
Merchants have programmed us to expect sales. Our culture of sales has trained us to think that if merchants can profit on a 50% off sale then us consumers paying full price must be fools. Today an item that doesn’t sell in four or five weeks–or even sooner–may be relegated to the markdown bin, Shell writes, thus hastening the cycle of fast fashion. Merchants want their products out the door and consumers want to earn their savings–leaving us in a cycle of overproduction and waste.
I write all this because I realize there is a significant hurdle to overcome when shifting our shopping habits to sustainability.
Making the switch can seem scary or even overwhelming. Not knowing where to start or who to support.
I asked Christina, Route’s founder and director about this and this was her response:
“Start with us. Try out Route, even for one item, our goal is for you to not just like what you purchased, but to love it, wear it regularly and feel deeply connected to the process that that item took to get to you. So much love was put into every step. It’s a risk to try a new boutique and trust that you’ll like the item when it is in your hand and not on Instagram, but we want to do everything we can to make it worth the risk for you.”
Try out their new fall line here to explore their incredible pieces!
Buying sustainable does not mean giving up current fashion trends or putting a big dent into your shopping budget. Buying sustainable does not mean only wearing hemp clothing and other recycled goods.
Buying sustainable means purchasing quality products, made by individuals who are trying to overcome challenges in our oftentimes oppressive world. Buying sustainable means empowering designers and producers in our world to earn a living wage. Buying sustainable means taking an enormous weight off our environment. Buying sustainable means making a difference.
It is difficult to fully trade deal-hunting desires for the desire to improve our world through fashion. But it’s a worthwhile journey that I’m on and inviting you to join.
“She was dressing herself before she could walk,” has been my parents’ favorite way to describe my stubbornness and love of style for as long I can remember. From the beginning, the battle my mama bear would never win was attempting to get me to change my mind about what I was going to wear. Until recently this has rang all too true. I love clothes and I love style but I had no idea where my clothes came from, who made them, or how much the textile worker was paid.
I didn’t know the route.
Hi! I’m Jasmin, a lover of style, interested in all things sustainable, and striving every day to leave the world better than when I found it. Through a most serendipitous introduction I became connected to Route and the lovely Christina. I knew I had to be involved from the moment I learned about Route.
Luckily for me Christina was willing to take a chance—on a friend of a friend—and allow me the privilege of guest blogging for Route! I’ll be here weekly to share my ideas, research, and opinions regarding my continued journey toward ethical and sustainable fashion. I’ll also highlight the incredible steps Route is taking to bring this important movement mainstream and ways for you, our lovely supporters, to join the movement!
A year ago I started my clothing education journey, completely unaware of the impact it would have on my life and the lives of my loved ones. (Thanks for allowing me to get on a soapbox regularly dear loved ones!)
So where did it all begin? Where else but the spot where countless hours, by countless women, have been spent standing in front of an overflowing closet wondering what to wear and yelling “I have nothing to wear!” I was frustrated, exhausted and downright over it when I began questioning why this happens. Why, on a weekly basis I was running late to work, or appointments, or to meet friends? Not getting up early enough? Probably. But also because of an irrational thought that I have ‘nothing to wear’ even in the midst of an overflowing closet of options. I pondered on this notion for days and finally landed on one overarching question I continue to come back to, which is more important: Style or Fashion?
Fashion has evolved from a predictable four season cycle to a revolving door of 52 yearly changes. Style on the other hand is specific to an individual, one who embraces the idea of pushing ever changing fashion trends behind and embarking on a journey that forces the question, “who am I, what makes ME feel good, and what face do I want to present to the world?” What we oftentimes forget is how impactful clothes are to our mood, first impressions and social success, not to even mention the environmental impact.
Style is an identity that does not change week to week but instead is yours and yours alone. This is not to say stylish people are not fashionable, quite the opposite actually, stylish people are the most fashionable, the only difference is, they do not follow trends because they are the trends, they invest in pieces that are flattering on their figures, in line with their personal design, and above all else make them happy!
This important realization gave life to my current clothing education journey.
Right as I found myself exhausted from trying to keep my closet filled with the most on trend looks, I was introduced toThe Sustainable Fashion Handbook by Sandy Black, which was conveniently on my family’s coffee table during a weekend visit. I would later learn that my sister had taken an interest in the book at the library and before I knew it I was devouring page after page. My desire to move away from rotating fashion trends, all for very selfish reasons; physical, mental and financial exhaustion, turned into a passion to create social awareness and change surrounding an issue that impacts each and every one of us. I realized my personal style is minimal chic and smothered in sustainability!
I began checking labels, I began asking…
What if we reevaluated our closets? What if we asked where things come from and who made them? What if we started investing in lasting items and did away with weekly shopping? What if we learned the Route?
To these what if’s I say: it’s a worthwhile challenge. But it is a challenge nonetheless. I have embarked on this journey to answer these questions, to change my relationship with clothes, and to share my newfound passion with others.
All the while let’s remember we are human and we will falter in our efforts to eliminate cheap fashion. We will be tempted by low prices and new fashion trends and occasionally we will cave to a deal too good to pass up.
What is important is when we care about where our products are made and of what quality and what textile, we are making a difference. We are supporting living wages, safe working conditions, and a respect for our environment. If, as often as we can, we know the Route our products have taken to our closets we are already making a difference. We are creating the change we want to see in the world.
Four years ago this week, on April 24, 2013, 1,134 people were killed and 2,500 injured when the clothing factory, Rana Plaza complex, collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
There are thousands more places around the world where children and adults are still forced to work in unsafe places and for far less money than is fair.
Fashion Revolution Week, April 24-30, 2017 is a time for people from all over the world to come together, question, protest, and make our voices heard. Route exists to raise awareness, to provide alternatives, and to support organizations that are changing the status quo that hurts so many. We are SO proud to work with so many partner groups that care so deeply about their makers.
So, what can we/you do this week and beyond? Wear your shirt inside out this week. Ask hard questions. Find out where your clothes are made. Take a picture of your clothing label, tag the brand, and ask #whomademyclothes? Purchase secondhand, purchase ethically.
On Monday, March 13th, we hosted our first in-store documentary screening. Columbia community members were invited for an open-house style screening of the film, The True Cost, by director Andrew Morgan.
The film explores the impact of the garment industry and how clothes we wear affect the world we live in. From where and how our clothes are made to who makes them, the film raised many questions surrounding the ethical production of garments and why we at Route are so passionate about knowing where and who made what we wear.
Following the film, Rafiqul Islam Rana, a graduate teaching assistant with the college of Textile and Apparel Management led a discussion surrounding his experience in the production of ready-made garments in Bangladesh.
He shared about his experience in the industry and why coming to pursue graduate school in the U.S. can have an impact there. Those who attended were able to ask him questions and overall the evening was eye-opening and an intriguing look into what goes into making our clothes. We at Route hope to continue the conversation started here by hosting more monthly events partnering with various local organizations and campus groups. We would love to see you in store soon!
As we celebrate the 106th annual International Women’s Day there are countless world changing women who have gone before me to make my freedoms possible. These women are often overlooked in history but are true heroes. Many women have worked their entire lives for equality for women and other marginalized groups. I have access to education, the workplace, healthcare and democracy in a way that would not be possible without them.
Here I am, in a comfortable home, with a simple life. Do I recognize the torch that has been passed to me? Do I take up the work that has been handed down and how do I make change?
My work with Route puts the reality of slavery, of abuse, neglect and racism that millions of women around the world are facing everyday in my face. I personally know what it is like to deal with chauvinism and to be seen and treated like an object. I can’t avoid my knowledge that both locally and globally, we have not fully arrived. I’m not a community organizer; my voice isn’t loud or necessarily very clear. But the torch is in my hand and for the girls I see in my neighborhood walking to school everyday and the girls in my community and the daughters of the women who make Route’s pieces, I need to carry it forward.
I don’t have the answers, but I’m willing to accept that I am empowered because of the women who have come before. I am empowered by knowledge and my freedom to make small choices everyday to empower others, to continue to improve the world for the next generation of women who will carry the torch for me.
We’ve searched for a simple, ethically made candle for months, and we finally found a beautiful line of candles, made in St. Louis. They are hand poured with 100% soy wax, for a gorgeous, clean burn. Jennifer Ray, of Washington Avenue Post, a coffee shop & urban market downtown, pours dozens of natural scents, and we chose a few of our favorites.
We donate a portion of the candle proceeds to True North and Magdalene House women’s shelters in Columbia & St. Louis, Missouri.
Check out the variety at the next pop-up shop, or purchase one in Columbia. We’re working on getting them online soon!
We love our new paper goods tab on the website. Items that we have had in our shop for years, can finally be purchased online, and we’re excited to be planning more home goods online in the next few months.
Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s or Galentine’s, pick up a sweet card for that special someone, and don’t forget to add a few truffles 😉
This season, we created gift tags to communicate to our customers all the incredible and positive changes each item in our shop brings to those who make them.
Our partner group, Elegantees, brings Dignity by working with women previously in sex trafficking. FORAI (Friends of refugees and immigrants) brings Love by reaching out to refugees and creating community in the St. Louis, Missouri area. Each tag represents an organization and story of how lives are being changed.
Purchase at the Route shop in downtown Columbia, and get your purchase wrapped with a pretty gift tag.
We’d never done a live photoshoot in front of a screen before, and had so much fun doing backyard styling with our model, Lauren.
Our Fall clothing line is our favorite so far. Comfy cotton knits in flattering designs, that easily transition from the office to Saturday grocery shopping (even to the couch!). We purposefully ordered sizes XSmall-XLarge this season, making sure that most body types are able to curate a small fall ethical wardrobe.