NPR’s Talk of the Nation had a good show on today:
Made in a Sweatshop: Clues for Consumers
(Beware. Lengthy, somewhat rambling discourse follows)
I spend a lot of time talking about fluffy stuff like sales and cool jewelry and clothing made by local folks on this blog, but I was reminded today while listening to the radio of what originally got me interested in the whole idea of an indie consumer culture, something I was spending a lot of time exploring before I even started blogging about it.
Sure I love all the accessories and adornments I mention and admire the designers who make them, but what really keeps me motivated to continue blogging about San Francisco’s indie fashion scene on a daily basis has its roots in something more important than any tangible item or passing fashion trend.
The point, or my point at least in promoting indie consumption as much as I do, is that buying from local entrepreneurs, stores, designers and creators is something I’ve come to view as a better choice all around. It’s obviously better for the indie community in San Francisco, but it’s also just a personal, almost moral (and trust me, I rarely get moral about anything, probably to my own detriment) bedrock choice that I’ve made to decrease my support for companies without a community-minded local presence and whose business practices are opaque, nebulous or blatantly shade-ball.
I don’t take every dollar I spend and put it towards an indie company (I shop at Safeway and Walgreens, own a Honda and buy cheap sunglasses from Ross and tank tops at Old Navy), but I try to put as many of my dollars into independent, local businesses as I can, and I try to promote them in my writing whenever I can. And I’m not sure how much difference it really makes. I mean, like the people on NPR said today, sweatshops will probably always exist in one form or anther, as will exploitative business practices and shadowy multi-international bigwigs.
But at the end of the day, I feel better knowing that, to the extent that I can swing it, my money doesn’t end up fueling the sweatshop cycle or encourage the exploitation of workers or pay for goods that were made in some far off land (and yes, there is irony in saying this while typing on a computer whose parts were likely made in China). And yes, I realize that being all about indie is, to a certain degree, a privilege. After all, it’s a hell of a lot cheaper to buy clothes and household items at Ross and Loehman’s and Macy’s and Target and everyplace else. And it’s often a hell of a lot cheaper to buy them there than to make them yourself. But since I’m in a position to choose between the two ends of the spectrum, I will. And as often as I can. And whenever programs like the one I heard today hit the mainstream media, I’m reminded that we’re in the midst of a consumer shift of sorts, where lots of people like me are making lots of the same decisions.
And that makes me just as bright-eyed and giddy as I am when see something rad at a cool indie shopping event or when I talk to a designer who’s busted ass to get her creations out to the world. It’s just good stuff. Plain and simple.