Everyone who knows me, knows I’m not that into buying new clothes.
The sandals that are on my feet now, I’ve had them since I was 16. I’ve also had several of my shirts for that long. Most of the rest of my clothes are gifts, had-me-downs from friends, or slightly classier clothes bought under duress in a “real store” because their predecessors have had an unfortunate encounter with a sharp object or a bottle of bleach 24 hours before an interview or a gala.
But sometimes, as my mother would put it, a piece of clothing just finds me.
I stopped by a trade fair this afternoon in downtown Quebec City. This woven scarf/belt from Guatemala, the colour of captured afternoon sunshine, fascinated me for some reason I couldn’t put my finger on.
“How much is it?” I asked the young white guy at the stand.
“Twelve dollars. These ones here are more elaborate, so we sell them for $45.”
“How long does it take a person to make this?”
“Oh, three or four months.”
“it takes three or four months to make and it’s sold for twelve dollars?”
“Yes. The difference in fair trade is that the weaver gets a bigger cut. There’s no middleman and we’re not in it to make a profit.”
“I realize that, I realize your business model is better than nothing. But it’s still almost nothing.”
In all likelihood, ‘three months’ did not mean three months of work, six hours a day, five days a week, for one scarf. But twelve dollars is the equivalent of an hour and a half of work for the most poorly paid North American worker, and this one scarf took much, much longer than an hour and a half.
Why is her work worth less than mine? Not just less, but *so much* less? For something so practical and pretty? Why is she expected to be satisfied with peanuts, with ‘just better than nothing?’ Because she lives in the wrong hemisphere.