When Bridget Kent heard a presentation at school two years ago about how workers are unfairly treated, were severely underpaid and worked overly long hours in unsanitary and dangerous conditions in certain factories that manufacture garments, she decided to change her views on clothing.
“I thought, I can’t just ignore this, I have to do something,” says Kent, a junior at Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin High School.
When fair trade stores such as American Apparel and Revive opened in her Cleveland Heights neighborhood, she made the conscious decision to buy as much ethically made attire as possible. She now estimates that half of her clothes are made by workers who are treated fairly.
“It’s possible to have a wardrobe that is almost, if not all, fair trade that’s still stylish and in fashion,” she says.
Kent and dozens of other students from Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin Social Justice Club and Catholic Schools for Peace and Justice are organizing their second annual celebration of World Fair Trade Day. Students from area schools have arranged student bands, speakers, multimedia presentations and a variety of regional and national vendors, including Revive, Ten Thousand Villages, Equal Exchange, Phoenix Coffee and Heartbeats.
The main event will be a fashion show, featuring about two dozen models walking 50 outfits down a catwalk. “[The workers] are treated like human beings, and that reflects in the clothing,” says Samantha Albert, a senior at NDCL and one of the event organizers. “You’re not just buying clothes, you’re buying a story.”