This past Thursday marked the second annual Fair Trade Fashion Show hosted by Vanguard’s human trafficking awareness club, Live2Free. The event aims to bring together students, families and fair trade companies to educate about unfair labor in the fashion industry and provide feasible alternatives. Attendees had the opportunity to speak with fair trade fashion vendors, hear from a panel of those with a heart for the issue and see Vanguard students showcase these items on the red carpet.
The evening began with a brief opportunity for attendees to speak with vendors before being ushered to their seats. Vice President of Live2Free Marissa Murrell served as Master of Ceremonies for the night, leading with a definition of human trafficking and a brief history of its effects in California and throughout the world.
The audience then was able to hear input from four individuals involved in the fair trade industry. The panelists were Live2Free club president Jasmine French, Vanguard professor of business and law Ed Westbrook, Trade LA Board member Elisha Chan, and Noonday Collection ambassador Debbie Rupard. Each participant was offered advice and insight on the growing industry and its importance.
“We need more education about what fair trade means,” said Rupard, addressing the need to fight skepticism.
A tremendous struggle in fair trade fashion is pricing. As the panel pointed out, once everyone is being paid a fair wage, prices rise. However, demand is required to make a difference.
“Every dollar makes a difference,” Chan said.
Final parting advice from the panel included how to begin a conversation about fair trade fashion. Rupard urged the audience to be have connections to the clothing they wear and be comfortable having that lead into a discussion on the issue.
“Learn to tell a story,” she said.
The question and answer time was followed by the red carpet walk. Each student carried their own individual flair to the runway as they sported fair trade clothing and jewelry. The crowd cheered enthusiastically for the models, with one student event bringing thunder sticks to support.
Preparations for the event began in early August of this year, with over 300 people expected to attend. Last year, the event hosted 10 vendors with about 150 in attendance. This year, the number of vendors was up to 14.
French explained her heart for the event was more than make people aware, but also have them involved in making a difference.
“Educate and give a literal, tangible resource and get students engaged in ‘how can I make a difference? What change can I make?'” French said.
For students who cannot afford to purchase fair trade clothing, French offered a solution that still allows for conscience consumer choices.
“If you can’t purchase fair trade, my first thing is to buy second-hand clothing so you’re not feeding into the demand of continually cycling out really cheap clothing,” she adds.
Other methods she suggests are to cut down on buying clothes and mending clothes that tear or break. Additionally, she adds the higher quality of fair trade clothing makes it a more worthwhile investment.
“Don’t get so overwhelmed that you throw out everything you do have. Just to be more conscious of your clothes and to be more aware of where they are coming from.”
The Live2Free club is in its 19th year, originally being titled “The Lydia Today Foundation,” founded by Dr. Sandie Morgan in 1998.