In the first part of this post, I spoke to Drakshan, one half of the sister partnership behind the ethical clothing brand, Purple Impression and I’m delighted to be able to now bring to you, the conversation I had with Afshan, Drakshan’s partner and sister. The way the two interviews complement each other is a touching witness of how in sync their hearts and values are. I loved the parts where I was hearing a different version of the same story or fact. Afshan is definitely a numbers person, so her version was peppered with figures that had an impact all of their own.
Afshan started by speaking about visiting Multan in Pakistan as a teenager with her family and seeing the amazingly beautiful handiwork of the women that region is well known for. When she found out how much they were paid, however, she was disturbed at learning that the women were paid so little for their skill and craftsmanship. One telling visual detail she gave was of the high-end glossy fashion magazines that were lying around the rundown houses that were given to the women to get ideas from. She gave the example of the tie and dye technique that involves intricate work and is so colorful. Some pieces take a month to make and are compensated with 35 dollars. A week of work is paid 50 cents. This was not sitting well with Afshan at all who grew up wearing the hand embroidery of the region and felt such love and pride in doing so. She wanted to cherish their artisans, not leave them to be degraded.
Afshan went on to speak of the Rana Plaza incident that killed 1200 women in Bangladesh and the fashion revolution that ensued in 2013. And how, despite the revolution, suicide rates of Indian farmers affected by the industry turmoil were still unacceptably high. The horrific facts just kept coming. Women and children, who make up 80% of cotton pickers, are afflicted by skin diseases caused by pesticides used to keep costs low. Cotton, which one would think is a simple and clean textile is actually a major force of destruction to the environment and to the health of the communities that live within proximity of the farms. Standards of employee wellbeing are particularly low in the fashion industry, with many laborers working 16-17 hours without being paid overtime. Is this starting to sound like modern-day slavery to you? Not to mention the companies that overproduce 20,000-30,000 pieces of one color or one size to cut costs and then end up burning billions of dollars worth of inventory or dumping the excess into landfills.
Afshan, time and again brought up words like conscience, education, deep concern, female empowerment, and the need for more action and for consumers to support sustainable, ethical businesses to ensure they don’t close down, which a lot of them currently do. She talked about how the values of fair trade are ingrained in Islam. One sentence she said still rings in my heart every time I think of our conversation. “You can’t empower a woman in one country while harming a woman in another”. How profound and powerful is our connection to each other? What is also a strong message in Islam is that God entrusted the Earth to us, the human race, to build it in a pro-life kind of way and to counter greed and overindulgence and advocate for those that can’t protect themselves, for one reason or another.
But, where Purple Impression and it’s courageous and humane founders are concerned there is hope. Afshan mentioned a project started by her father (and the apple, as they say, doesn’t fall far from the tree) that consisted of a vocational school and a pharmacy, coupled with the teaching of the Arabic and English languages, as well as sewing and embroidery. There was also a mosque, of course. They had 18 graduates, 15 of which are now employed by Purple Impression as affiliates of the program, ensuring they receive a job and a steady, fair income.
Afshan mentioned such a wonderful fact that I didn’t know of, the existence of colored cotton!!! They are called the Desi varieties that come in green, grey, and brown-red. Working with this naturally colored cotton would reduce the polluting impact by 20%. This cotton doesn’t exist anymore, but part of Afshan’s mission is to restart it one day and I so look forward to being there to celebrate and to use this divine, natural gift of color as a way of thanks and support.
Another fact is that 100% natural fabric isn’t cheap. If you see that 100% linen is on sale for 50$ then do the math and know that cheap labor was involved. It’s time to become aware and make more informed humane choices in how we source our clothes and take back the power by increasing our knowledge and with our dollars.
The next exciting step for Purple Impression is selling shoes, starting late February 2019. They worked for 2 years to put together the supply chain. There were no corners cut here.
Afshan and Drakshan are part of that rare and beautiful breed of humanity who chose to give their lives to reviving forgotten traditions. They are part of the wave that understands that at the heart of the counter-movement is a controlling of the Nafs/spirit and letting go of conditioning that compels consumption. After understanding the extent of the harm I have been unwittingly contributing to and knowing the basic edict in Islam of causing no harm, it is clear that the promising moment of change has begun. I have already started the research and during my two-day quick transit in NY, I went on an exploratory shopping trip with my nieces both in Manhattan and Brooklyn, where we found a gem of a place that we highly recommend called, Kaight. They also sell online and ship worldwide. I am now the proud owner of my first ethically made pair of jeans, as is my niece!
Here’s to each of us striking out on this journey of self-restraint, one step at a time and with that giving back dignity to our own lives and choices alongside our brothers and sisters who make our clothes and to the Earth that is our home. I, for one, am so grateful for them both and my life has certainly changed forever after what I have read, watched and heard.
DISCOVER Purple Impression
Purple Impression believe in the positive power of connecting the makers & buyers. By adding a face and a name to every piece they make, they take you on a journey across the globe. When you see a face, it prompts you to think deeper, adding meaning to your wardrobe. Often times more than how something looks, what matters is how it makes you feel, that sense of connection is what we are trying to create.
EXPLORE Kaight, Brooklyn
KAIGHT continues to be a destination for those seeking well-designed clothing and accessories by independent designers with an emphasis on sustainability. While KAIGHT continues to be a leader in the sustainable fashion community, the store has evolved to become a specialized neighborhood boutique. Their customers are their neighbors and friends, and they love being a part of their local community.
LEARN more about the Rana Plaza disaster
The collapse of an eight-storey garment factory in Rana Plaza on the outskirts of Dhaka on April 24th killed at least 400 people and injured many more. It was probably the worst industrial accident in South Asia since the Bhopal disaster in 1984, and the worst ever in the garment industry. Local police and an industry association had warned that the building was unsafe. The owners reportedly responded by threatening to fire people who did not carry on working as usual.
READ Afshan’s recommendations of ethical brands to buy from
To Purple Impression for the contribution of images