Tag Archives: f.a.c.t.s.

One Day of Peace! What an amazing idea!

Hello!  As you may know, F.A.C.T.S. is committed to transforming the world.  And because of this dedication we cannot ignore it when we come across amazing people who share the vision of a better world for everyone.  Take a look at this organization’s website http://www.peaceoneday.org and check out the video below.

From the site,

To some it’s just a single day. But to us, 21 September is a 24-hour platform forlife-saving activities around the world and an opportunity for individuals – particularly young people – to become involved in the peace process. We hope that our call for a Global Truce on Peace Day 2012 will help to institutionalise Peace Day and engage unprecedented numbers of people, regardless of national, cultural, political or religious identity, in the peaceful observance of 21 September.

They are doing important work and we should all support it in whatever way we can.  We can all be a part of a movement towards a more peaceful world. Let’s all join together and make this happen!


How to Wear Your Flex-Wrap: The Sash Wrap Styles

Some of you were wondering how to do some of the intricate flex-wrap styles, featured on our first gallery, so we put together another quick video how-to. We show you here, specifically how to fashion the “Basic Sash Wrap” & the “Form-Fitting Sash Wrap.” More videos to come tomorrow~ and this time, they won’t be made in the middle of the night! 😉 Please feel free to comment, if you have any questions.

 

 


Blind Shopping & A New Vision For Fashion

Because we realize that the values we, at F.A.C.T.S., stand for are somewhat complex, when we try to say it all in a paragraph, or even a few pages, we decided to start a Video Series on discussions about our values. We have neatly packed in our ideas into what we hope are brief but informative and easy-to-understand video logs. We start our Video Series with the first part of our tag line “Reforming Fashion,” and what we mean by that.  We cover commodification of fashion items and how we are so far-removed from what we buy that it’s hard to care about the conditions under which are clothes are made.

Please bear with us through the choppiness of this video. We could not get it started till past midnight last night, and we were both very exhausted, so it wasn’t as smooth as we hope our next ones will be! We welcome your comments on the topics we discuss and we encourage these videos to open conversation. We are always open to thoughts and suggestions, whether they agree with us or not. 🙂


The Sari: Meanings Behind the Cloth

Clothing in most (if not all) cultures is a significant interpretation of the self. It says something about who we are or at least how we choose to be seen. Clothes carry meaning, which is why we wear certain outfits in some contexts and not in others. So, whern we explore the culture of the Indian sari, we must pay attention to its context, its variations, and its meaning for different members of Indian society.  In this post, we offer only a brief overview of the sari, but we hope it will help you begin to appreciate the complexity, diversity, and spirit of the cloth behind our silk flex-wraps.

To begin with, we must acknowledge that India has a highly stratified society. Hierarchies and identities are created by religious caste, age, sex, economics, subculture, and region.  Appropriateness in dress is necessarily wrapped within these limitations.  Since the beginning of the period of British rule in India, Western influence has introduced another layer of stratification.  It was often a means for upper-class Indians to disassociate themselves from the lower, uneducated classes.  The early 20th century brought with it Western machine-manufactured cloth.  It was a finer type of cloth and ushered in the widespread wearing of Western-style shirts and trousers by many men throughout India.  We have to make an important distinction here that women generally were expected to keep to more traditional clothing as part of the notions of female modesty and purity (as Western styles tainted Indian culture). Of course, Western influences have crept into Indian society more and more.

Little girls wear Western-influenced frocks, for example, as it is not appropriate for them to wear saris until they are older. In some regions, girls wear a half-sari (ghagra or pavada) before moving on to a regular sari.  Because the sari has traditionally also been associated with marriage and sexuality, many girls in their mid and late teenage years, don what is known as a shalwar kamiz (also known as a Punjabi suit , as it is especially popular in the Punjab region).  This garment consists of a tunic , trousers, and a scarf. More and more, the shalwar kamiz became the uniform for girls between 12 and 16 in government schools.

Example of a salwar kamiz

In the late 1980’s, it gained appeal for young women in colleges and universities for its more modest and less sexualized appearance.  It soon was associated as an option of dress for unmarried young women.

As women who pursued further education took the shalwar kamiz into the workplace, the convenience of the sari in various work environments was questioned.  This, of course, depends on the type of work one does.  Some women feel that the heavy sari cloth can be cumbersome to carry and others feel the shalwar kamiz restricts movement and cannot as easily be maneuvered when doing manual-intensive labor at home or in the fields. Their claims are, of course, influenced by their region, their work environment, their family preferences, and so on. While the shalwar kamiz has spread more widely and is more acceptable across age and other hierarchical divisions, the sari remains the standard dress for the majority of women.

The sari is a cloth, generally 6 yards long, that is draped around a petticoat and blouse, as

An example of a sari. Borrowed from: http://tinyurl.com/64z6x9m

seen in the picture. The pallu is the most decorative part of the sari, as it is the part draped over the right shoulder. The way the sari is fashioned allows some flexibility of expression to the wearer, as slight variations can mean different things. The pallu, for example, can be pinned or left free-flowing. When seen tucked firmly into the waist or held in a particularly tight way in one’s fist, it can signify seriousness, impatience, or anger. The pallu also may serve as a head-covering, when appropriate, signifying modesty and protecting one’s sexuality, though it can be worn in a more revealing way as well. Further, the pallu can serve a functional purpose, as a veil for nursing mothers. Another form of showing more or less modesty can be seen through the pinning of  the “skirt” part of the sari, which can also be manipulated to be higher or lower along the waist.

When a woman is married, it is customary for her parents (those who can afford it, anyway) to give her a gift of a trousseau or set of saris.  The different patterns, colors, and materials of the sari often reflect sub-caste regulations, family traditions, or other rules of divisions. Many women of upper classes prefer expensive synthetic cloth, but many are also now turning towards traditional hand-woven silk and cotton saris. Cotton saris are usually used for every-day wear, and silks are reserved for more formal occasions. Hand-woven cottons are not only expensive, but are also expensive to maintain (in laundry costs). Poorer women wear machine-manufactured, cheaper everyday cotton and mixed-fiber synthetic saris of lower-quality material.

After India’s independence from Great Britain, the Sari rose to become an emblem of national unity and identity, an aspiration to live up to the “ideal of India,” and to show loyalty to the nation.  They are not the only accepted form of Indian dress, but they certainly have become the accepted “formal Indian dress” (Banerjee & Miller, p. 237). As we mentioned at the beginning, clothing carries with it the meaning assigned by its wearer.  The structure of the sari, being a “one-size-fits-all” garment, allows it to be a common and appropriate gift and makes it easy to hand-down to younger or poorer relatives. However, it still bears the taste and care of its original owner. This is something that never quite leaves the sari cloth, and while its new owner(s) transform it and make it their own, a part of the original owner’s spirit does remain attached to the cloth. We hope that our f.a.c.t.s. customers bear this in mind and value the background of their flex-wraps, treating them with a special care that ought be given to these vintage, one-of-a-kind items.  We hope that our customers will also share in the spirit of recycling, and pass the flex-wraps on to another when they are no longer wanted, or re-purpose them for decoration or other use, when they are no longer wearable. In this way, we can honor the journeys the cloth has made across cultures, keeping within us a spirit of peace, of giving, of the universality of the human spirit, and of respect for Mother Earth.

Today’s update on f.a.c.t.s  is that we are still on schedule for opening this Friday, July 1st! We will continue posting on the topic of the sari cloth and the Navdanya non-profit we support in future posts and throughout the summer season. Starting Friday, we will also be showing different ways to wear your very flexible silk flex-wrap! 🙂

References: 

Banerjee, Mukulika, and Daniel Miller. 2003. The Sari. New York: Berg.

Norris, Lucy. 2010. Recycled Indian Clothing: Global Contexts of Reuse and Value. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

 Tarlo, Emma. 1996. Clothing Matters: dress and Identity in India. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.


Recycled Silk Saris, Sarongs, Skirts, Flex-Wraps? By any name, a brief history

Sari worn by Indira Gandhi, borrowed from: http://tinyurl.com/6364p7e

We want to familiarize you with our starting-off products for Summer 2011. Though they have been called by many different names, we have chosen to call them Silk Flex-Wraps, as we think this is a little more accurate for what they truly are~ flexible wraps, that can be used as skirts or dresses, and are tailored from recycled silk sari cloth. So, where exactly do these skirts come from? The answer is laden with meaning and complexity, and we, at f.a.c.t.s, would like to tell you their story, their background, their various potential meanings, in an effort that the flex-wraps, transformed in the hands of our customers continue to bear with them their purest essence. We shall start this extended journey with a post on the origins of the flex-wrap.

To begin unraveling the background of these beautiful re-purposed garments, we must begin with a quick look at the Indian economy. In 1991, the Indian economy was deregulated. By 1999, the beginning of the current consumption boom trend had begun. With the expanding of the middle class came a move away from extended families to nuclear families, relocation to bigger cities, and of course, more disposable income. While in the past, old saris were typically worn till they were hardly wearable and then given to servants (at least, non-silk ones) or younger or poorer relatives, purchasing items more and more according to fashion rather than need brought with it fewer personal avenues for their disposal. This led to the selling and buying and bartering of used clothes.

Used saris are generally considered by the higher classes (as I think can be stated as a pattern for many other societies) as “polluted” and therefore unfit to wear. Giving away clothes furthers already established hierarchies in the Indian culture, as the giver has the higher status and the receiver has the lower status. However, there is  still an increasingly large market for recycled saris in the local Indian economies, which leaves room for new families to enter the bartering business. The turnover is relatively small for everyday saris (usually made from cotton), but the more the entrepreneurs can buy, wash, and mend, the more profits they can gain. One form of acquiring saris for re-selling purposes also happens in the form of bartering. Peddlers with stainless steel pots and other similar products can go house to house, offering their wares in exchange for used clothing. Once traders can afford to buy the higher-quality silk saris (used for more formal occasions or by higher classes), they can make a higher margin of profit, as these skirts can be sold at higher prices and are usually snatched up quickly by early 3:00 A.M. shoppers at the local weekly markets.

This brings the conversation over to the silk flex-wraps. The reason we have not chosen to call them by silk sari skirts, or sarong wraps is that they are neither saris nor sarongs. They are re-tailored clothing made from re-purposed silk sari cloth. Some traders set up shops, where these silk saris are expertly tailored around major blemishes and tears, using the best parts of the yards-long high-quality sari cloth to be re-fashioned into Western style halter-top garments, sundresses, drawstring trousers, and the skirt flex-wraps that f.a.c.t.s. will be selling. The myth of how this got started is as follows:

“A young Western woman took her dress to a Pushkar tailor, together with an old sari she had got hold of, and asked him to stitch a copy for her. The tailor picked up the idea and ran up a whole batch that sold immediately; he then opened up a shop. Some tailors were used to making up kurtas (traditional loose shirts) out of saris and understood how the formal properties of the sari’s components could be adapted and reused. With this knowledge added to their well-established copying skills, it was relatively easy to make the new garments. The number of shops selling them proliferated and manufacturing units in nearby houses were set up” (P. 157, Recycling Indian Clothing: Global Contexts of Reuse and Value by Lucy Norris).

Of course, these items are tourist-objects. In other words, they are not traditionally worn by locals and they pose questions of cultural appropriation for the potential buyer. However, by providing you with an honest glance at their origin and a continued search into the cultural meanings behind use and disposal of the sari and other Indian clothing, we, at f.a.c.t.s. are doing our very best to emphasize the diversity of Indian clothing culture and attempting to not make inappropriate generalizations or misrepresentations about the cultural group. In future posts, we will cover more information on the culture of the sari, the West and its effects on Indian culture, the impact of fashion trends, and the implications of recycled clothing. We will also be talking about the Indian non-profit we will be donating 10% of our profits to.** For now, we leave you with a brief glance into the origin of the recycled Indian silk flex-wrap, and hope you will check back with us again over the week-end for a window into the culture of the sari. Thanks again for your support!***

**Remember, this is just our starting point, we strive to reach a point where half of our profits will be given to the local economy of focus for the season.

***References for the post content are:

1) Recycled Indian Clothing: Global Contexts of Reuse and Value by Lucy Norris, 2010 Indiana University Press.

2) The Sari by Mukluika Banerjee & Daniel Miller, 2003 Berg.


Cultural Resources: Please Borrow Responsibly

Cultural Appropriation Cat, borrowed from http://www.discontent.com/log/archives2/1088.html

It’s difficult, nowadays, to say that anything is original. We are constantly borrowing from each other. Borrowing is a part of being a global community. Ideally, our interactions with other cultures provide beautiful opportunities to discover other traditions, expand our views, and learn from each other. However, as we covered in our last post, borrowing from other cultures can also come with serious negatives, when we don’t do it respectfully and appropriately. So, how exactly can we share with our diverse communities around the world in a healthy manner?

First, it starts with evaluating our motivations and attitudes for borrowing. Why are we doing it in the first place? Do we understand what we are borrowing in its full context? Or are we leaving room for misinterpreting and misappropriating the cultural artifact? It is easy to disassociate cultural traditions from people, like when we adopt fashion styles because they might make us “stand out” from our normal crowds. Not that there is anything wrong with appreciating the appearance of cultural artifacts, but if we do not look deeply at where they come from and how they are used by their culture of origin, we end up creating caricatures of the culture and the very real people who shape it and give it meaning. This brings us to our first step to healthy cultural borrowing:

Step 1: Actively seeking education about the cultural group. 

Even further, we should try to seek this education from a direct source, otherwise the knowledge we obtain can be by biased by the interpretations of non-members of the culture. By learning about where these artifacts come from and how they are used, we learn the context behind them, and we can better understand how certain (or all) uses of the artifact may be inappropriate or offensive.

Also, we should inform ourselves regarding the history of oppression in the cultural group and our  own culture’s relationship history with them. By recognizing the inequalities that may be present, we also recognize the wounds our cultural group may have inflicted on them, and we can work towards not repeating the mistakes of the past. All of this brings us to an informed respect of the cultural group (the people and their traditions and values), and helps us avoid harmful homogenizing and degrading stereotypes.

Step 2: Giving back to the cultural group.

Giving back involves a couple of different levels. First of all, we need to give credit where credit is due. We are, after all, borrowing not taking. In giving credit to the group, we must be able to disclose to others what we learned in Step 1, especially emphasizing appropriate and inappropriate uses of the cultural artifact.  In fact, being able to tell others isn’t enough, we should also be pro-active about sharing our education with those interested in the items borrowed. Secondly, if we are making profit distributing the artifact, we should also give monetary credit to the cultural group. Without them, there would be no profit, after all. Too much to ask? We don’t think so. We believe that businesses should be held accountable for this, as it is a method of showing corporate social responsibility and understanding that businesses are part of the community too and their actions have a deep impact on people and the environment. Borrowing cultural artifacts is using a resource, and taking resources without giving back to the community is exploitation and theft.

We, at f.a.c.t.s. are very proud to be making every attempt to give as much as we can (our goal is to reach a point where we are giving 50% of the profits) back to the communities, who share some of their unique cultural resources with us. For every fashion article we sell, we will also be providing our customers cultural appreciation cards (with information on where the article came from and its cultural context) as well as social issues cards (with information on the particular community need we will be investing in with the profits). Our blog will also highlight the cultural group in focus for each season, giving a platform to the multiple voices in the community. That is just the start. As we expand, we will be doing social needs assessments in collaboration with the community in focus, in order to ensure that our investments are being put to the best use. This blog will allow transparency with our customers to hold us accountable for our policies and principles. (You can check our Business Ethics page for more information.) Look forward to our next post, where our media analysis expert (and co-founder of f.a.c.t.s.), Marlaina Dreher, will be finishing off our discussion of cultural appropriation and the role/influence of the media. Again, we want to open the conversation up to our potential customers and supporters of f.a.c.t.s. So, if you have any relevant opinions, comments, suggestions, or questions, please feel free to give us feed back. We love to hear from you!

We are still working hard in the preliminary stages of setting up our website/store site, but will keep you updated as soon as we have finalized our exact opening date! (We are still looking at mid-June.)


Cultural Appropriation or Cultural Appreciation? An Introduction

Before starting our cross-cultural enterprise with f.a.c.t.s., we thought long about the problems of cultural  appropriation and how it is distinct from cultural appreciation. We, at f.a.c.t.s., want to give you confidence in our products and confidence in our business ethics, and we figured it would be most appropriate to simply address this issue right at the start! Because this will be a fairly long topic (we want to make sure we are thorough in our explanations), we will have to break it down into a few parts. Today, we will focus on introducing the topic. Please, feel free to join in on the conversation! Ask us any questions that you have. We will be happy to answer your concerns and address your opinions!

Let us first begin with definitions. What is cultural appropriation, in the first place? Appropriation, at its most basic level, has to do with the borrowing of traditions, symbols, or other artifacts, from cultures other than our own. It doesn’t really seem so bad, at first, considering we live in an increasingly globalized world, where cultural assimilation inevitably happens all the time. The tricky part, in our opinion, lies with the motivation for adopting the cultural element (whether it is the South African mbaqanga style of music, or the hijab) and who is doing the borrowing. It definitely changes the meaning when people from a dominant culture start assimilating elements from a subculture (i.e., when a white American might try to pass off wearing a bindi, because it “looks exotic”) when they are ignorant of the significance of those cultural elements, and even more so when they do not have respect for the people (they see the culture as an object disassociated from the people themselves). When you extract a cultural element without knowing the context behind it, you end up, whether you mean to or not,

  1. contributing to often offensive generalizations about the cultural group,
  2. invalidating how very diverse a culture really is,
  3. ignoring the history of oppression that is probably present, thus reinforcing the oppression, and
  4. often misrepresenting or distorting traditions that, for all you know, could even be sacred to the group, and
  5. in some cases, you might actually be cheating others out of money that should be going to them.

These 5 negatives of cultural appropriation make it a harmful and irresponsible thing to do.  Another more familiar word for these 5 negatives happens to be called “exploitation.” In the West, we have a long history of exploiting other cultures and marching through life with a very self-important and either unaware or (often) indifferent attitude that the world and everything in it is ours for the taking, but not the taking care of…

So, how do we account for these 5 negatives of cultural appropriation in a world that is becoming smaller and smaller? Is there a way to show appreciation of a culture without stepping on sensitive toes and reinforcing bad caricatures and negative stereotypes? Find out answers to these questions and how f.a.c.t.s. is doing things differently in our next couple of posts!



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