Garment Worker’s Center Fashion Show!

Lovely Mother &Daugther

First things first, I just want to say how blessed I am to be writing this blog. My name is Michaela and I’m originally from the Bay Area. I hear you all cheering for me because I heard that some of you are from there too! As for why I’m part of Fair Trade LA (FTLA). I am an intern who has one more semester at Chico State (“Go Wildcats!!”) and who has a blog of my own! In fact, I blog at and you can follow me on Instagram @instant3655 & Facebook. I love learning about Fair Trade and after doing a presentation in the Stop Trafficking of Persons (S.T.O.P.) Club at my school, I knew I needed to get involved, so, if you aren’t already motivated by my story, I hope the blog of the Garment Worker Center’s Fashion Show will inspire you!

At first, I thought this was a strike to raise awareness of sweatshops. I was going to bring a sign, but I’m glad I didn’t. I went in and it was a medium sized white room. It was originally a house, and I liked that because it brought me comfort and showed how this event got so much local coverage, but is making history in the books! There was art all around and it was great seeing local artists presented through their amazing painting talents. It brought color to the white house. While I was there, I got a chance to meet Michele, Coordinator of our LA Fair Trade Town Campaign, Katie Bond, member and Founder of The Peace Exchange and who’s in charge of the FTLA Instagram (do check out those pics and follow us @fairtradela and like the pics from this event), and Pam Michell, member of FTLA and survivor of domestic trafficking. I also met Kristeen Singh, FTLA member and Founder of Fair Trade Project rHope, as well as Laurel Averill, FTLA’s merchandise and pop-up shop gal! She also has her own Fair Trade company called Vida Verde.

This event was held at the historical Tropico de Nopal Gallery and just so you all know, there are only three paid staff at the Garment Worker Center and the rest are awesome volunteers! I was able to help find a place inside the gallery for the beautiful gift baskets donated by FTLA members for the silent auction. We helped raise over $300 for the Garment Worker Center!

We heard from Blanca, the guest speaker. She was in the TV show East Los High! I  watched that growing up, and it is very old school. It was an amazing show of culture and how much passion and work people behind the scenes put in to make this event happen. Slavery still exists behind the doors of sweatshops and in this fashion show a number of the models wore clothes protesting sweatshop conditions. There were many people who made their clothes and had fabrics brought in from all around the world, which was nice to show appreciation to the many types of cultures and styles of clothing.

Blanca spoke on the second shift syndrome and how important it is to recognize self-care and focus on you and then others. Women work hard enough, and need more people to just give them the time, attention, and care, to lighten their burden. We need to discuss  realistic ways people can try to create better relationships in their world today. Fashion is a perfect example of this burden on workers, especially women.  People care about what’s the best and most trendy, or “in” fashion. The media just makes this worse and this can be seen with how popular this or that top is based on the latest Kardashian wearing the most recent of all the Top Shop dresses, yuck.  It’s hard to be a woman and a worker and raise families, and this goes for men too. Gender has been talked about a lot too these days and it’s very interesting to see where this goes from here. Blanca shared a Bulgarian poem about an immigrant and she translated this into Spanish. At the end of the poem, she shared how she couldn’t even teach her kids how to make tortillas. She never went to school, but always put others first. Unfortunately, Spanish for tasks that they needed her for like laundry, food, chores, etc. It was sad, but made me realize that in this world if we don’t fight, how are we going to make changes? I remember Kimi was a woman on the Garment Worker Center team and her Mom made $100 dresses but was paid $1 for the work she did. This is why she got into the work. It was great celebrating someone who has done so much for the Garment Worker Center and it was cool seeing all the work she had done in addition to seeing her casual Fair Trade clothing style! In addition to her and many of the other attendees, there were many Mata Traders dresses and clothing so unique and beautiful from all over the world.  The women wore outfits that fit each of their unique style.

I felt like I was a red carpet interviewee when I talked to the models. Most of them were family members and they made their clothes or FTLA or other companies donated them. I will point out my favorites in the pictures that I post below. Check out the signs that these amazing people made for this historical event: #activism everyday fight on the streets to make this happen (not sure what this means). My goal with my involvement in the Fair Trade Movement is that people are educated about this. I hope that people that make clothes get paid fairly like the Garment Worker Center fights for. I also wanted to pay respect to Orlando and let you all have a time for silence for those family and friends mourning for lives that should never have been lost. Whether you are or are not religious, God bless them. Also for the deaths in the black community and the movement of Black Lives Matter, Jesse Williams says, “We know that police somehow manage to de-escalate, disarm, and not kill white people every day.” I just wanted to pray for them during this time, because all lives matter and that’s why we are trying to bring awareness through the work the Garment Worker Center does to bring awareness that there are still slaves in the world doing sweatshop labor!

Without a doubt the food, band, and event were so authentic and historical. I wish I stayed longer not only because there were cute band members, but it would have been fun to dance!

We as FTLA all sat together and it was a nice table in a beautiful venue. I was shocked with how they fit as many people as they did there, but they did an amazing job! The little ones were so happy too and shy, but it was cute seeing them getting their makeup done and all.

This event was completely translated in and out from Spanish to English and some Spanglish in-between! The gallery had items in it from local artists about fair trade (not sure what this means) and it was so beautiful to see. I wish I could’ve bid on some items. They also had a timeline, a must see! The gallery takes no more than 15-20 mins to go through, everyone should go!

They spoke about those receiving awards, and please see the pics for these awards at the end. There was a woman, Nora Phillips, who came for the part of the show called Call of Action! She was a woman who was an immigrant fighter, survivor of domestic violence fighter, refugee fighter and attorney and has her own Tijuana Nonprofit too. She was awesome and made her own cape that said, “Show me the money!” She’s a human rights activist and helps with the LGTBI movement. You have got to see this pic. For a great laugh, she handed out spiced oil and pickles since she was originally from Wisconsin, it was a great time with her!

“They are doing this for fairness and for the people and for their people to feel alive!” And that’s why I want to continue writing and bringing art to this type of work!

With all the peace, love, and happiness,