During my last trip to India in February, I had extensive discussions with the artisans, who make the fabric, about the massive increase in the cost of cotton. We at MarketPlace put a lot of thought into how to price our items. We want to offer our customers good value, while at the same time maintaining high quality and fair wages to the artisans. We know that you can find inexpensive apparel at many big box and departments stores. But we also know that in order to offer clothing at rock bottom prices, the manufacturers often use inferior fabrics and short-cut procedures. You may not notice it in the store, but you are likely to find that your “bargain” shrinks, stretches out of shape, wears out quickly, pills up, shreds or comes unstitched – especially after a few washes. I am often amazed that I see customers in the street wearing MarketPlace garments that were sold over 10 years ago and that is a testament to our great quality and ageless style. The price of cotton has gone up tremendously – the floods in Pakistan last fall have resulted in a shortage of cotton (Pakistan is the largest supplier of cotton in the world).
In addition, unless the apparel is certified fair trade, you do not know the circumstances of its production. In many cases this inexpensive clothing is made in unsafe facilities under inhumane conditions. “Sweatshop” workers face low pay, long hours, fines and beatings, among other abuses. In contrast, the cooperatives producing the MarketPlace line are artisan-owned and artisan-run. These women are working for themselves, building up their own businesses and improving their lives. They receive decent money for their labors, and they also have the opportunity to develop knowledge and skills through the support programs sponsored by MarketPlace’s sales.
We are definitely not a charity. We believe that our products can stand on their own in a very competitive market. Unlike most mass-manufactured goods, they are made with quality cotton which has been hand-dyed and hand-embroidered. Every garment has been produced with the utmost care, as the artisans want to do work they can be proud of. All this handwork contributes to MarketPlace’s unique look, a stark contrast to cheap machine-made goods. You can feel good about buying from MarketPlace; not only will you receive a high quality product, but you will be supporting sustainable change for women in the slums of Mumbai.
As a non-profit fair trade organization, MarketPlace keeps all necessary expenses low in order to return as much as possible to India. I am always amazed at how the line is developed. From research here in the United States on upcoming trends, to our fabric groups developing and experimenting with new colors and designs, to the artisans creating the embroidery, it is an effort that takes over 6 months, including numerous emails and a collaboration of many hands and minds in India and the United States.
– Pushpika Freitas