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Several months ago I met with the International Organization for Migration to discuss their IOM X campaign. Their team had contacted me after reading a few of my articles that touched upon ethically made fashion, an example being the post about Charlie Middleton. I am excited to say that Charlie Middleton is back on APOE with this seriously perfect bucket bag that I currently can’t get enough of.

I met with IOM at their office and was greeted by a group of highly energetic and intelligent young people. Although I was very ignorant about what we were going to discuss, their team made me feel welcome and comfortable. During this meeting they introduced me to the IOM X campaign, which is working to “encourage safe migration and public action to stop human trafficking and exploitation”. The team does this through the use of “popular media and technology to inspire young people and their communities to act against human trafficking”. You may be overwhelmed by these few phrases (I know I sure am), but I urge you to continue reading as I try to work through a bit of what this means, as well as the implications it has on our everyday lives in terms of the fashion industry.

What is human trafficking?

I am sure you have all heard the words “human trafficking” and are fully aware that it is a global problem and is something that needs to stop. What you may not know, and what I sure wasn’t aware of until this meeting, was just how forms human trafficking can take and just how many ways we come into contact with it in every day life.

IOM X has divided human trafficking and exploitation into the following 10 forms:

1. Labour Trafficking

3. Forced Domestic Work

5. Child Sex Trafficking

7. Forced Child Labour

9. Forced Marriage

2. Debt Bondage

4. Sex Trafficking

6. Child Soldiers

8. Forced Begging

10. Organ Trafficking

As you can see, acts of modern day slavery come in different forms. Along with these forms, human trafficking also occurs in very large volumes. By exploring the IOMX.org website, you will also stumble upon a some extremely scary numbers.

1. Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal activities in the world, generating US $150 billion every year.

2. At any given time, more than 20.9 million people are victims of human trafficking worldwide.

This is huge.

3. Half of all trafficking victims are in Asia Pacific.

This means that those of us living here are more exposed to it than ever.

As I mentioned in the beginning, it has been a few months since I met with IOM X and learned these statistics. After the meeting I spent many hours, over many days on google finding out what exactly these 10 forms of trafficking are. I also learned about the extent in which my daily activities play a role in the exploitation of people.

4. Food processing plants and the garment industry are particularly known for human trafficking.

This is where we, as consumers, play a role in the US $150 billion dollar criminal industry that is the exploitation of human beings.

Whether we are directly aware of it or not, we purchase products and services that have been produced by victims of trafficking.

What should we do?

My meeting with IOM X wasn’t the first time I had been informed about, or acknowledged the fact that some of the things I purchase have been made by people who are being exploited. It is currently 2015 in a world filled with globalisation, where our access to information and current events never seems to end. For example, The Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013 was something we all heard about. I was also raised by parents who taught me to read labels and shop smart. I am also fortunate enough to be in a situation where I can make choices about what to buy and what I choose to support. Having said all this, why do I go out and shop each week without taking any of this into consideration?

This is the reason it took me so many months to get the courage to write this article. I am ashamed to admit that I have taken in all the knowledge about human trafficking that google can provide me, yet I still continue to go out and buy clothes and food each week without any knowledge of where they came from. One of my favourite Canadian clothing brands admitted to manufacturing in Rana Plaza and I still stepped into their store when I was visiting home last month.

I do not have an answer for why I continue to do this.

Not only do I have no solutions, I don’t even know how to change myself. What is it going to take to get me to stop ignoring the fact that people are losing their freedom to provide me with cheap new dresses whenever I want them?

It is my never ending need to consume that puts me in a situation where I am supporting systems of human trafficking. As a fashion blogger, I am always expected to be wearing new items of clothing. Sharing these new things with all of you is what I love to do. I am not always making money, nor am I always being sponsored for the items posted on APOE. A large portion of what you see are things that I have bought and there is an even larger portion of items that don’t appear here, which I also buy with my own money.

I do not have much money, but my need to have new clothes almost every week results in me often buying the cheapest clothes I can find. The reason these clothes are cheap is because the people making them are being exploited. It’s that simple.

As long as I continue to demand a never ending supply of cheap clothing, I am going to be benefitting at the expense of others.

This is the basis of the modern day fast fashion industry. Traditionally, we worked with spring/summer and autumn/winter seasons, in which we would buy a few new items each time. Currently, those seasons are pretty much eradicated. We buy something, we wear it twice and we’re ready for something new.

Changing this phenomena is the only potential solution I can come up with, but the logistics of doing so are still far beyond me. http://www.DariaDaria.com chose to only share ethical and sustainable fashion with her followers a few years ago, so why can’t I bring myself to do the same?

I am sharing my thoughts with all of you in hopes that you can help provide me with some inspiration and answers. I would really love to hear your comments and opinions. This is a journey that I would like to see us all go on together and I think it all needs to begin with a conversation. If we get enough people talking, then perhaps we (including me) will be inspired to act.

So what’s next?

In continuing this blog segment with IOM X, I am going to introduce a “fair fashion” tab in the menu on the APOE home page, where you can easily find brands that are not benefitting from the exploitation of others. I will slowly curated this section over time, so please bare with me as it grows. Please let me know if you have any ideas for brands to share.

I will also be working on bringing you a few key wardrobe pieces that will hopefully help us to break away from the need for fast fashion. Perhaps, by planning strategically and focusing more on quality, staple items, we won’t find ourselves bored with our closet and searching as many cheap items as we can get our hands on. Please stay tuned for my upcoming post on “wardrobe staples” from ethical brands that can all be shopped online.

Bag: Charlie Middleton – Top: Zalora – Jeans: UNIQLO (similar)

Espadrilles: TopShop (similar) – Head Chain: TopShop (similar) – Watch: TW Steel

Bracelets: Pandora – Necklace: Sonam Rabgye & Canadian Native Artisans

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