Sustainable fashion stops sex-trafficking in Minneapolis

On June 2nd, I attended The Clothing Collective fundraiser event at Aria Minneapolis. The Clothing Collective started as a simple conversation among few friends that turned into a massive shopping event where guests can shop donated clothes, bid on designer pieces, listen to live music, enjoy small bites and drinks, and help give victims of sex-trafficking a voice.

While browsing the website, I found a video from the director of The Clothing Collective. One of the collaborators talked about how majority of the people residing in the U.S. aren’t directly affected by sex-trafficking. However, it is a huge issue in the world today because over 15,000 girls are trafficked in the sex trade, according to Wipe Every Tear , an organization working directly with women trafficked in the sex trade to provide safe housing and quality education for them.

Though the collaborators bold statement may not be entirely accurate, I was able to relate to his statement. Growing up under a roof of successful parents with love and care, I never faced moments in my life where I had to sacrifice my body to earn money to pay off my tuition or to buy myself a meal. It’s truly heartbreaking to acknowledge that precious girls in Southeast Asia are trapped in the sex-trafficking industry, and it’s impossible to seek refuge and help outside of the industry they belong to.

However, the fundraiser event sponsored by The Clothing Collective seemed like an opportunity which allows the local community to make a positive impact on the world. In order to combat sex-trafficking, you don’t necessarily need to travel all the way to the Philippines. Instead, you can attend an accessible one-day event in your local area for the growth and security of the Philippines women. Furthermore, The Clothing Collective fundraiser event focused on giving sustainability a new meaning by having re-purposed, donated clothing on sale, with all the proceeds going towards Wipe Every Tear.

Sustainable fashion is something that I’ve been looking into recently. According to an editor emeritus of Spectrum, ranked as the second largest producer of waste in the world, the fashion industry contributes to global warming. And frequently consuming new merchandise can be extremely detrimental for the environment. Nevertheless, thrift shopping, a sustainable way to recycle old clothing, can become an economic and stylistic alternative for many people. In fact, I’ve been consigning my old clothes to several stores such as Clothes Mentor and Turn Style  to earn money or exchange my items with their items, and I’ve saved a significant amount of money for the last 6 months.

When my friend and I purchased an item at the fundraiser, we felt really good about changing the life story of victims in the sex-trafficking industry, but also, we felt good about our decision to buy second-hand clothing over new clothing to resolve environmental issues.

The main entrance to the fundraiser event.
Bella Goose Coffee from Wisconsin Dells partnered with The Clothing Collective to show their support for women in the Philippines.
Major who traveled to the Philippines through a ministry program in February works closely with Wipe Every Tear.
Britney who also traveled with her husband Major joined the fundraiser crew as a representative for Wipe Every Tear. Britney also worked as a volunteer facilitator of The Clothing Collective.
A local jewelry brand greeting customers.
The social scene at The Clothing Collective fundraiser in Aria Minneapolis.

I met a couple, Major and Stephanie, who traveled to 11 countries for 11 months through the organization World Race to serve with different ministries along the trip.

Major explained that during the trip, the World Race runners went to the Philippines where runners teamed up with Wipe Every Tear. Major says, “One thing I wanted to do [when I left for the World Race] was sex-trafficking ministry.” Major vividly remembers the day when he walked into a bar where they were selling women to foreigners. Someone would “point a laser at a lady to come out to the stage; we would ask her if this is what she wants to be doing,” says Major. Runners suggest a way out of  a woman’s tragic life story. Major adds, “There’s all kinds of freedom at their finger tips, if they want it.. paying for school, housing, food, medicare etc.” After the trip to the bar, runners brought 17 girls from the bar to the hope house. According to Major, there are five locations in the Philippines and one location in Thailand. And in the Philippines, one of their hope house is dedicated to the Ladyboys known as transgender women, which is a huge segment of the sex trade population in the Philippines.

Although the month in the Philippines was the most intense month during the trip, Major describes the ministry as “rewarding.” Through the ministry experience, Major has gained a new perspective of the world. Major adds, “Whether you want to or not, all of the ideas you have about your life don’t seem to matter after that. You realize life is a picture bigger than your own.”

Britney who traveled with Major thinks that her trip to the Philippines has changed everything. Britney says, “The sex-trafficking industry topic can be so broad. But once you experience it in affect to you, and you’re doing vulnerable things, walking into bars where girls are working, to offer them a new life, that changes everything.” Britney describes the ministry as a “ticket to freedom” for these women. Britney adds that one should support Wipe Every Tear because “you’re giving tangible freedom and a complete new life in restoration to girls. And it’s a magic to watch what we as humans can do to help others.”

The Clothing Collective fundraiser event inspired me to think of a community service project I may be able to collaborate with a couple different service clubs at my school. Last year, I was involved in the Community Service Board. I was actively involved in the club during first semester, and I tried really hard to attend every single meeting. However, when school got busier towards second semester, I wasn’t able to attend most of the meetings, and I wasn’t thinking so much about my participation as a representative of the club.

During my time as a representative of the Community Service Board, I participated in traditional service projects where groups of people would arrange a bake sale to raise money for the Crisis Nursery or collect books for the KIPP Stand Academy to close the education gap. Although all the service projects were very meaningful, the lack of creativity and entertainment of the projects made it harder for me to advertise/promote the projects to other students.

After attending the fundraiser event, I thought it would be an unique idea to incorporate fashion in service. And I was planning to talk to an adviser about arranging a flea market to raise funds for two clubs: Girl up and She’s the first. Both clubs primarily focus on raising awareness of the issues that confront adolescent girls in third world countries. In addition, She’s the first helps specific girls or specific schools to help advance the education possibilities and available career opportunities open to women.

In the flea market, I will ask the community to donate gently used clothes or even new clothes with a tag that’s napping in their drawer. Volunteers and I will be reselling the clothes in a slightly reduced price to the faculty and students. All the proceeds will go to funding Girl up and She’s the first. There’s still three months left until school starts, but I’m glad that the fundraiser event regenerated my interest in service, and I’m excited to utilize my creativity and sense of style in the project.




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