Fast Fashion vs. Fair Trade: A Mother’s Day in the Garment Industry

Two Indian woman outside of their Fair Trade workshop

This story is inspired by the real-life challenges and triumphs of garment workers around the world. While the characters are fictional, the issues explored are very real.

The clothes we wear each day tell stories far deeper than the latest trends. They’re made by people who have families, deal with sickness, go grocery shopping, dream about the future, and worry about how their kids are doing in school. When we purchase and wear our clothes, it’s important to consider the people who made them. 

This Mother’s Day, Passion Lilie would like to introduce you to two mothers, Rani and Priya, two mothers who work in the garment industry. They represent the stories of thousands of women who are raising families and trying to balance the demands of children, school, health, and work. Their paths converge in world of garment production in India, but there’s a stark contrast between their experiences of working in fast fashion and a Fair Trade workshop.

A mother walks through the fast fashion factoryRani – A Mother’s Day in Fast Fashion

4:30 a.m.: Rani’s alarm jolts her awake. The pre-dawn sounds of Mumbai surround her – honking horns and distant sirens. She thinks about missing her daughter Diya’s goodnight kiss, and mourns the evenings lost to working overtime in the garment factory. Her meager wages are the only thing standing between Diya and a hungry stomach.

5:30 a.m.: Rani fills the void in her own stomach with a thin, watery bowl of lentil soup for breakfast. On her way to the factory, she worries about the medicine she needs for Rani’s persistent cough. But cough medicine is a luxury that she cannot afford on her salary.

6 a.m. – 7 p.m.: The factory floor is a whirr of machines, hurried voices, and fluorescent lights. Rani joins a sea of tired women, stress etched on their faces, as they embroider detailed designs on brightly colored dresses. There’s no time for conversation; lunch is a stealthy moment with a handful of roti devoured amidst the chaos. Rani thinks about Diya and wonders if her cough has worsened during the day. 

8 p.m.:  The factory siren wails its end-of-day song, and Rani begins the long trudge home. Her body aches, exhaustion clouds her brain, and the journey home seems much longer. When she finally reaches their cramped apartment, she finds Diya wrapped in a thin cotton blanket, fast asleep. She spends an hour braiding Diya’s hair and preparing for another long day before she retires.

Indian gather on a lunch break outside of their Fair Trade workshopPriya – A Mother’s Day in Fair Trade Fashion

7 a.m.: Priya wakes to the calls of peacocks perched on the ancient city walls surrounding Jaipur. She brews fresh chai and prepares breakfast for her son, Rahul. They talk about his upcoming day at school, and she makes sure he sets off with his lunch and books. 

8 a.m. – 12 p.m.: Priya joins her coworkers at their workshop: a charming haveli with intricate carvings nestled in the heart of the city. She works with a collective of women, each one a skilled artisan. They laugh and chatter as their hands move across the looms where they weave organic cotton into intricate fabrics, their hands guided by ancient tradition. 

12 – 1 p.m.: As a Fair Trade workshop, the workers’ well-being is a top priority. Communal lunch breaks provide time for sharing stories, laughter, and traditional recipes. Priya shares a delicious dal makhana with her friends as they rest. 

1 – 4 p.m.:  The afternoon is dedicated to the meticulous art of hand block printing. Priya skillfully stamps wooden blocks into dyes made from plants and vegetables. She turns the cotton fabric into a canvas of stunning floral motifs. The scent of natural dyes fills the workshop, a welcome contrast to the harsh chemicals often used in fast fashion production.

5 p.m.: As the sun dips below Jaipur’s majestic Aravalli hills, Priya picks Rahul up from school. Priya’s Fair Trade wages allow her to dream beyond their immediate needs; she is saving for Rahul’s education and has a separate account for emergencies. They eat dinner together and prepare for the following day before heading to bed.

The next day, Rani walks Diya to a crowded government clinic. The doctor confirms that Diya’s cough is a result of poor air quality and mold in their apartment. Leaving the clinic, Rani feels a surge of anger at the system that forces her to choose between paying for her daughter’s medication and putting food on the table. A flyer catches her eye on the way out: a local NGO is promoting ethical fashion practices. Rani decides to take a chance. 

Priya, meanwhile, uses her lunch break to attend an information session about a new training program offered to women at her workshop. She learns that she could participate in a free training program to become a tailor, elevating her skill set and salary. 

Several days later, the mothers meet for the first time. Rani has been hired to join the Fair Trade workshop with the promise of living wages, regular hours, health insurance, and safe working conditions. Priya becomes her mentor, teaching her the intricacies of hand-block printing. Rani, in turn, shares her embroidery skills.

Fair Trade workers labor over a block print designRani’s stable income is enough to provide medication and a healthier diet for Diya. They move into a small apartment with better ventilation, and Diya’s cough abates. Together, Priya and Rani join advocacy efforts and begin to raise awareness about Fair Trade fashion and the human cost of the fast fashion industry. 

We hope this Mother’s Day is an opportunity to reflect on moms around the world who face the same everyday joys and struggles that we do. They deserve to work in safe spaces, earn enough to care for their families, and save for the future. We can make a difference by supporting Fair Trade brands and ensuring we don’t feed the fast fashion machine. 

Shop Passion Lilie Fair Trade clothing with the confidence that you’re helping to make the world a better place through your sustainable, ethical fashion choices.

Fair Trade workers celebrate Mother's Day


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