Monday, November 26, 2007

MZ's PSA - the shopping FAQ...

the funny thing is around this time of year, i frequently get asked questions about shopping... i don't know if it's because i tend to be a very picky shopper or because i know a lot about garment manufacturing (that being my degree and having worked in manufacturing for 10+ years) or both. anyway, since i get asked these same questions every year, i thought i'd post them here with my stock answer. and if you have any other questions about shopping, garments or manufacturing - please post them in comments and if i can answer them i will. :)

1) what stores aren't connected to sweatshops?

this is by far the most popular question. which i guess is good since it means more people want to shop with a clear conscience. the bad news is that no one (except the manufacturers) can tell you if they're connected with a sweatshop. sweatshops exist here in the US as well as overseas. and it's extremely difficult to police the activities of any manufacturer.

in a nutshell, here's how it worked when i was still in the biz... i would only place orders with manufacturers who were approved after a long drawn out, detailed audit process - including factory visits, numerous samples of work, etc... to ensure that they did not allow sweatshop environments or child labor, etc... after placing the order, either one of our employees or an agent overseas would be expected to monitor the work in progress. they do not and are not expected to monitor all the time. so, every once in a while, i would get a call from an employee/agent overseas letting me know that at his/her last inspection, a child was found working and that all production had ceased. after we felt that the situation had been resolved, production would begin again. if this directive was violated too often however, we would stop working with that specific factory altogether.

personally, i try not to shop at places where the pricing is too good to be true. because if the price is too good to be true, my knee jerk reaction is that some kind of cheap, possibly sweatshop, labor was involved.

if i do have to buy something at one of those places, i try to buy on sale because by the time the goods reach the store, the manufacturer has already been paid. so, theoretically, if i buy on sale, the manufacturer doesn't get "hurt", the store/ designer does. consequently however, the buyers/sellers for the store/designer may think that the price point of the item was too high and the following season will ask production people (like me) to find manufacturers who can produce the same item for an even lower price. because of that, i'll buy stuff at TJ Maxx or Marshalls and save all of those buyers and sellers the trouble. that stuff is usually overstock or stuff that was ticketed with the wrong ink or some random stupidness like that.... no, really. it happened to one of my orders that went to a store with black inked tickets and not blue inked tickets. (admittedly, my random stupidness, but you should have seen that store's quality assurance binder, it was bigger than a phone book.)

2) is this * insert shirt, pant, shoe, hat* really worth the $$$$$?

it depends. first of all, (in my experience) the more "processes" put into an item the more expensive the item was to produce - every button, buttonhole, zippers, zipper pulls, snaps, plackets, belt loops, extra finishing seams, embellishments like embroidery, patches, iron on transfers, etc... costs $.5, $.10, $.25 more... so, the more bells and whistles an item has, the more it will cost you. and if it's made in the US, it will cost more.

second of all, manufacturers will produce similar items for different labels. i used to work for a large lycra manufacturer who made garments for high end labels and discounters. we bought the same fabric for the same customers from the same vendor and except for maybe a slight adjustment in fit, the left side of the manufacturing floor would sew in a discount label and tag it with a discount price ticket and the right side would sew in a high end label and tag it with a high end price ticket. so, if it's something "basic", i don't buy it at a high end retailer.

lastly, i always find sweaters are good bet. i'm a beginner knitter and yarn is kinda pricey (for me) so when i find a sweater (at one of my "approved" shopping venues) that i like, i'll buy it because i can't make it for less.

3) what about organic cotton and recycled fiber clothing?

when i buy organic cotton clothing i always make sure that the cotton was grown here and the garment was made here. in my experience with imported clothing, it is sprayed with pesticides when it enters the country at customs. maybe there's an exception for organic overseas cotton but i don't know about that. re: recycled fiber. a common misconception is that all fleece is recycled fiber. it's not. you have to check the label/tags to make sure it is. other than that, i'm over the moon about recycled anything... i love to shop resale shops and thrift stores. often, i'll purchase stuff and update them with new buttons or patches. i've always thought that when the paloma gets a stain on something that i should just buy a bunch of patches, put one on the offensive stain and just scatter the rest on the garment...

4) can i hand wash this even though it says "dry clean only" on the tag?

no. labels are very tricky. often, to get by with cheap labels, manufacturers/designers will sew in "dry clean" tags. this means that you CAN hand wash. but dry clean ONLY means dry clean ONLY.

however, if you do intend to hand wash something - use your shampoo to clean it. many of the chemicals in hand wash soaps are really not good for delicates in the long run.

and if you're handwashing something made of wool. don't wring it or move it or agitate it around too much - that's what makes the wool shrink (unless already preshrunk).

ok, i think that's it... hope it was helpful! happy shopping!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

i'm a thinkin' and a rockin' and a random...

i should preface this post with sincere apologies and heartfelt gratitude first of all to puglet who nominated me back in april (yikes!) for a thinking bloggers award :

Tag you're it! The participation rules are simple: 1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think. 2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote."

...and to lien who nominated me back in july (yikes squared!) for a rockin' blogger award:

Rockin' Bloggers and Five Random Thoughts About Feminism

i have a very hard time accepting compliments of any kind - an infuriating quirk of mine - so, i apologize. not excusing my behavior, just explaining it. mea culpa! here, i will attempt to make amends:

the 5 blogs who make me think and who i consider rockin' (and who haven't already received these awards to my knowledge):

bloggo chicago - who makes me think about what could have happened if i'd continued playing hockey and that i should keep better tabs on my friends (especially the furry four legged kind) and ensure that they're doing better than ok, physically and emotionally.

Chicago Chick - who makes me think about the trials and tribulations of a chicago working mom. and pretty much scares me off of full-time, out of the home employment... kidding!!!

imPerceptibility - who makes me think about what life is like after kids turn 5. it looks as if it's easier to find the silver lining and time to spend with your mate - flirting unapologetically.

kitchen fire - who makes me think more about raising a mixed race child and that maybe if we'd found ourselves in california that we'd be neighbors. her passionate posts leave me pensive... good thing she's a teacher.

my funny funny family aka the nutmeg news - who makes me think about basically everything... which speaks to/of her journalist leanings.

and my five random thoughts on feminism:

1) i don't consider myself a feminist. i just don't see where i fit in. i'd like to fit in, but i just don't think i fit in.

2) a friend of mine in high school who considered herself a feminist gave me a short list of reading materials to into me into feminist writing. the only one i read was the awakening by kate chopin. that last scene in unforgettable.

3) in college, i read the beauty myth by naomi wolf and the feminine mystique by betty friedan. i don't remember feeling very empowered by either book which makes me think i should re-read them.

4) i'm currently reading the yellow wallpaper by charlotte perkins gilman and feminism is not the story of my life by elizabeth fox-genovese.

5) i worry that i'm not much of a feminist role model for my daughter.

last but not least, i've been tagged by sarah over at deliberately random thoughts for the eight random things about me meme.

Once tagged, you must link to the person who tagged you. Then post the rules before your list, and list 8 random things about yourself. At the end of the post, you must tag and link to 8 other people, visit their sites, and leave a comment letting them know they've been tagged.

1) i made a new dress for the paloma's BFF. it's from a late 50's pattern and modern fabric/trim. my grandmother taught me how to sew originally. she could make a dress for anyone without a pattern. then, i took sewing classes in high school and then, refined all of that when i went to art school and studied fashion design. during my first year, i won a very prestigious award at a contest judged by a very famous american designer who's spring collection the following year included a dress that looked strikingly similar to the one that won the award. i know sewing seems "too domestic" and "housewifey" but it managed to help my grandmother raise 13 children and planted the seed for what i realize now is a misunderstood and underappreciated art form.

2) i was (am?) a fan of olivia newton john. i have Xanadu on DVD and in a high school talent show, i sang "The Promise" - a song from her Physical album. originally, i auditioned for the talent show to get over my fear of doing something like that. i never expected to get the solo. i almost said "no". looking back and watching the youtube video, i really wish i'd said "no".

3) i can sing christmas carols in polish (as in Poland, not furniture). i was part of my neighborhood church choir as a kid. the choir and the congregation was mostly polish. so, alongside "silent night" and the other traditional carols, we sang "cicha noc", "lulajze, jezuniu", "dzisiaj w betlejem"and "gdy sie chrystus rodzi". i was an alto most of the time.

4) when i do get to take a shower, i blow dry and iron my hair to get it stick straight. i put a hat on or wear a headband if i can't get to it. i feel like a fraud.

5) when i was little, i couldn't really afford glasses and the optician who looked at my eyes found a pair of used glasses to give me for free. for some reason however, the glasses were tilted very far forward - we're talking at a 45 degree angle. i'm really not sure why he did that. we never went back to him despite his kindness. (i finally got new glasses btw. no more cyclops for me. yay!)

6) i share a former flame with another blogger who i've never met IRL. instead of comparing notes, we tease each other about it via facebook. i just found out that his band, an iconic chicago punk band, is coming out with a dvd in a few days. the whole situation is comical.

7) i used to breakdance as a kid with a handful of other kids and we used to carry around a couple of ratty, old, duct taped, balikbayan boxes around the 'hood. they called me "penny" - and not because i could do the move - 'cause i couldn't.

8) i've never broken a bone. sometimes i think because i was born with cystic hygroma and we had such a tough time of it all, i've been spared the whole breaking a bone thing (knock wood). once when i was bitten by a dog, my mom took me to my pediatrician right away. she was frazzled and worried. the ped did his usual wellness check up routine and finally, looked at the bite. he sighed, took off his glasses and said, "how's the dog doing?" he said that i'd been injected with pretty much everything known to man to keep me alive that he was shocked the dog wasn't dead.

i tag the thin man, puglet, flahute, ms bees knees, bertville, toronto gyopo, uncle hambone and samok daddy.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

the close up

just an fyi, i was recently interviewed by journalist/blogger jeremy wagstaff for his wall street journal online article, "My Friend Flickr?" , about my (bad) experience with posting public photos of our kids on flickr.

he also gives some tips on his blog on how to monitor your flickr albums here... which i will be implementing as soon as i stop my head from inflating and deflating while attempting to cough up an organ...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Boycott H&M!!!

UPDATE 11/15:

i just received the link to an online petition for Richards v. H&M Hennes & Mauritz:

the petition demands:

1. That H&M terminates Joseph H. (the individual who made the anti-Asian, xenophobic, and misogynist verbal attack) AND discipline the managers who did not quickly intervene.

2. That H&M changes and enforces its cultural diversity classes.

3. That H&M recognizes and understands that ignorant and racial remarks towards H&M customers from H&M employees should never ever be tolerated.

4. That immediate and serious intervention should take place from an H&M manager when a complaint about an H&M employee is made by an H&M customer regarding a racial remark from the H&M employee.

I will not shop at H&M until this is resolved. As a customer, I should be able to go shopping at a retail store without being verbally abused by an employee who uses racial slurs.

please sign the petition and pass the word on... Boycott H&M!!!

UPDATE 10/07:

just saw this chicago tribune article about the protest. and here's the cbs story and video that aired last night.

UPDATE 10/06:

i attended the H&M protest today. :)

all the way there, on the metra, the L, the walk, i thought about how it was my turn to pick up the torch that generations of filipinos before me carried and i felt truly empowered. then i got there to find that i was the oldest sistah there. (old fart, much?)

later, some of our "elders" showed up. but i gotta say that after two and a half hours of marching, screaming and sign holding. i am plum tuckered out. and rethinking that whole torch bearing business... maybe i should leave this to the young'uns. ;)

i don't know what the organizers of the protest thought, but i was really happy with the turn out and the energy, positivity and dedication that the protesters brought with them. the majority of the protesters were filipino/asian but there were caucasian, latino and african american protesters too. every once in a while, passersby would stop to see what the protest was about and then actually ask for a sign to help protest.

if you're curious we screamed the following:

"2, 4, 6, 8, H&M discriminates!"

"H&M racist! H&M sexist!"

"What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!"

there were about five people near the front door passing out flyers about the protest and i saw how they persuaded customers from shopping there today. unfortunately, we couldn't persuade everyone not to shop at the h&m store. at one point, an older woman (and i could have sworn she was wearing a neck brace) shouted at us that she would never stop shopping at h&m. it was disappointing to see so many women of color shopping there and it was especially heartbreaking to see a handful of asian people walk in to shop.

i haven't heard anything yet about whether or not H&M has taken any action re: their racist *ss employee. our local cbs news crew was there, the local filipino news show, CPR-TV was there, and there were what looked like reporters taking notes and quotes... there were also many video cameras and digital cameras out - hopefully, there will be some youtube videos.

already, pics are posted to flickr here, some are mine even! :)

hopefully, all of our hard work will have paid off. i can't express in words how proud i was to protest alongside such great people.

UPDATE: i just received this comment via my personal blog:

Hey everyone!

We wanted to post the final arrangements and clarify information regarding the protest in front of H&M on Saturday, October 6th. It will start at 10:00am and last until 11:00am! Media will be contacted and asked to cover the protest from 10:00am - 10:30am. Please meet in front of H&M, 840 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago no later than 9:55am. Who is leading it? Family and friends of Frannie (LosBaƱes) Richards, there is no specific person or persons. Do we need a permit? NO; just keep moving in sync in a line and do not block the entrance ways of the stores on that block or the street. Please do not disrupt traffic.

The previous tentative message & VIA Times presented a tentative time of 10:00-1:00pm. Because those were tentative times, we are informing you of when the media is informed to be there. We are hoping that you would be able to be there at that time. We apologize for such short notice. We understand that you have busy lives and truly appreciate all the support you have given to us! You are welcome to stay until 1:00pm but most of the people arriving at 10:00am are planning to leave at 11:00am. We were not expecting a huge crowd. Thank you for spreading the word! Please continue to help educate others on how discrimination towards any gender and any race is intolerable and unacceptable. We know you will act civil and that you understand this is a peaceful and informative march.

Thanks again for all your time and support!

Hope to see you there:

October 6th, Saturday
840 North Michigan Ave
Chicago , IL 60611
10:00AM CST-11:00 CST

LosBaƱes Family



h&m: the new a&f?

"A Filipino American woman is suing clothing chain H&M on allegations of anti-Asian and sexual harrassment, claiming that on a recent trip to the Magnificent Mile store, employees called her a "mail-order bride" and made fun of her ability to understand English: Woman Says She Was Harassed For Ethnicity At H&M. The Asian American Institute has filed a discrimination complaint with the City of Chicago Commission on Human Relations, seeking redress for Frannie Richards, who says that in addition to the "mail order bride" comments and ridicule of her English, an H&M employee made mocking "ching chong" noises at her. That's racist! And when she complained to management, they refused to do anything about it. What the hell?

Now, this kind of mocking and harrassment is nothing new—we've all had to deal with this crap on some level. It sucks. But this ain't the schoolyard. This is a freakin' clothing store. People should be able to shop in peace without feeling insulted and humiliated like this. It's ridiculous. Here's the Asian American Institute's press release on the incident: Asian American Institute Represents Filipino American Nurse Harassed by H&M Employee.

And here's a Filipino American news report on it up on YouTube: H&M Racist.

I've heard rumors of a protest being planned for this Saturday outside the Magnificent Mile store. If anyone out there has further details about the gathering, let me know."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

let me count the ways...

i love you for...

* trying not to litter the streets with your pennies when i'm around.

* your idiosyncracies...

* dancing around the house with the porkchop to frank sinatra on halloween night.

* taking a break from playing volleyball more than once a week. this too shall pass.

* moving from california to chicago.

* being patient. 'cuz i know how hard that is for you.

* listening to me. you may not always hear me, or even understand me, but you really do listen to me.

* looking like you're stable, invincible and herculean on the outside but being somewhat damaged, insecure and fragile on the inside.

* your ability to think up song lyrics on the fly.

* telling me you love me all the fracking time....

* loving me as much as you do, even though you really don't want to or have to 'cause i give you plenty of reasons not to....

when i think about "the big picture" i see you and me growing old and crotchety and senile and incontinent together. i don't want us to screw that up - especially that incontinent part. SEXY!

i know were going thru a rough patch right now, babe. we seem to have more bad days than good lately. so, i hope today of all the days is a good day. i want to be happy and i want you to be happy but i want us to be happy together too.

happy, happy, happy birthday, thin man. i love you. i mean it.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

why i could never be a teletubbie....

(teletubbies (or any preschooler show for that matter) the second time around is actually kinda painful for me. i don't know how i put up with this tripe when the paloma was into them a year or two ago... seriously, my hormones were on fire or something back then... that's the only way i can explain it.... i was chemically altered....)

1) if a drum roll preceded everything i did and/or a trumpet toot followed it - i would have to kill someone. specifically, someone playing a drum or a trumpet.

2) i do not respond well to authority figures or narrators. especially when they're disembodied and speak before invited or announced.

3) i could not eat tubby custard or tubby toast. i would rather spear one of those fluffy rabbits and wear it's pelt for a merkin.

4) i like smiling. with teeth. no wonder they eat slurp that custard... are they related to sloths or armadillos or anteaters? are they even considered part of the mammal family?

5) i like that it's obvious i'm a girl, a shy, private, Catholic girl... - i used to think that the whole teletubbie gender ambiguous thing was disturbing. and then their little antennae (?) reminded me of a shelf i'd *ahem* perused *cough* at good vibrations MANY MOONS AGO and realized that maybe the teletubbies weren't all that ambiguous at all... FORNICATORS!

6) i would not want a tv for a tummy and i would not shout "again! again!" after a video was displayed on it. i wonder if they're even digital.... *snort* modification's a b*tch.

7) i like being warm especially when sleeping in a bed. those silver lame (lah-MAY) blankets are sooooo 80s fortress of solitude for me. no christopher reeve? no contest.

ok, end senseless rant of drinky winky, tipsy, taa taas, and hoe....


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