Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Eco-Fashion Highlight of the Month: Swati Argade

by Jocelyn M. Goode

In celebration of Earthday, FAIM Internet Magazine is spotlighting the work of eco-fashion designer Swati Argade. She is just one of many creators who are making conscious choices about the fabrics, processes and ethics surrounding the production of clothing. As more people become aware of the environmental problems we face as inhabitants of planet Earth, eco-fashion or sustainable fashion proves to be another solution. But what is eco-fashion anyway?

According to the website,, which provides information about and access to sustainable designers and brands around the world, the criteria is as follows:

Vegetarian / Animal Free: products that have been made without the use of leather or animal tissue products. Examples are shoes and bags made from “vegetal leather” using Amazonian rubber instead of animal skins or other recycled or man-made materials.

Community Based

Ethically Produced: Ethical fashion is fashion that has been produced with respect for people and the environment. Although there are existing certifications for Organic and Fair Trade, we want to encourage companies who are taking significant action but don’t qualify for certification. This might include companies producing locally or on small scales in developed countries, who might not qualify for Fair Trade certification or companies working with farmers to transition to sustainable crops but who might not yet qualify as Organic (which takes a few years). The “Ethic Chic” section of each brand profile should have details on the specific steps of the brand’s ethical production.


Craft / Artisan: products that have been crafted using artisan skills such as embroidery, which preserve the perpetuation of ancestral traditions.


Custom or Tailor-made: also called demi-couture or made-to-order. This is a way of encouraging quality and “slow fashion” over mass-produced disposable fashion.


Fair Trade Certified: an organized movement that promotes standards for international labor (such as reasonable work hours, no child labor, the right to unionize, a fair living wage), environmentalism, and social policy in areas related to production of goods. Fair Trade focuses on exports from developing countries to developed countries. Some Fair Trade certification organizations include: FLO, IFAT, TransFair (Canada and US) and


Organic: natural fibers that have been grown without any pesticides and other toxic materials, preserving the health of humans and the environment. The process of organic growth can be certified by various organizations.


Recycled: anything that has been made from already existing materials, fabrics, metals or fibers. These are often reclaimed from previously made clothing and accessories and reworked into new ones. Fibers can also be re-purposed from pre-existing fabric, re-spun and reused for new garments.


Vintage/Second-Hand:vintage is a generic term for new or second hand garments created in the period from the 1920’s to 1975. However, the term is often used more generally for second-hand clothes or up-cycled clothes (second-hand clothes that have been given a new life through some sort of customization).

Swati Argade's designs focus on sustaining ancient Indian traditions such as dyeing, weaving and embroidery. She personally selects prints and fabrics from local economies in different parts of India. For Swati, the finished outfit is part of a cycle, connected to all the people and processes that were necessary to create it. She states, "it became very important to me early on that my clothes had to be made with the producers and their history in mind. Their skill and participation are making this endeavor possible. The artisans, weavers and tailors are as much a part of the production chain as I am."

The genre of "eco" tends to conjure up images of bland designs in muted colors or super-conceptual aesthetics that an everyday person would not want to wear. Swati's creations, however, are sophisticated, feminine, modern and rich with color. Her inspirations range from ancient Indian architecture to Neo-Victorian to the starship enterprise. This Spring, Swati will introduce a line of raincoats made from recycled bottles, post-consumer waste and organic cotton. Here are FAIM's favorite looks-

For more on Swati, visit

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Haiti Relief Update: Where's the Money Going?

by Jocelyn M. Goode
It has been about three months since the world was rocked by the news of the disastrous earthquake in Haiti, that toppled the country's infrastructure and left thousands dead. People around the world responded with a downpour of donations to organizations like Wyclef's Yele, the American Red Cross and the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. National governments also pledged money to help Haiti stabilize, with the United States offering the largest amount. Grassroot fundraisers hosted by individuals garnered a sizable collection of resources as well. So how is all this money being spent? Let's look at some figures.
as of January 24th, 2010. Courtesy of

According to an article by the Associated Press on January 27th, for every dollar of the $379 million that President Obama has allocated for Haiti earthquake release, "42 cents for disaster assistance, 33 cents for U.S. military aid, nine cents for food, nine cents to transport the food, five cents for paying Haitian survivors for recovery efforts, just under one cent to the Haitian government, and about half a cent to the Dominican Republic."

Essentially, $125 million of the money the U.S. is giving to Haiti is going back to the U.S. for their military. Questionable yet not surprising considering that American government often confuses help to mean military control of a country. Seriously, does relief really require that one third of the money go to maintaining an army or could that figure be reduced to increase the wages to Haitian workers actually rebuilding the country?

On March 29th, the American Red Cross released its plan to spend the $400 million in donations the organization received to aid recovery efforts in Haiti. Their plan is a long-term one to span over the next three to five years. In a recent press release, the American Red Cross published the following figures on their latest spending in Haiti: "In just 11 weeks, the American Red Cross has already spent or allocated a record $106.4 million, with approximately 52 percent of the funds being used for food, water and relief supplies; 36 percent for shelter; 8 percent have been dedicated for health and family services; and 4 percent for livelihoods through cash grants and loans." The organization expects to divide the $400 million, with half to be spent this year and the rest over the following years. Also a problematic plan considering that they've already spent 50% of this year's funds in 11 weeks!

Musician Wyclef Jean, founder of Yele Haiti, a popular non-profit organization to which many people of the Hip-Hop generation contributed money, is the center of a rumor scandal that alleges he paid $105,000 to his lover and personal assistant, Zakiya Khatou-Chevassus. While Yele's grassroots efforts produced $9,139,324 in donations, detractors claim that Wyclef has not been legit with managing the money. A Huffington Post article stated, "Back in late January, shortly after the 7.0 earthquake hit, YĆ©le Haiti was criticized for spending money on production crews in previous years, and Jean himself was accused of using money from the organization for his personal use. Jean admitted mistakes in the past, but denied wrongdoing and said he'd never take money from the organization..."

Wyclef's uncle, Haitian Ambassador Raymond Alcide Joseph had these comment on the matter, "I'm not a financial accountant, I haven't seen everything, but I think they had people go through the books and they did find some irregularities that were repaired, but as far as wholesale corruption--I say 'no'...It's not because Wyclef Jean is my nephew and I'm defending him but I know his heart is good and he's been doing good work in Haiti long, long before these people who have appeared on the scene.”

as of January 24th, 2010. Courtesy of

Another popular yet scandalous organization is the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. Created by the former American presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the organization has raised $37 million including a $1 million donation from actor Leonardo DiCaprio and a $200,000 gift from President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize money. Even in the face of the ongoing joke that "Bush doesn't like Black people", the Young Professionals United for Change, a primarily African-American group hosted a fundraiser for Haiti in Harlem, NYC, turning over a portion of their donations to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. Yet, according to a report on March 22nd, the presidential charity has only put about $4 million to use, approximately 10% of the total donations, giving to organizations such as "Habitat for Humanity, the University of Miami/Project Medishare mobile hospital in Port-au-Prince and the U.S. branch of the Irish charity Concern Worldwide. The rest has yet to be allocated." What are they waiting for? 90% of the people's money is just waiting to be spent while the situation in Haiti demands immediate action. So much for their presidential sense of impetus!

Well one thing is clear, George W. Bush just may not be a true hands-on person. This YouTube video has been circulating through the web showing Bush wiping his hands on Bill Clinton's shirt after shaking hands with a Haitian man.

Clearly, it is important to track the millions that has been raised against the progress actually taking place in Haiti because the tendency towards fraud is apparent. ABC News reported that Operation USA, American Refugee Committee, Merlin and Doctors Without Borders--four major organizations working on Haiti relief, could not provide specifics about their spending and were unable to assign dollar figures to their efforts. Here is an ABC News graph which shows that 69%, $325 million has not been spent on anything yet. If what the United Nations and the World Bank have found in a recent preliminary assessment is true, then it will take about $11.5 billion in the next three years to rebuild Haiti. There is no room for cheating, stealing, misallocating and stalling resources that individuals have already donated to aid Haiti's relief efforts. Accountability is a must!
as of January 24th, 2010. Courtesy of