Prior to the 1492 invasion, American Indians lived rather peacefully, and without money. They lived communally, taking care of one another. People did not act so much as individuals, but as one unit.
Then we moved into the trading era, where American Indians began to trade with one another and the Europeans. Soon, society began to crave more, faster, bigger and better. So we skip ahead to the Industrial Revolution of the 1800 and 1900s. Then in 1913 Henry Ford created the assembly line and production methods leapt forward once again.
The growing demand for mass production created a dynamic whereby society turned a blind eye to sweat shop labor and slavery. We’ve seen this evolution time and time again throughout history.
The Fair Trade movement began in Europe in the 1960s, as a movement towards more ethical production methods. In 1989 the World Fair Trade Organization was launched, solidifying a worldwide movement. It became sort of an international minimum wage standard. Certainly a step in the right direction.
The Internet has fostered transparency like we’ve never seen before. The veil has been dropped and the movement towards higher standard for ethics and ecologically sound production methods are growing exponentially. There is certainly nothing that would indicate that society would ever allow for a movement back in the other direction.
In short, we went from taking care of one another (essentially for free), to trading, to mass production, to sweat shops and slavery (again) and finally on to a more pervasive expectation of ethical and eco-friendly production standards (Fair Trade).
I believe the next progression will be towards a more personal connection between the consumer and the producer of the goods. When it comes to art and creativity, there is no substitute for humanity.
If we’re producing technological devices, for sure, let the robots do that. But when it comes to artful creations such as fashion, painting, sculpting and music, we want as much humanity infused as possible.
There was a time when society wanted everyone to have the same cool purse or shirt. Now we want to be individual. We want something unique hat expresses our own individuality, with a human touch. The closer we can get to the producer, the better. We want to know the story of the hands that created what we’re wearing. Where did they come from? What inspired them? What life experience compelled them to design this way? Why did they use these materials?
As an ethical fashion label, we know that the more we can connect someone to the artisan that created the product, the higher the perceived value of the product. The more value we give to the human story behind a product, the more that dynamic will be fostered by the masses.
In an age of the rise of the machines, this is certainly a trend we can get behind, and one that is here to stay.
Just after writing this, I discovered a brilliant organization called IOWEYOU. They exemplify the concept I just described in this post.