Shurley Sun, a Grade 12 student at Loretto Abbey, is the founder of Clothes Matter, a second-hand and locally made clothing line. Photo courtesy of Shurley Sun

Student-run clothing line shines a light on sweatshops

By  Thien-An Nguyen, Youth Speak News
  • January 25, 2012

TORONTO - Environmentally friendly and ethically manufactured fashions for a good cause: this is the premise of Clothes Matter, a second-hand and locally made clothing line based in Toronto.

Officially launched in the fall, Clothes Matter was founded by Shurley Sun, 17, a Grade 12 student at Loretto Abbey. Sun started the non-profit clothing line to raise money for 1Focus, a student-run charity aimed at making change, one year at a time. This year’s 1Focus mission is to raise $10,000 for schools run by the Loreto Sisters in Darjeeling, India.

Sun was inspired to start Clothes Matter after attending a March break leadership trip to India along with other students from the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Sun described the trip as “incredible and life changing.”

While there, Sun witnessed the negative impact of sweatshops.

“People work with minimal tools and machinery in an open environment and the wage is not even close to providing a family with its basic needs, not to mention a child’s education,” she said.

The experience has inspired her to do whatever she can to work towards global equality and development.

“I know that these may seem like impossible goals, but if you think about it, we have power, power which stems from the choices we make every day.”

For Sun, this power came from her passion for fashion design.

“I’ve always had an eye for fashion,” she explained.

The main designer behind Clothes Matter apparel, Sun also said that at Clothes Matter, there is no trade-off between good clothing and ethics.

“I make sure that I only sell clothing I can see myself or my peers wearing,” she said. “People should be able to fight for a good cause and feel beautiful at the same time.”

Clothes Matter services and products are accessible primarily on the Facebook page where images of the clothing are posted regularly, explained Sun. To make a purchase, customers either comment on the image of the clothing they want to buy or e-mail clothesmatter@gmail.com.

For Laura Wickware, 17, a model and customer of Clothes Matter, the process of purchasing Clothes Matter products is very simple and reliable.

“You can fully trust where your money is going,” Wickware said. “I love some of the urbanized clothing styles they offered, finding them cute, well-created and cheap in price.”

Besides raising money for 1Focus and promoting ethical manufacturing, Clothes Matter is also environmentally friendly.

“Second-hand clothing helps save our environment because it reduces waste,” she said. “Similarly, locally made clothes reduce gas and pollution because they do not require any long distance transportation.”

For this reason, customers must pick up Clothes Matter products in Toronto, rather than having the products shipped, said Sun.  

Brian Rim, 17, a Clothes Matter model, said buying local products is beneficial for both the local and global community.

“The act supports not only the creative artists in our locality but it also promotes awareness for the movement against child labour and sweatshops,” said Rim.

Sun has many future goals for Clothes Matter. For instance, Clothes Matter products began primarily as women’s casual apparel but is gradually expanding to include formal wear and men’s apparel. Sun also hopes to expand outside of Toronto and to establish a core team, though her friends often volunteer as models and photographers.

To date, Clothes Matter has raised more than $300.

“My only hope is that, because of my initiative, there will be at least one less child who will need to work in a sweatshop simply to make ends meet and one more who will have a chance to receive a proper education.”

For more information on Clothes Matter, check out Clothes Matter on Facebook or see the Clothes Matter blog at http://clothesmatterspeaks.blogspot.com.

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