What is The Suitcase Rummage?
The little piazza next to the Northcote Town Hall is covered in clothes. Clothes on tables, clothes laid out on rugs, clothes bursting from suitcases, clothes hanging from trees, there is crafts too but the only thing there is no room for is corporate exploitation.
The Suitcase Rummage is “a grass roots market. It’s all about helping people when they first set up their craft business or art business,” says Cassie, the Coordinator for the Northcote Market, standing at her own stall selling her framed drawings. The rules are that any new item must be handmade, clothing must be second-hand, upcycled, or recycled, with no surplus or mass-import second-hand items allowed.
“One percent could ensure that the women making our clothes are paid a living wage. But for those not buying new clothes, the Suitcase Rummage offers many a sustainable bargain.” Jess, Volunteer
The Oxfam table at the Suitcase Rummage is a niche of green between a seller of used women’s boots and a sea of clothes stretching around the boardwalk. Oxfam’s own contribution to the market is a suitcase overflowing with toddler clothes. Oxfam volunteers Courtney and Jess are giving their time today to tend the stall, explaining the campaign to market visitors and inviting them to sign the pledge.
This is the first time that Oxfam Victoria has partnered with the Suitcase Rummage, promoting the What She Makes campaign. Cassi, Coordinator for the Northcote Market, became an instant convert of What She Makes, “it sounds good, it’s just about making sure that the people [making] your clothing have a livable wage.” The campaign resonates with Cassi’s instincts. Seeing cheap fast fashion items in shops, “it always makes me think… It’s brand new… Whenever something is so cheap I think: why is so cheap?”
The impact we have as consumers.
Courtney, Part-time employee.
Courtney has now volunteered her time to Oxfam for nearly two years and is recently a part-time employee. She sees a natural connection between the What She Makes campaign and a second-hand clothing market.
“At an event like this, people are turning away from the fast fashion movement and trying to think about sustainable shopping. This is a really good opportunity for the campaign to spread out into like-minded people […] a good place plant the seed.”
“A big part of that touches on social justice, and how that fits into the environmental space. I just found, all of sudden, I really couldn’t understand why we aren’t pushing for everyone to have equal rights, and I feel like Oxfam places that at the centre of their approach.”
Lecturer in Micro-biology
What She Makes is Jess’s first campaign volunteering for Oxfam. She chose to volunteer with Oxfam after researching charities, “I’m really interested in effective altruism and charities that measure their impact. [Oxfam] have got evidence-based charity and cover a wide range of issues that I’m passionate about.”
The What She Makes campaign has shown Jess that most clothing workers in developing countries do not make enough to live on, but it would take very little – perhaps a one percent price increase to us, the end purchasers of the clothes they make – to change that.
How much is enough to live on? How much would it cost if clothing workers were paid a living wage? The What She Makes campaign has given Jess, answers to those questions.