I can hear them calling to me, telling me their stories, their history, their hardships.

I shut the door to my closet to find some solitude, but it isn’t always enough. Sometimes their stories are grand, they make me smile and make me feel invincible!

Sometimes, when I really listen, they tell me the truth of their origin and shine light on the dark secrets of their maker.

My clothes have often travelled further than my body, they have been loved but they have often been dreamed of in greed, available and affordable to me thanks to oppression and not deserving of a wasted life.

Like many material objects in this day and age, our clothes are cast away in exchange for something new, something that will make us feel ‘better’, something that will solve our problems for a low, low price (or so we are told by corporate interest). In actuality, many are paying a very high price for our extravagance.

According to National Geographic Water Footprint Calculator, it takes 700 gallons of water to make a cotton shirt and 2600 gallons to make a pair of jeans, not to mention the energy used in production, gathering and use of raw resources and impacts from massive amounts of transportation. The global apparel industry has been criticized for years for infringing on workers’ rights but little has changed as sweatshops are still largely utilized within the industry. Avoidable disasters within sweatshops has made headlines in recent years with the Ali Enterprises fire in Pakistan in September 2012,  the Tazreen Fashions fire in November 2012 and the Rana Plaza building collapse in April 2013. Thousands of workers around the globe (including within North America) are overworked, underpaid and are sometimes even stripped of their life so that a small percentage of consumers can remain fashionable.

With staggering corporate markups on apparel not all have the privilege to update their wardrobe, even when they have too (let’s face it, sometimes we legitimately have too as clothing becomes no longer mend-able) many go without or others work second jobs or rack up piles of debt to remain clothed. Sometimes we have to remove clothing from our closet, maybe we are given clothing as gifts and our closet is bursting, maybe you feel it just isn’t fair to your chatty shirts to be left in the back of the closet to be forgotten and not given an opportunity to live a full life and to be heard?

In 2005 OPIRG and a group of Trent Students opened the Free Market. The Free Market is an awesome thrift type store without all the store nonsense; look around, take what you need, leave what you no longer use and enjoy. Today the Free Market lives in the basement of Sadleir House (751 George St. N) and is open Wed. 3-5pm and Thurs/Fri 1-5pm. Bins are also located around campus to make it convenient to set your underused items (clothes, books, household items) free.

The Free Market and the OPIRG office provides a space to further discuss capitalism, consumption and waste and start new programs and campaigns. The Free Market may even randomly pop up on campus from time to time!

Clothes have a lot of say if only we listen to the stories they are telling us, for the stories need to be told. Let’s give our clothing a united voice so that so many around the world can speak through them!

free market