A couple of Christmases ago, we borrowed an idea from my brother-in-law's family and held The Christmas Follies, a family talent show. We had mothers tap-dancing, and brothers playing original music or performing a song from Les Mis, and four-year Rosie recited a Robert Frost poem.
My brother Jimmy and his wife EA performed together. She brought a sewing machine and a pair of scissors and an oversized t-shirt, and while Jimmy played a song about the God who makes all things new, she - in six minutes or less - transformed the baggy t-shirt into a stylish dress.
That's just the kind of people they are.
I interviewed EA about the ethical fashion business she and Jimmy have started, and the full interview is over at Cordella. You should read it, check out the Arrowroot website, and if you see something you like, sign up for my newsletter - I'll have a coupon code coming in to newsletter subscribers next week.
Here's my introduction to the interview:
Full disclosure: I’m hardly objective when it comes to Arrowroot, a clothing company that creates dresses with a unique aesthetic while also helping to alleviate poverty in Honduras. Arrowroot’s founder, Elizabeth Ann (E.A.), is my sister-in-law. Our lives have been braided together for well over a decade now. We grew up within a half-mile of each other in the green Ozark hills of Little Rock, Arkansas, and graduated from the same high school, eight years apart. I came back and taught American Literature at that school during her senior year, when she and my little brother were on-again, off-again sweethearts. Now, they’ve been married for nearly three years.
It’s not personal bias, though, that leads me to think that Arrowroot sets itself apart from so many start-ups offering ethically-produced clothing, handicrafts, or jewelry. Ever since I read Elizabeth Cline’s Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion (2013), I’ve made an effort to avoid purchasing clothes produced in unsafe sweatshops or made by workers who don’t earn a living wage for their work. But shopping at ethical companies advertising “fair-trade” products, I’ve found that sometimes their rhetoric tries to baptize consumerism into fighting for justice. Sometimes it smacks of white guilt, American paternalism, or a savior complex. Their advertising can be like poverty tourism: look how horrible things are! Look at the wretched lives these poor people live! Look how good we are to help them!
You’ll find none of this at Arrowroot. The seamstresses for Arrowroot are women E.A. met through Mi Esperanza, a 501c3 non-profit which provides micro-loans and training to women in the villages surrounding Tegucigalpa. As you hear E.A. talk about them, it’s clear that they are her friends, not her beneficiaries. In their stories, you see lives truly woven together in reciprocal relationship. And beautiful things are born of it.