You might be wondering why someone you know spent twelve straight hours sewing, turning out garments as quickly as possible, and then gave one to you. It’s not often that we receive handmade clothing.

Why would someone go to the trouble of making clothing, when we can purchase it so inexpensively? If you’ve done much sewing yourself, you might know that it’s often more expensive to make (everyday) clothing than to buy it. It’s a sad reality–especially for someone who enjoys sewing!

Why is it often more economical to buy a new shirt than to sew one? Scale has much to do with it, since clothing manufacturers for big brands save considerably on the cost of fabric and other inputs by purchasing enormous quantities. But companies cut costs wherever they can, and labor is often the easiest place to save money.

The result–poor working conditions and suppressed wages for millions of garment workers. And for what? To produce an atrocious amount of cheap clothing…so we can have overstuffed closets, full of clothes that don’t really make us happy.

It just doesn’t sit right. So that’s how the 12 Hour Challenge came about. We wanted to get a taste of what it is like to work in a garment factory. Just a taste–because no matter how difficult we make the challenge, it will never come close to the true experience.

Someone took the challenge…and made you a garment! The garment is a reminder–when you wear it, and when you see it in your closet. It wasn’t given to you to guilt you, but to open your eyes to something that few people think about. This is a complex issue, and the industry cannot be changed overnight. Shopping mindlessly online or in department stores contributes to current problems, but boycotting brands and purchasing only “Made In USA” can also have negative affects on workers overseas. The problems are too intricate to elaborate here, but Clean Clothes Campaign and The True Cost movie provide more information about the impact of the “fast fashion” industry, and what consumers can do, if you’d like to learn more. (Or read through Phase 1 and Phase 2 on the 12 Hour Challenge page.)

Ideally, major clothing brands wouldn’t focus on building profitable businesses solely for the sake of financial gain, but as a way to bless those they come into contact with–both workers and consumers. Can we convince most clothing companies to become channels of blessing, by providing safe working conditions and reasonable wages to people in developing companies and by delivering excellent products? Probably not. But we can go out of our way to support those who do.

Remember that as a consumer you have power. Wield it wisely. And, please, don’t think a big wardrobe is the best wardrobe. Simple is better.