MANKATO — When the Mankato Area Fair Trade Town Initiative put on a fashion show three years ago, the group couldn't find enough local businesses that sold fair trade clothing to do an all-local show.
"This time we're using all local stores for the clothing. Many stores carry fair trade now," said Margo Druschel, who is co-chair of the group along with Jane Dow.
MAFTTI has had a big hand in the expanded availability of fair trade merchandise locally. The group formed in 2009 and in 2011 the city officially named Mankato a Fair Trade Town, the first in Minnesota.
On May 6, beginning at 2 p.m., they are hosting a tea and fashion show at Messiah Lutheran Church, 1706 Lee Boulevard, North Mankato. (Tickets are $10, $5 for children, with 5 and younger free: email@example.com. No tickets sold at the door.)
"We have done a couple of previous teas and they have been very successful. It's a good way to introduce new people to fair trade. It's the kind of event where moms and daughters or grandmothers can come together," Druschel said.
Jan Waller, office manager at Messiah, said the group held a tea there a couple of years go.
"It was a lot of fun. Everybody decorated each table with different tea pots and things, and there were all types of desserts and fair trade products from local stores."
She said the church regularly sells fair trade coffee and sometimes chocolate at the church.
"We sell it at cost just to support the fair trade idea," Waller said.
During the afternoon tea, models will show a variety of the fair trade fashion available at area stores. The event coincides with Fashion Revolution week (#whomademyclothes), a national and international effort to improve conditions in the fashion industry.
"The industry is just terrible," Druschel said. "Manufacturers started leaving the U.S. in the 1980s and went to Latin America. Then they abandoned factories there for Asia because they were constantly looking for people they could employ for lower and lower and lower wages and longer, sweating days. It's a race to the bottom."
She said there has been progress, however.
"There is a movement. Millennials are into fashion but they're also into caring about the planet and about people. There's been a lot of pressure from millennials on clothing companies," she said.
Druschel said her group is also beginning to focus more on the ethical reuse of clothing by promoting local thrift and reuse clothing stores.
"I've read that only 1 percent of clothing is reused, rather than thrown away."
The group also will sponsor events on World Fair Trade Day, which is May 12. "We'll have coffee samplings at Cub east and Hy-Vee on the hill, which both carry many fair trade items. And many coffee shops in town who offer fair trade coffee will have specials and displays."
More on the local fair trade effort can be found at: maftti.org