Six years ago, my family unknowingly set ourselves on a journey toward starting a children’s clothing company.
It didn’t start with a business plan, it started with a single choice — a simple “no”.
On April 25th, 2013, the four of us — me, my husband, & our two daughters — were sitting together at the table, eating lunch. The news was on, which, in hindsight, was really unusual; we are not typically TV watchers, especially during a mealtime. I don't remember why the TV was on, but I do remember getting out of my chair, picking up my daughter, and walking closer to the television.
What I saw was shocking. There was a building collapsed, hundreds of workers trapped, bolts of fabric unfurled from escape attempts, children's clothing scattered, labels visible. Labels I recognized, because some of those labels were on my own children's clothing.
Deep in my gut, I heard it:
"We're not doing that anymore."
The collapse of the factory at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh's capital city, Dhaka.
Credit: Rahul Talukder
And so, we began a long journey of rewriting our shopping story. But, over time, as acceptable options proved hard to find, and as we educated ourselves on the realities of the global garment industry, our "no" turned into a "yes".
"Yes! We can do something about this." Not just for our family, but for other families like ours, families who are also searching for a better option.
What began as one small choice to do what seemed right — or rather, the choice to not do what felt wrong — in honour of people we’d never met... has now grown into a full-time family business. This spring, 6 years after the Rana Plaza collapse, we launched our own children's clothing brand: Author Clothing!
We called it Author because we believe that each of us has the power to write great stories, incredible stories — with our simple, everyday choices.
As we developed this business in the midst of raising our young family, we saw two passions collide: our family’s love of read-aloud books AND the potential we saw for business to be a force for good in the world. We were learning, alongside our children, the power of story to take us places we had never been and to walk in the shoes of people we’d never met... becoming different people in the process.
Sure enough, It was when we took time to imagine ourselves in the shoes and sandals of the people who make our clothes: that was when the real game-changer happened — when the idea of a clothing business became a goal.
What happens when you have a job that pays you the legal minimum wage; but that legal wage is less than half of what it costs your family to live? When your employer asks you to work overtime, how do you respond when there are others lined up to take your legally underpaid job? What is it like when you have to operate machinery for 10+ hours in a crowded, hot, unsafe environment?
Could we rewrite that story?
We imagined something better; a story of opportunity and dignity for the people who make our clothes, and for the families they support.
As a clothing brand, “writing great stories” is our way of translating all the statistics and facts into images and language our hearts can understand; helping families just like our own to imagine how our everyday choices can make a real difference for our planet’s most vulnerable women and children.
Now, not everyone needs to start a business to live out a great story — that's not at all what we're suggesting (Full disclosure: there are some days when we would be the last to recommend that!)
But, if you take only one thing away from our story, let it be this: that your choices are powerful — even the smallest ones. And, like a great story, these choices may take you places you couldn’t have imagined.
What have you said “no” to? What have you said “yes” to? We’d love to hear about the choices that are shaping your great stories... and imagine where they might take YOU!
If you love a great story as much as we do, come visit us at author.clothing.
Dignify’s origin story has long been included, in brief, on our about page, and I refer to it whenever I’ve done interviews or podcasts or if I meet someone in person who inevitably asks, how did you get into this?
I'd like to share a bit of a wider panorama of the story, and an update. I have heard some tremendous stories from customers about the meaning that their blanket has had in some aspect of their life or a relationship. I'm so inspired, I would like to share more of mine, too. The story of dignify is very intertwined with my friend, Kathy.
I've taken a Halloween approach (thus far) that is almost entirely of a free-for-all. As in: Go trick-or-treating, have fun, eat candy, keep it in your room, go wild... and usually by two weeks in, it's all gone, forgotten, or lost its lustre. This week, though, our three kids brought over 1200 candies & chips back into our house (!!!). It was, to understate things... a bit much.
When you find yourself with an abundance of junk food, the idea of throwing it away feels inconceivable (at least for me). Maybe it is that candy is non-perishable, and there is a sense that throwing something edible in the garbage is abhorrently wasteful?
A little behind-the-scenes insight here...
As a store owner, there are loads of resources out in the wilds of the internet, ostensibly to help me succeed in my business. Did you know that I start hearing about Black Friday (as in "are you prepared to break through on Black Friday?") in the summer?
It is SO EASY to find ourselves as consumers in the maelstrom of other people's (and corporations') marketing efforts, and not even remember how we got there, or even notice these (very intentional) forces working away on us.
Here are some actions we can take now to simplify the noise before the noisiest time of the shopping year: —