What would possess a young 14 year old, to sear-off GAP and Abercrombie? Or, even for that matter, take up the cause of other children her age and younger, who daily, work in conditions that are toxic at best – to stop child slavery. How does one child decide, at such an early age, that not only will she make a difference, she will start with her own choices and values. We live in a disposable reality, actually in a self-constructed bubble of cosmetic individuals, that believe that their concept of pop-culture, is the only culture, that actually exists.
Bombarded by Coke ads and mind- less programming, the chance that any individual would slip out of this wide next cast among the masses, is a rare thing indeed; and like the fish that does escape the net, the chance of remaining healthy is even rarer still. Hannah Rose Dalton, is such a rare fish. Keep on swimming.
KA- Ok Hannah, what made you wake up one day and decide, I am not wearing mass-produced things anymore?
HR- How could you not do something, when you hear that 28 of Abercrombie and Fitch’s workers, were burned to death in a Bangladesh factory fire, back in 2010? Or hearing that Gap uses sweatshops and children to produce its clothing? Well, as an innocent fourteen year old, I was completely sure that this was all just some type of a joke! Up until that point, I thought magi- cal machines made clothes, or those cute little rats in the fairy tales, not human beings. In any case, my brain couldn’t wrap around this idea of powerful people exploiting others for profit. I was starting to get the feeling that the fashion industry wasn’t this enchanting, glamorous and sparkly thing. I started to understand that it is really just a double-faced place; where girls are being hypnotized into believing that they should be skinnier than their own cadaver, and where children are forced to make our own goods. The more I investigated, the more I realized that Aber- crombie and Fitch wasn’t the only brand using horrible working conditions; but pretty much every other company was doing the same thing, and some even using children. The following day, I went up to Ashley again and told her I would never shop at any company that uses child labor, or exploits its workers ever again. Multi-million dollar companies such as Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, H&M, Zara and many others were in my mind, all of a sudden out of fashion. There are 218 million children induced into child labor, according to the International Labor Organization. Child labor is typically seen in developing countries, since youth without an education are easily sucked into various trades, such as the fashion, agriculture, construction, mining, and the sex in- dustries. Child labor exists because of our demand. Our society demands low prices. That is why we are all partially responsible for the crimes that are occurring in secrecy, behind our backs. These workers endure long hours, get little pay and work in dangerous conditions that effect their health and well-being. No child should have to go through that. Aren’t we all supposed to be swinging at the park, playing with our imaginary friends and reading Cinderella? Over the last few years, desperately trying to find someone who agreed with me on this issue, I realized that almost everyone was still willing to continue to shop at these stores. Who cares, they would say, as if looking good was more important than peoples’ lives. Some even had the guts to say that those children should continue to work, since they would prob- ably die anyway. First of all, these are human beings, not those nasty wee spiders we see on the wall every once in a while! I get the fact that some of these kids would have death knocking at their door if they were not employed. I have been to Cambodia and I’ve seen these kids’ faces and how they live, and I have understood that education is the only way out of it. If the majority of society boycotts these brands and demands a living wage, security and health benefits for all workers, they would have no choice but to change their values. There would have to be a shift in the production side of these companies, and for once, remit- tance will be given to those who actually deserve it. With that, I had finally realized the secrets behind the label; and there was no way I could go back to believing that everything in the fashion industry, was as glittery as it seemed.
KA- How did you manage after this decision was made?
HR- People ask me this a lot! How do you do it?, They ask as if it’s some impossible task! Trust me, it’s really not all that difficult. I go through a few simple steps; research, shopping and repeat! Every once in a while I will check up on this undisclosed world, that lies behind the labels. It’s never really a positive time when I do this. Just go on Google, type in your favorite brand with labor next to it, and see for yourself. For example, at the end of November 2012, over 100 innocent workers in a Bangladeshi factory that made garments for Sears, Disney and Walmart, died due to a fire. There were not enough fire escapes, and workers were basically trapped. Just to give you an idea, the New York Times published a great article about the fire soon after the incident occurred, and stated that the factory, which opened in May 2010, employed about 1,500 workers and had sales of $35 million a year. I just find that interesting, because of how much money they make. I mean that is ridiculous. To think that this is just one factory! The worst part is, those workers will not get any more then 37$ a month. There has also been a lot of attention on H&M because of the mass fainting occurring in the Cambodian factories. The faintings, are the most recent incidents that have provoked international alarm over factory conditions. The International Labor Organization blamed the sickness on inadequate nutrition. It makes sense, if you’re being paid a small amount of money per month, enabling you to only to buy certain foods that do not contain many calories, mixed with bad working conditions, your body is going to react. The actual shopping part is less painful than reading those articles about the workers. Not only do I make my own clothes, but I also shop at vintage stores. Made in Canada brands, fair trade shops and if you’re lucky, I’ll spend a ridiculous amount of money on an un- needed Valentino merino wool sweater, just to get away from the brands using unethical production methods. My favorite thrift store, Boutique Encore, is on Crescent Street, and I’ve gotten some great deals there: 50$ for a Moschino blazer, 100$ for a worsted wool Dolce and Gabbana tapered skirt and about 150$ for a white Mui Mui blouse! Pretty much everything hasn’t even been used, and even if it has, these beautiful garments shouldn’t be sitting on a clothing rack for their whole lives (especially when they are all at such a good price)! I also love this thrift store on St-Laurent called Eva B. You can find some beautiful pieces and everything is pretty much 5$! The key is that you want your money to be going to those who deserve it. Getting a unique necklace at Dix Mille Village (fair trade store) for 15$, or spending 5$ on a cute little cotton skirt is not only cost effective, but also ecological in many ways! Textiles are not being produced to make the garments, and your money isn’t going to the unprincipled companies; but rather the little vintage boutique, or supporting companies that do pay their workers a living wage, and who support their workers’ devel- opment as human beings.
KA- What is the Kindness award?
HR- At my graduation from Miss Edgars and Miss Cramps back in June, I won many awards for my philanthropy world- wide, as well as my efforts within the Montreal community. Probably the most significant one is the Lieutenant Governor’s Youth Bronze Award; an award which identifies those in Que- bec, who have given their 110% in their volunteer work! I was also awarded with the Joan Stobo Prichard Award, which is given to the student who in a leadership role, has brought out the best in others. Within this award is the Kindness award, which is where I was able to have a photo shoot with Chris- ty Guntner. Without her, well, I wouldn’t be answering these questions for KA right at this moment!
KA- How would you define your fashion style?
HR- I don’t think I really have a set in stone style yet. I’m still figuring out who I am and what I like, and this translates in what I wear every day. One day, I`ll be looking like I just rode a horse, then I’ll look like I’m ready to be a businesswoman, and the next, I’ll be wearing pink head to toe, and somehow make it look somewhat normal. I love to have a juxtaposition of sophistication and structured garments, with an injection of risqué. I am also known to over dress for everything! One thing always stays consistent; I’ve always got an edgy necklace, funky stockings, a belt, my mum’s Gucci watch and how could we forget, the famous headbands?!
KA- At what point did you decide you would make your own clothing?
HR- A really good friend of mine has told me that I make Cou- ture for Change. I really love that thought. It really expresses everything I do in three simple words. Ever since I was a little girl, I was always drawing dresses for princesses and queens! I remember my first real sketchbook that I got when I was about 5 years old. I still keep it near my bed, because I think inside it contains something so raw and imaginative, that we are unable to regain, once we lose our innocence. I was in the 9th grade, when I began finding out about the horrors behind the labels of the clothes we wear every day, and decided I wanted to be a humanitarian designer; as a way to give a voice to the voiceless. Now, I am creating these one of a kind garments, that are pretty much completely done by hand, while expressing my views about world politics, media, globalization and other issues, such as child labor. Creating this perfect balance of beauty and imagination, with real sub- stance. Through art, I want to express my disgust of the fash- ion industry, and use it to transform it into something I believe it should look like. I call my designs, my rack of skins, because like an onion, they are each like one layer of my soul. I remem- ber crying myself to sleep before my prom, because I didn’t want people to see me wearing the dress I had made. I had embroidered the entire dress for over 100 hours, in little nick knacks I had collected my entire life. So the garment was as if I had ripped off my exterior skin, laid it out on the table, and mapped out how Hannah Rose got to where she was, at that point in her life. Even though no one can tell what each little stone, sequin or lyric meant, to me it was as if I was walking around completely naked all night! Everything is exposed in my garments; nothing is a secret. That’s the way fashion should be and needs to be. As I like to say, in my world, beauty has no definition, exploitation has no more chances and quantity is a matter of proportions!
KA- What would be your next creative expression? Would you like to do videos, etc. to get your point across?
HR- Well, coming from someone who typically has every foot- step planned out, I really just go with the flow (if you will), when I think about future ways to express myself. I don’t think art can be staged or set up; it just has to happen naturally. Art is one of the sole places where society cannot lie; and that is why I just let life be, allowing creative expression to flow from that. Though, I have always wanted to go in the middle of Phnom Penh’s Central Market in Cambodia, wearing a ridicu- lous outfit, and just take an image. I think it would just show something about the fashion industry, on so many levels. Is this really important? Do we really need to be looking great all the time, at the cost of other people’s lives? Do we really need any of this stuff?! I love videos; I think fashion videos are becoming more and more popular, because they can express something that an image can’t, such as a movement or the shift of a facial expression. I find all of that extremely interesting, as I’m secretly a drama geek! Shh!
KA- Tell me a little bit about your background?
HR- When I was 5 months old, I came from New Zealand, to live in Canada for my dad’s job. A lot of people ask if I feel like a Canadian or a Kiwi? It’s a tough question, because I don’t think I would get on a plane tomorrow to go back and live in New Zealand. All my friends, family and education are in Montreal; yet regardless, I think I would always consider myself from New Zealand. I feel like a chunk of me is still connected with the nature in the country, and I don’t think I could ever give that up. I went to Miss Edgars and Miss Cramps School for 12 years of my life; an all girls’ private school, which has given me some amazing opportunities, such as a scholarship to go to Cambo- dia! I don’t think it was just an educational institution, I think it was like a second home. I really miss having my drama teacher or my English teacher, walking up to me in the halls, and just hav- ing a random conversation about something that has nothing to do with school. It’s as if we were our own separate family, that was always there for one another. I don’t think many schools can offer that to anyone, because most of the time, you really just feel like a number. Education, to me, is more important than anything in the world. 121 million children, don’t have the opportu- nity to learn how to write their names, read a sentence or count to ten. These three simple tasks we all take for granted. I have always known, that I was one of the luckiest girls in the world, one that has had one of the most prestigious educations in all of Canada. Once you really realize that, and understand it to the core, it is easy to succeed and focus on what is really important. I now am studying in Fashion Design; a decision that is out of the norm, of any private school. I think many are scared to fight for what they want, as it is much easier to walk away, than to fight for something you really crave. Dreams may be for fools, but when you put success and profit before your own desires, in the end you won’t achieve anything anyway.
KA- How cool is it to have a mom that totally supports your choices?
HR- I wish that everyone could have parents that accept you for being you! I haven’t met many that do. Perhaps, this is partly due to the social groups that I tend to hang around, or maybe this really does represent most of the Western parents? I believe that from a young age, we are all subjected to believe that marks and money create success. That is totally 100% false! Look at how many problems we have all run into because of this! Look outside your window and observe how this has affected our world in such a negative way. Grades are not everything, money represents nothing, and wealth is what is in the heart. It is actually interesting, because in the 11th grade, I went around to the first, second and fifth graders, to talk to them about my trip to Cambodia. I asked in the middle of my presentation, what these students wanted to be when they grew up! It was so neat to see all these little kids saying they wanted to be hair dress- ers, chefs, people who work at spas or do people’s nails for a living! As I went from class to class, you really saw how in the end, no one wanted to paint people’s nails. Possibly, it is really because they just didn’t want to paint nails, until they died, or maybe there is something lurking in their mind that makes them all of a sudden, put that thought into the trash.
KA- Who is Hannah Rose Dalton?
HR- Curious? Odd? Ethical? All of the above? Or perhaps she’s just honest, real and always dreaming? She values the idea of giving to others, without expecting anything in return, respecting workers in any given place, and to always overlook the ugly to seek that honest beauty within. Her dream is to use self-ex- pression to change the world for the better. She aspires to ma- nipulate the fashion industry, into something that it should have always been; a place where workers are respected, creativity overtakes trends, and where the image of beauty is healthy and strong!