A couple of weeks ago, the NY Times ran an opinion piece entitled "Sorry Etsy, That Handmade Scarf Won't Save the World." The author argued that purchasing handmade items is inclusive, almost clubby in its zeal for locavore and "building community," and that our purchasing dollars would be much better spent supporting factories that are paying living wages to workers in third world countries, because we get better value for our dollars and improve the situation for more people.
Mollie Makes, the UK magazine of craftiness, responded with "Can Craft Save the World?" In an article responding point by point to Emily Matchar's argument, Lottie Storey asserted that just by changing people's perception of how things are made one interaction at a time is changing how people value what is in their wardrobes. That, coupled with thought-provoking books like "Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion," is forcing lots of people to reassess how they purchase clothes and where the clothes come from. And that is, in turn, forcing clothing companies to be more transparent about their manufacturing process.
You don't have to believe me, though. Look at Boden's page on their ethical process, or new clothing producer Everlane with their factory page. Even the Gap has a page on social responsibility and their commitment to improving conditions in their overseas factories. As does Target. It's difficult to believe that these actions would have been taken without consumers asking for more transparency. To me, it's clear that by extolling the virtues of buying locally made or from small batch producers, Etsy has forced large corporations to address these issues head on and deal with both the perceptions and the reality. Etsy has done this because it created a world wide brand with a huge platform and a loud microphone. And that platform was created by handmade scarves and bags and t-shirts.
Maybe, just maybe, that handmade scarf can save the world.
So, maybe, you should learn how to knit. Or sew. To save the world.