Animal prints here and abroad / by Susie Lubell

I'm running a sale on my 5x7 animal prints. BUY ONE GET ONE baby! I made this little poster of nine of them together to list the sale on ETSY and I have to say I'm loving the poster! Maybe I should sell the poster! And that got me thinking about Zambia. This is how my brain works. Let me back up.

Does anyone remember a line of ESPRIT clothing circa 1986 of little cropped animal graphics in small boxes? It was either white or black fabric and on the white fabric it was black squares with these animal silhouettes in bright ESPRIT colors and vice versa on the black. My friend/arch nemesis Cindy had the blouse, the skirt, the sweater, maybe even the coveted pants. Bitch. I mean, lucky girl. I actually went searching on Google for a picture of what I'm talking about to show you but alas, I can't find a single one. And do you know why? Because all of those clothes from the eighties, the ones that aren't vintage enough for resale, are now being worn in Africa. I saw a PBS show recently about the used-clothing trade in Zambia detailing how this multi-billion dollar industry is also the United State's single largest export to Africa. And how it has all but crippled the textile industry in that county. Zambians no longer make their own clothes. They just wear hand-me-downs. Enterprising folks purchase giant bales of clothes, all shrink-wrapped so they actually don't even know what they're getting. On a good day you get regular clothes to sell. Perhaps a Foothill High School Class of 1991 Grad Night t-shirt. Or an ESPRIT blouse with animals on it. On a bad day you end up with, say, a ton of old aprons or something. The show I watched made it seem like it wasn't a great thing since the raw materials for this trade were in fact donated by people who thought they were helping out the poor in this country and then by the time they reach Africa, where there is obviously still need, they've been through three non-African middlemen who have sucked out most of the profits. If the Zambians themselves could find a way to control more of the supply chain maybe it would be better for their country's economy.

Where was I? Africa? Anyway, back in America we're having a BOGO sale on animals prints. Not the kind from ESPRIT. You have to go to Zambia for those.