Global Citizens On The Move

Fair Friday, Fashion and Friendship: How Elrike Got Moving

written by Ash Shah

Before we develop an understanding of our race, our gender, our passions, our family histories and so on, the red thread that weaves itself through all our lives is the shared experience of being a human first. We’re all born as global citizens, but it takes us a while to learn the ropes. There’s a vast number of ways in which different individuals contribute to different causes and our goal is to help you discover a version of global citizenship that is unique to you! In this article we outline the global citizenship journey and practice of Elrike, co founder of Fair Friday.

Where the seeds were planted

When Elrike returned to Holland after a stretch of volunteering in England, she walked into a life that was changing dramatically. She moved in with her partner to the coastal town of Gravenzande where the reality of adulthood began to catch up to her. It was when she began to run her own household that she started to pay closer attention to her purchases. The plastic wrapped broccoli that lined the aisles, the imported mangoes from halfway across the world, the quinoa that had become gentrified in the areas where locals once considered it a cheap staple - these facts encroached on her conscience and made her sit up and think.

One winter night, she was watching a documentary about the fashion industry. The carbon footprint of fast fashion along with the slavery it supports shocked Elrike. Her first thought was to ask Anne to watch it, Anne who had been her bunk-mate in England! Overnight, their purpose shifted. The girls were determined to not contribute to this industry. But how? Almost every item of affordable and stylish clothing that they could find in a shop was in flagrant violation of human rights.

At first, their ambition was simple, they wanted to find a personal solution to a global problem - a sustainable and stylish wardrobe! And this quest is what opened up the grand doors of their venture.

Wardrobe to Website

As Elrike and Anne foraged through racks of clothing in various shops and searched the online bulletins for information. They hit one brick wall after another. This was before every company decided to greenwash their label or co-opt a social cause. Sustainable fashion had yet to catch on. People shopped with side blinders on and were happy to pay five euros for a new bikini at Primark. If they were to order ethically made clothing, they would either have to order it online where it would cross the Atlantic to make it to Amsterdam, thereby creating a massive carbon footprint. Or, they would have to settle for something that didn’t actually complement their taste.

Elrike’s family and friends back then were not willing to be a part of her journey: it really was her and Anne against the world! Over many bars of Tony’s Chocolonely, the girls brainstormed about what their next steps should be.

At first, they only wanted to create a guide for ethical brands that could allow people to make a small shift in their consumption habits. They launched their website as a means to do this, to connect people more deeply to their cause by putting more information in the limelight. It took a while for the vision to develop to its full potential. They realised that to truly arrive at a fair idea of fashion, they needed to create more awareness and change people’s thinking around fashion. Their exhaustive search for solutions led them to discover many unique brands that were fuelled by the spirit of change. Sometimes, the solution required them to rethink “cost” by purchasing more expensive items that lasted longer rather than the rapid acquisition of the latest trends. And sometimes, they would hit the sweet spot and find ethical brands that checked most of the boxes and were also affordable!

Even if every single item in her closet is 100% ethical, Elrike knows that she will not stop campaigning until ethical practices are the global norm.

The values behind Fair Friday

Both Elrike and Anne were motivated by the idea of bringing justice to the fashion industry. While purchasing clothes from ethical labels was an important part of their goal, it didn’t undo the presence of airless sweatshops across South Asia where women and children worked long hours for negligible wages. When Elrike thinks of global citizenship, what comes to her mind is the notion of collective flourishing. Her goal isn’t to find a solution for herself that allows her conscience to remain clean, but to encourage more people to care and change their fashion habits so that real change can be implemented. Even if every single item in her closet is 100% ethical, Elrike knows that she will not stop campaigning until ethical practices are the global norm.

Another thing that holds Fair Friday together is the friendship between Elrike and Anne. Their work days end with a glass of wine and a long talk about everything from the font size on a post to what they dreamed of the previous night. The two girls started their platform at a time when neither of them had enough support from their immediate networks. They jumped on the ethical fashion train together without looking back. Their personalities proved to be the exact blend of opposites that was needed to take Fair Friday to another level. Where Elrike is a grounding influence on Anne, Anne’s radicalism is what keeps them surging forward. Even now, their brainstorms are incomplete without a bar of Tony’s Chocolonely.

The challenges of today

Elrike reflects on her journey with Fair Friday and the emotional barriers surpassed. When you are at the helm of a platform that seeks to create positive change, unbelievers and naysayers are a part of the parcel.

Fashion can sometimes be a difficult cause to rally support for because the hypocrisy of cultural expectations mean that people like to turn up their noses to the superficial nature of clothing and go on to distance themselves from the cause. It is easier to get people to take action when it comes to food and plastic because nobody likes chemical food or trashy beaches. A large part of the issue with fast fashion is that it affects someone else, somewhere else. It is only by expanding our sense of community to extend to the globe can we surmount this problem. Or else, the world’s largest polluter wins and much of humanity remains in chains.

Some days, the enormity of the effort required is daunting and Elrike’s faith wavers. But she always bounces back because she knows that creating smaller ripples of change is better than not trying at all! And on the days when her strength fails her, she’s got Anne, who is as much a sister as she is a partner.

Elrike’s advice to global citizens

What makes Elrike so motivated on the meandering path she has taken is how personally connected she feels to it. Her sense of compassion extends to the workers that suffer to make fast fashion and the landfills that bury most of the waste from the industry. For those that are starting out on their journey, she says that an important question to ask yourself is “what do you want to see more or less of in the world?” Once you have an answer to that, the next step is to evaluate how your skill set can slot into the larger picture. She encourages baby steps and humble beginnings. Knowledge is to be shared, change is to be held onto. We must do good and look good, so thank god for Fair Friday!

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