I’m not good at bad news.
I wish I were. In my last post on failure, I talked about how important it was to unpack the bad stuff as quickly as possible and move on; but truth be told, I’m one of the worst offenders. I stew. I brood. I lack stoicism. When bad things happen, as one of my teammates delicately put it, “sometimes I tend to let my stress rub off on others.” I think that’s a nice way of saying I can be a real dramatic pain in the ass. I’m working on it.
As I write, Hurricane Matthew is finally moving away from the coast of Haiti oh so slowly, leaving a lot of bad news behind.
You’ll read online that the southwest of the country, already inordinately poor, has been cut off from Port-au-Prince. We know now that thousands have been displaced, and when measured against the earthquake and the hundreds of thousands killed then, it will feel comparatively mild. You won’t read as much about the lost crops, the erosion of progress in the fight against cholera, and the further degradation of food and water security. In an election year for Haiti, there is no leader delivering hope or change. They are – as they’ve been for quite some time – on their own and left to scrape together enough to get by.
See? I told you I wasn’t very good at this.
Here’s one of the many direct ways all of this matters to you. When you buy a piece of clothing, way more people than you might think work very hard to get it to your door. A lot of attention is paid to the last mile of this process and making sure your stuff makes it to you quickly and accurately, but it’s the First Mile of your clothes-where the materials for your goods are grown, collected, and sourced-that’s probably more important. These parts of supply chains have millions of people in them and they, for the most part, are still ignored by pretty much everybody. It was these people that got the shaft this week. They tend to always get it, mostly because we all keep ignoring them.
In Molea and Truitier, two areas where fabric for shoes, bags, and shirts begins, the storm surge has put already-delicate homes under water. It will be a while before our friends there have decent access to clean food and water again. Schools will be closed and cholera will be an issue, all while folks continue to work to put enough of an income together to get by.
When it comes to Haiti, one of Thread’s two current supply chains, progress comes in the “two steps forward, three back, then three forward” variety. We’re learning how to be successful, not because we’re more clever than our peers, but because we’re still there. Weeks like this one, while a definitely two steps backwards, throw into sharp relief exactly why we exist. There are no other fiber, yarn, or fabric companies, no certifications, and not enough brands (with several notable exceptions) standing up for the people in the First Mile of supply chains. Nonetheless they are there, even on days like today, giving us the shirt on our backs and getting by.
You can bet your ass we’ll be there too.