Shopping for clothes these days is complicated. It used to be that all I had to worry about was finding something that looked and felt good on me, but now when I buy so much as a t-shirt I worry that on its way from the farthest corners of the globe it has consumed its weight in fossil fuels and left polluted rivers and impoverished villages in its wake.
So I am grateful when designers demonstrate awareness of ethical and environmental matters. Gudrun Sjoden offers "Swedish design with a green soul." Eileen Fisher's site showcases a collection of progressive corporate practices, encompassing employee health and happiness, environmental responsibility, and efforts to empower women in developing countries.
Why then did I snort with derision at a certain item in Eileen Fisher's latest flyer? The model is wearing a jacket of boiled wool and made-in-the-USA organic cotton jeans, and her hands are warmed by fingerless "glovelettes." The glovelettes are "encrusted with crystals...[and] knit with yak herded by nomads."
Yak indeed. And not, God forbid, feed-lot yak, or yak herded by people who go back to their village every night, but yak herded by nomads. Remember the three wise men crossing the desert on camels with their cargo of gifts? It used to be you had to be the Son of God to rate such exotic goods, but now all you have to do is point and click.
I mean, really. It's just a pair of gloves.
And yet, I know that nomadism as a way of life is disappearing from the planet, and soon highways and suburbs and slums will obliterate the high pastures where the nomads wandered with their herds. So maybe buying gloves knit from nomad-herded yak is not just silly, but an act of kindness to the nomad and his yaks and the grasslands with their earthworms and their bees.
Can it be that shopping these days has become a spiritual act? I think it has, and that's o.k. In this cold and soulless world, we have to take our spirituality wherever we can get it.