By Sithmini Aluthge

How much do I yearn to wear a designer brand?  Owing a branded dress is not about storing an expensive piece of cloth in your wardrobe. It’s about the brand, the class, the glamour, which reflects from your outfit. It adds some elegance which you cannot get from other clothes. It’s totally worth to own it. But there’s a whole army behind one piece of cloth.

I wonder what she is thinking, the seamstress– the magician behind these branded clothes.  Perhaps she is thinking how lucky she is to be a part of the branded dresses such as Victoria Secrets, Nike, Marks & Spence, Triumph etc. Maybe she is sipping a hot coffee in the winter, sitting on a comfortable cushioned sofa and threading with an expensive needle or maybe she is wearing Victoria Secrets while fixing the buttons on that dress. How lucky is she?

Unfortunately it’s just a day dream. Probably she is not thinking any of it. She is missing her family.  She left them behind. She wanted to be the breadwinner because there was no one to take the responsibilities of her family. A job to generate few rupee notes so that her little sister could buy a text book to get through her final exam , to buy a pair of slippers to her little brother, to buy a piece of jewelry to her sister who would get married in 3 months and who does not have even a dowry. But how can she get a good job when she has not even sat for an entrance exam?

So that’s how her journey began. She comes to a faraway city to get a job with the minimum qualifications. She becomes the typical garment girl, works day and night, sews hundreds of dresses per day, counts her fingers until the payday, sends three quarter of her salary to her home and pays her rent and debts for the month. After all she is left with few coins as her savings.  She has never heard of those classy brands.  She even does not have time to feel the softness of the materials. The more she finishes per day more money she gets. She knows the value of every single rupee she earns but there are plenty of hidden stories behind their lives. These little flower buds have no idea how cruel the world out there is. They have lost plenty of things in their lives from money, love, trust and even their souls.

This girl who has the magic in her hands spends a hectic life.  She does not sew in a bed of roses but her garments bring money to the country. As per The Sri Lankan exports development board, Sri Lanka’s apparel export industry is the most significant and dynamic contributor to Sri Lanka’s economy. The industry has enjoyed epic growth levels over the past four decades and is today, the island’s primary foreign exchange earner accounting to 40% of the total exports and 52% of industrial product exports (SLEDB web, 2016).

The question is not that whether she should also wear branded dresses or not? It’s about do we give her the respect which she should deserve? No matter how much we all know about the GDP contribution of garments, we still look at the girl as a typical uneducated garment girl. We frame the set of people who contributes to the primary income generator of the country. We wear the expensive branded dresses which is sewn in her hands but still do not give a hint of sympathy toward her.

Even she has a dream like everyone else. Go back to her home place, get married, have children, to live with peace and harmony.  But there are lots of thrones in her path to achieve such dreams such as money, education and social criticism. Have we ever heard of a Sri Lankan garment girl conquering the world? Or at least opening of her own shop?  Have we ever heard a garment girl who walks in a fashion ramp as a fashion designer? She has the talent, commitment and dedication but why is she never the showstopper? Why she is always the one to be blame?

It’s high time that we should encourage the typical garment girl to be the showstopper. At least it’s high time that we should give them proper rewards and recognitions, trainings in terms of language and mechanisms and financial supports to help her build her a simple dream. Moreover it’s high time that we give some respect to the fearless girl who brings foreign income to the country.