Four Cambodians and I shared two bucket seats in the middle row of a minivan. I perched on half a seat with my head plastered against the window as we rattled down the unpaved highway between the provincial capital Prey Veng and the capital, Phnom Penh.
A single mother of two in her mid-thirties, the Cambodian woman next to me was curious about my presence on the bus. By many measures, we are worlds apart. Vwie (ហួរ ឆៃលៀហ) is a migrant factory worker who supports her children and ailing mother with her monthly wage of under $200. I am a solidly middle class, educated white male with no dependents and a three-year contract for an NGO in her hometown. Yet, there we were sharing a seat and stories about our lives.
Vwie told me about her work at a garment factory in Phnom Penh. She works on an assembly line with 30 other women; her task is to complete a single seam day after day. The company exports the shirts and sells them at a high price to American consumers. Vwie is from Prey Veng and leaves her two small children there in the countryside to go work in the city. She sees her children once a month if she’s lucky. Her husband left her for a younger, more beautiful woman, but “good riddance because he didn’t work and drank too much,” Vwie quipped. Now Vwie’s children live with her mother, the older woman who was squished in the seat beside us. Vwie told her mother is making the rare trip back to Prey Veng because her mother had required medical care in Phnom Penh.
As if on cue, her mother started vomiting silently into a small black plastic bag. View’s daughter started to dry heave. I offered Vwie’s mother my water bottle to rinse her mouth as Vwie continued. “I wish that I had money to send them to school to learn English, but I don’t have money. I wish I could pay back the loan I took out to pay for my mother's hospital bills. I wish I could start a small business to sell food and clothes on the side of the road.” She doesn’t need a handout. She needs an opportunity.
I jotted down her contact information, because once we get this project running, she is exactly the type of person that Decent Clothes will work for. Decent Clothes is a small project, but we have big dreams. Simply put, we want to connect tailors like Vwie to you, the consumer. We want to cut out as many executives, factory owners, and steps in the supply chain as possible so that we can put more money the pockets of people like Vwie who deserve the chance to earn a fair wage for producing quality clothes. Decent Clothes will make that happen.
If you want to support Decent Clothes made by decent people at a decent price, join our movement.
Martin Hofkamp, Founder
There are many ways you can be involved!
- Sign up for updates and give us your measurements. As soon as we’re ready to take your order, we’ll let you know.
- Talk to your friends about Decent Clothes and maybe sell some shirts!
We hope to measure up to your expectations.
- We will pay tailors the market rate and then some. We won’t haggle.
- You will know the story of the tailor who makes your clothes.
- We will make it possible for you to contact and even tip your tailor if you like their product.
- We will be transparent about where the money for your shirt goes.
- We will be 100% open with our financial structure.
- No employee will ever make more than our most successful tailor (We are currently donating our resources and time to run this project).
Our Volunteer Team
- Martin Hofkamp: Prey Veng Field Officer, Co-founder, Head of Cambodian Operations
- Micah Miller-Eshleman: Web Developer, Co-founder, Head of U.S. Operations
- Audrey Thill: Phnom Penh Field Officer, Copy Editor
- Peter Meyer-Reimer: Sales, Branding, Copy Editor
- Phil Gerigscott/Laurel Woodward: Design
- Mohammad Rasoulipour: Branding and Marketing Campaign