Too Close for Comfort:
Human Trafficking in San Francisco
In a quiet Richmond neighborhood at the corner of 8th and Anza, Christine Longoria saw a new storefront opening up. She and her roommates waited to see what cool new shop would replace the old, but as days passed, she realized it wasn’t going to be the friendly mom and pop shop she was hoping for. Instead, she witnessed men sneaking in and out of this curtained up Warmer Massage storefront at odd hours. These men had to ring a door bell to be let in, and the store was always shut tight with no room to peek inside.
When Christine realized there was something terrible going on inside the shop, she decided to seek help from the national hotline for human trafficking. Although every sign pointed to sex trafficking, the hotline lagged and failed to provide assistance. And when Christine reached out to the police, they merely redirected her to another unit to deal with it instead. Nothing happened, no one helped.
Eventually, neighbors on 8th & Anza managed to rally and shut down the illegal sex trafficking “massage” parlor.
It took two and a half years.
After studying sociology in college, Christine began to pay close attention to the detrimental effects of first world consumerism on third world economies and how Western society contributes to social injustices with our everyday purchases . To see what she was learning in the classroom unfold right across the street from her home in a sleepy San Francisco neighborhood made Christine feel helpless and furious. But it gave her a chance to witness human exploitation first hand and strengthened her resolve to take things into her own hands.
Dear Survivor's Beginnings
An artist and maker of beautiful sculptures, clothing and jewelry, Christine never thought she would lead her life doing what she’s doing now.
“I began sewing when I was fifteen, but I never thought it was something I could make a career out of.”
With encouragement from a friend who suggested she create a small line to see where she could take her creativity and an $800 tax return that came in the mail at just the right time, Christine took this creative challenge full force.
“Having sewn and made things my whole life and having this awareness that fashion could be ethical if we make it, that it could promote human life rather than destroy it,
I started Dear Survivor.”
First, she bought a few hides of leather with her $800 and made her first collection in one week. And when, to her surprise, people bought her products, she’d go out and get more leathers and stones for her next designs.
"I’m the poorest person I know of my friend group," Christine says. "But I don’t care and I think that’s why it works. I graduated debt free and that allowed me have the freedom to do what I do.”
When it comes to buying her materials, Christine is aware that every piece she needs has been touched by someone else. And she prefers that the materials come from the US so she knows no life had been exploited.
“It’s easier for me to turn a blind eye. I look at this thread and can say, this is just a thread… But I think it’s worth it to think about where all the materials I use are coming from and that human lives were not exploited making it. And I think there are more people having an appreciation for handmade in the US products at this point. There’s so much more that a consumer dollar can do.
...Why not put your money into something that’ll give back?”
Today, 10% of Dear Survivor’s profits go to Generate Hope, a non-profit that provides housing and a recovery program to victims of sex trafficking. Christine wants to eventually hire women who come out of the Generate Hope program. Find beautiful stone jewelry and leather bags locally sourced and handmade by Christine Longoria at Dear Survivor.
Up next, Chapter Two: Bryr Clogs
Mixing comfort, style, and authenticity—meet Isobel Schofield, owner of Bryr Studio where she creates beautiful, hand-made clogs. Schofield left the world of corporate fashion to escape the "guesswork" and "gamble" of the fast-paced industry. Today, she runs Bryr Studio where she meets inspiring women and crafts inspiring footwear.