International fashion weeks must coincide with a call for an ethical fashion revolution
The 1.5 trillion dollar industry is having its summer party right about now with fashion weeks in New York, London, Milan and Paris. Around the world, the circuit is well under way. Editors and assistants are flying back and forth to make sure the prized shows aren’t missed, crossing under grey clouds at Marc Jacobs to close New York Fashion Week, towards London’s hint of a safari at Burberry, and passing the printastic galore that is Erdem. Has anyone in this circuit (bar the money men at the top) eaten? Unlikely. Has anyone slept? Most certainly not. Am I a pot calling a kettle black? Yes.
Whizzing through my Twitter feed as I took my seat a few nights ago, and looking up around me, I happened to see the perfectly poised editor supreme, Anne Wintour, sat beside trophy beauty, Lupita Nyong’o. They sat watching a parade of women present themselves in a beautiful array of attire. Not for a second would I have changed my seat.
Tansy Hoskins, the “radical gladfy” activist, chose the Rag Rooms to launch her book Stitched Up. And what a fantastic range she got into the mix. As the glitterati of fashion presented themselves in all their “aspirational” glory, a very real discussion took place in the hipster-rich East End. As an industry with women at all levels, an all-female panel took to the stage. Model, author, activist and journalist, all different in their roles, but sharing a vision for change.
Discussing water pollution and pesticides, the panel encouraged the audience to keep pulling at that thread until it unravelled and showcased the real fabric of the piece at hand. Ethics aren’t exclusive to fashion – ethics are principals, morals, ideas that are universal and don’t discriminate. It is the system that needs to transform. We shouldn’t be in a position where the ethically-sourced and ethically-produced aren’t the mainstream. But in order to get there, it is us who will have to fight for that change.
The rights of workers paid five pence an hour for 80 hours of work a week, the abuse that takes place in the work place from the textile producers to the garment makers, as well as the interns at design houses and the models on shoots, are all left vulnerable to abuse. It is not a matter of which is worse. As Dunja Knezevic, president of The Models’ Union put it last week at the book launch, “there will always be causes more bleak than the ones you are fighting for, but does that mean you do not try to achieve change.”
Fashion may seem fickle to some, but its beauty can be awfully deceptive. The female form so often picked, prodded or bleached might just be getting used to it. Abuse is rife in the work place and statistics don’t shy away from presenting that. Sexual harassment doesn’t stop within the confines of Hollywood, it doesn’t stop within the fashion circuit, and it will not alter until real change is called for. This is not just about wages, this is about systematic abuse.
Everyone has the ability to make change, take action and make decisions. We walk on the world’s grounds and we consume from what it produces. Therefore, we are all part of the same struggle. There are no gender, racial or religious grounds when it comes to our ethics in dealing with each other.
Problems need to be tackled right from the top, within the garments industry, beginning with a transparent supply chain and a review of our hoarding culture. The vilification of working class families does no one any good. Why is it that the price of clothes is the only thing in the UK that has gone down? As Leah Borromeo said at the launch, you have to ask yourself: “When you bag a bargain, who pays for it?”
A trend for change and a trend for action. That’s my review for the season to come. Spring/Summer 2014 will coincide with Fashion Revolution Day, which commemorates one year on from Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza factory collapse, the biggest industrial disaster in modern times.
A few weeks ago, I attended a function in Westminster’s gold-gilded Houses of Parliament, launching the 2014 list for British Bangladeshi Power & Inspiration. I happened to find myself on this list. For anyone who wishes to listen to what I have to say, untie those folds and pull apart those threads. If I can inspire you to do anything, let me inspire you to change.
Image from: http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/fashion/top-trends-london-fashion-week-article-1.1460975
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