Fast Fashion Activism- Tearing at the Seams

In modern Western culture fashion has become one of the world’s leading industry’s. We as consumers are constantly buying more materialistic items for a cheap price. Fashion brands and corporations are manufacturing garments so rapidly in today’s market that stores have new stocked garments weekly sometimes multiple times a week. This phenomenon is called fast fashion. Fast fashion is defined as the process of manufacturing fashion trends to get into stores quickly and for as little money as possible. Creating “affordable fashion” that keep up with competitors. I wanted to research how and why fashion brands can create and sell garments at such low cost. Who is really making our clothing?

Today, there is a huge disconnect between consumers and garment makers.  People look at fast fashion brands and think they are getting a good deal. However, consumers are unaware of the implications of their clothing decisions have on garment workers. To be able to keep production prices low many brands manufacture garments overseas in developing countries. Millions of workers are required to work for low wages some as low as 3 dollars a day. They are forced to work extremely long hours, to keep up with consumer demand. In addition working in unsustainable and dangerous working environments that cause thousands of people to lose their life’s. As an example, the 24th of  April 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse. This event killed 1,129 people and injured over 2,500 people (Figure 1). In these conditions, basic human rights are clearly not being meet. All for the sake of cheap clothing. How is this right?

Rana-Plaza fashion

 Clean Clothes. Rana Palza. 2013. Coloured Photograph, https://cleanclothes.org/safety/ranaplaza

These horrific conditions that people are subjective to are all repercussion of the promise of globalisation. Globalization is a concept explained in “The True Cost” documentary a guest speaker, John Hillary he states, “The promise of globalization, that it was going to be a win win, consumers from the rich world, would get cheaper goods … and the people in the poorer parts of the world would get jobs, and those jobs would give them an opportunity to work their way out of poverty”. Clearly fast fashion is a system of globalization gone wrong. Brands and corporations have become driven by profit at any cost. Often high turnover and with very little going back to the people that make the garments. Brands are making millions. Its estimated that the garment industry is a 3 trillion-dollar industry. Brands are manipulating the system, and not meeting basic human rights to make a profit. This social injustice is the issue I want to highlight in this project. I wish to bring to light the realities of fast fashion that consumers aren’t aware about, or chose to ignore.

As you can see there is clearly a problem within the fast fashion industry fuelled by money and ignorance. This has a huge impact on garment workers lives. The issue is so big that it would look impossible to some to even start the steps of creating change for the welfare of people. Visual activism is a modern tool that helps create visual impact and push for social change. Visual activism is a way of communicating social, cultural or political issues visually. This can be through mediums such as graffiti, photography, protest or artwork.  In today’s modern age we are developing different ways of commutation, Mirzoeff states that the internet is the first unified medium (Mirzoeff, 21). Allowing people to be connected wherever they are in the world. Thus, creating a great platform for visual activism and thinking.  Mirzoeff also states in his book with this new form of communication the way we have engaged with issue has changed. (Mirzoeff 290). In terms of fast fashion several activist groups and organisations have used visual activism on this platform to confront workers right.  The social movement called #showyourlable was created by the fashion revolution organisation. To spread the word using visual images on platforms like Instagram, Facebook and twitter that show consumers wearing their clothing inside out to reveal the brand label. This movement was created to get consumers to question these brands about how their garments are made. As you can see this movement gained a huge following and is creating impact on fast fashion brands. That is the impact of visual activism, it can create change. That’s is what I intend on doing with my own creative work.

llable

Show Your Label”. Fashion Revolution, N.D, http://fashionrevolution.org/get-involved/ways-for-everyone-to-get-involved/

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Tearing at The Seams, Photograph by Zara Simpson. 07 Jun 2017.

My final work is a mixed media artwork. I made the decision to create a mixed media work so I could incorporate elements like material and thread that are used in fast fashion environments, and allude back to the fashion industry. I wanted this image to be really striking and graphic to ensure the message gets across to my audience. I wanted to communicate this disconnection between consumer and garment workers, and how we turn a blind eye to it. I was inspired by fashion illustrations that are created to show potential designs for production. (Inspiration image) On the left-hand side is a woman in a glamourous red ball gown. I constructed the dress from red material to illustrate the idea that as consumers we have “blood on our hands” but we have blood on our clothes, due to the inhumane conditions the garments are constructed in. The model is also wearing a blind fold stitched from red thread, to illustrate the “blind eye” consumers have when buying these products. They are unknowingly condoning this inhumane treatment. On the right side of this image is a gritty texture, made from collaged receipts, hand painted barcodes and splatters of paint. To show the everyday choices and transaction we make that contribute to the dark side of fashion. This is to contrast with the glamorisation of fashion on the left side, of crisp white perfection. Then we see these garment workers that are exhausted, malnourished and living in poverty. To allude to the millions of workers that are forced to work in these conditions to produce our clothing. The final feature of this work is the torn paper that is stitched in the middle with red thread. This was created to indicate the separation from worker to consumer. Showing that the fast fashion industry is tearing at the seams.

Through this project, I have gained a deeper understanding that my consumer habits have a chain reaction implicated with them. That as a consumer we have a voice. That we can create change. It makes me reflect on my consumption of fashion and how I need to be more vocal about my thoughts on the fast fashion industry to make people more aware and curious about the garments they are buying. Beyond this project, I am wanting to keep my ethical practises up and do my part in creating a better society.

 

 Works cited 

Clean Clothes. Rana Plaza. 2013. Coloured Photograph, https://cleanclothes.org/safety/ranaplaza

“Has Globalization Been a Success? John Hillary, The True Cost”. YouTube. Uploaded by Untold, 18 April 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiuync–qds

Mirzoeff, Nicholas. “Introduction” & “Changing The World”. How to See the World, Pelican, 2015, pp. 21, 290

“Show Your Label”. Fashion Revolution, N.D, http://fashionrevolution.org/get-involved/ways-for-everyone-to-get-involved/

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