Sunday, September 19, 2010

art: craftivism at fashion week

the blogging world is abuzz with fashion week news, talking about which collections are their favourite, what is the hot new colour palette, and who was in the front row. that's fun and all, but how about some food for thought: craftivist Sarah Corbett of the London Craftivist Collective snuck into the London Fashion Week premises to leave this lovely message:

Lowest paid models at London Fashion Week paid £125 an hour. Majority of garment workers in Vietnam paid £25 a month. - love from the Craftivist Collective

this news courtesy of mr x stitch, via the lovely mccall. simple, beautiful, powerful stuff. this amazing team are forcing people to pay attention to the massive discrepancies and rampant abuse of worker's rights, all while using fashion's very own tools, a needle and thread. talk about using the master's tools to dismantle the master's house...

i really like this kind of activism, which has been coined as "craftivism." it's in your face without being flashy. simple and to the point, presenting the viewer with a fact that is confrontational and hard to forget. for some more context, let's look at the london craftivist collective's manifesto:

To expose the scandal of global poverty, and human rights injustices though the power of craft and public art. This will be done through provocative, non-violent creative actions.

after a bit of digging around, i found that this is far from the first fashion related craftivist activity that has happened! here are some more lovely projects.

and of course, my favourite part: "love fashion, hate sweatshops." click here to read more about this initiative.

courtesy of the sugar paper gang

happy link perusing!


the first photo has been making the rounds on tumblr, and i wanted to add what i thought were some interesting reflections and statements.

from antibromide:
Those two statements aren’t correlated. Garments worn in fashion week are not made in Vietnam for pennies an hour. The garments made in Vietnam are the things sold at stores like Forever 21 to people who want to look like they buy designer goods but don’t want to pay designer prices (or pay the high prices of goods manufacured in the United States). Fashion week isn’t the problem, fast fashion stores that will do anything to have goods made faster and cheaper and the people who shop those stores are the problem.
and some wise words from materialworld:
Co-relation point = well, yes but no.
The message is simplistic for impact, but it’s also an oversimplification that cheap brands exploit workers while expensive designer labels don’t. In Australia this has been disproven by rights monitoring agencies including Fair Wear, as labels may outsource for some items in a range only, produce the garments in-house from under-priced outsourced fabrics, or produce multiple ranges for different economic niches with different production ethics in each.
Eco-Chic by Matilda Lee gives a handy, more UK focussed introduction to the unseen supply/demand impacts of trend based fashion, if anyone is interested.
I don’t interpret this as directed at any particular Fashion Week label anyway. More a general, clever, protest of the way global fashion cultures - which Fashion Week sets trends for - privilege women in wealthier nations as objects of desire or consumers over those women in the majority world supply chain as labourers.
i think both people raise very important and interesting points. i completely agree with materialworld's last point: the fact that this kind of craftivism is at least in some manner confronting the unfair and exploitative world of who imagines, who creates, and who consumes fashion. i think this could start a very important conversation about the relationship that fashion weeks around the world have to the "fast fashion" industry that we are so quick to criticize, while simultaneously upholding these unproven statements that the "higher" fashion industries (prêt à porter, haute couture, runways shows, etc) do not play a part in exploitation.

in my opinion, stating something like "fashion week isn't the problem, fast fashion is" as antibromide does is just too reductive for me to swallow.

what do you think?

Craftivist Collective
Love Fashion, Hate Sweatshops
Craftivist Collective's flickr stream
Radical Cross Stitch


Anonymous said...

Julia, thank you so much for this post, it's a far lovelier world for me to stick my nose in than the world of fashion weeks and the same photos and the same adjectives to describe the same trends and always the same neglect of the labor of fashion, the inequality of fashion, the horrificness of how clothes are produced, distributed, and discussed sometimes and always.

Thanks for always being the most intelligent and thought-provoking fashion blogger on the block.


jenny tuesday said...

Yes, thank you seconded.

So much to say. Where to start?

1. I'm baffled as to why people assume that designer clothes can't be made in sweatshops. I mean, first off, where are the raw materials coming from? I imagine people think that sweatshops can only exist in the "third world", and so any garment that says "Made in Italy" must be sweat-free. People conveniently forget that we still have sweatshops in Canada and the USA, as well as countries like Italy where so many designer goods are ASSEMBLED and MADE by underpaid, overworked immigrants. AKA the modern day sweatshop, totally invisible to the "enlightened" shopper like antibromide.

2. I'm personally offended at the classism inherent in the statement "fast fashion stores that will do anything to have goods made faster and cheaper and the people who shop those stores are the problem." What a bunch of BS - like the majority of the population can afford to not buy their clothes in the mall? The idea of fashion being a luxury that should only be available to the very richest in the population is, quite frankly, disgusting. (I'm sure someone right now is thinking, "But Thrift!" which is, of course, not an option for everyone. Assuming one is a size that is readily available in secondhand shops, and that they have thrift stores nearby, I think it's safe to say that most people lack the time and energy required to build an entire wardrobe from a thrift store.)

3. I do believe it's necessary to point out that models get paid a ridiculous salary while most of the world is suffering in extreme poverty. The entire garment industry is linked - it is not separated into fast fashion/designer. Besides, the fashion industry, fashion week, fashion magazines - they are all promoting a lifestyle that thrives on excess, on trends, on a capitalist market. Anyone who thinks they are somehow opting out of this by buying luxury brands is deceiving themselves.

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