In 2011, we spent three weeks making things out of Lego with our summer interns.
We started off by the live tweeting of our Lego Maersk container ship and ended up re-creating scenes from different followthethings pages in Lego.
This week, we ran a Lego Lab at the Annual Conference of the Geographical Association in Guildford, in the UK. We have found Legoing to be a fantastic way to imagine and appreciate the relations what our site describes, and also to discuss the issues it contains in toy form.
We’ve also asked people about their favourite things, what they like about them, to imagine someone somewhere who made them for them, and then to write down what they would say to that person if they had the chance.
So, what happens when you combine these two approaches: ask people to think of a favourite thing, imagine who made it, and then Lego that imagination?
That’s what happened on the last day of our summer 2012 Lego Lab, when 11 year-old Ruby did this for her favorite dress. We asked for one scene, but she made the stop-frame animation – pictured above – of the whole commodity chain. It’s quick…
This is one way to imagine an answer to Fashion Revolution Day’s 2014 question: who made your clothes? And we’re publishing it today in advance of the first anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse. 24 April. Try it yourself!
A couple of weeks ago, we published a guest post from Eeva Kemppainen describing the ways in which her work for followthething.com and her masters thesis on trade justice pedagogy in the UK and Finland, had led to her work on a ‘Closing the Gap’ project with Finnish pro-ethical trade NGO Eetti . This is Eeva’s second post, in which she describes how she works with diverse groups of students (using followthethings.com as a resource) and shows the kinds of subverts that her students create.
Today, we started to play with the Fashion Ethics Trump card game we’ve made for, and with, Fashion Revolution Day.
We ended up tweeting some #fashtrumps selfies and a step by step guide for anyone who wants to join the #fashtrumps conversation.
We present to you here: some examples of #fashtrumps selfies, those guiding tweets and a twitter box that will show the ones that you have made…
Give this a go!
Its aim is to encourage its players to think about their clothes and fashion ethics, a topic that’s more important than ever after the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 24 April last year.
It’s a playful way of encouraging some serious discussion about who and what we are wearing.
Here, we want to showcase the new FRD pack – which was published yesterday – and to provide a match report that will give you an idea of how the game can be made and played in your classroom, home, shed … wherever you play cards!
Things have been a bit quiet on the blog since the ftt Awards Ceremony in December. We have been busy on another project, at the University where we’re based, introducing First Year Students to the challenge of to how to help develop a more ethical fashion industry, in the wake of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in April last year.
We’ve been putting together a website for the Challenge, but it’s open to everyone to use, comment on, and get involved in.
Please do so via the website (click the screen grab below) or get in touch with us via email@example.com, @followthethings or our Grand Challenges Facebook page.
Because of our involvement in the commemoration of the Rana Plaza factory collapse through ‘Fashion Revolution Day’ (and its ‘Who made your clothes?’ theme), and the University of Exeter’s ‘What (not) to wear?’ ethical fashion Grand Challenge, we’ve been collecting films and other resources designed to engage consumers with the hidden social relations in their clothes, the lives in their things.
This short film, just published on YouTube, and it’s ‘behind the scenes’ sequel are fascinating, we think.
‘Handprint’: the film.
Behind the scenes: the making of ‘Handprint’.
Yesterday at the Department of Geography at the University of Exeter, we heard Carry Somers talking about Fashion Revolution Day at our ‘What (not) to wear?’ conference. There was mention of an Ethical Trade Trump card game invented by students taking ‘Geographies of Material Culture’ in 2012 – using data from free2work.org – being adapted as followthethings.com’s contribution to this campaign.
A new Fashion pack will soon be designed, but today we tested out the idea in class. Students each made a card based on something they were wearing, sketched it, added the grades from free2work and – for extra information at the bottom of each card – added whether that company / brand had signed the Accord on Fire & Building Safety in Bangladesh.
The match report
6 teams of 8 students each made one or more cards in the first 15 minutes. One student was elected from each group as their player, and we staged a 6 player tournament at the front of the classroom. The cards were shuffled and dealt. The game began with player one calling out a brand (Cheap Monday!), a category (policies!), a grade (A+!), and then slamming the card on the table (drama!). The other players then took the card at the top of their pack, one after the other, called out its brand (Calvin Klein! or Adidas!), and its policy grade (C-! or A+), and slammed their cards on the table. The audience gathered round, watching their cards being played, helping their players to win and lose each round.
In each round, the player who called out the highest grade took all of the cards, and started the next round. If there was a draw – like between Cheap Monday and Adidas, both with A+ grades for their policies – the ‘key fact’ could be played: had the brand / company signed the Accord? In this case, only Adidas had (only very recently, the referee had to say), so that was the winning card.
The game went on with rounds in which, for example, only ‘worker rights’ scores could be played. It ended with a ‘winner takes all’ round, with the 3 remaining contestants. This was dramatic: a draw that was resolved by the key fact. The Accord-signatory won. Well done Adidas! Good job you signed the accord. Nobody wants a losing card. Whoops all around.
After the game ended, we discussed what had happened, why some cards were worse to play that others, why – with one exception – the policy grades were higher than the ‘workers’ rights’ grades, and how to find out why by looking at brands’ detailed free2work ‘score cards’. So, 40 minutes into class, we were talking about, asking informed questions about, and having a good idea how to find out more about the relations between ethical trade policies, transparency, monitoring, workers’ rights and the Accord.
This game can be made and played by any group of people trying to learn the basics and/or intricacies of Ethical Trade and Corporate Social Responsibility.
This is our 46 card pack, scanned after the game. What would your pack be like?
If you want to have a go:
- download the pack template, research and playing instructions here
- find the grades for your cards here www.free2work.org
- find out who has signed the Accord here www.bangladeshaccord.org/signatories/
Let us know about your game, send us your packs and match reports!
This game was devised in 2012 as coursework ‘Geographies of Material Culture’ at the University of Exeter by Joe Thorogood, Michael Franklin, Sophie Angell, Florence Flint, Bryony Board, Toby Swadling, Jack Saxton, Jake Pincock, Emma Hargreaves & Joe Harrison. This pack was re–designed by Ian Cook, in consultation with the #followtheteachers ‘user crew’ Alan Parkinson, Oprah Whipp, Victoria Salt, Charlotte Wild, Jenny Thomas, Natalie Batten, Heather Taylor & Mary Biddulph for use in schools and universities.
This pack was revised in 2014 as followthethings.com’s contribution to Fashion Revolution Day, an Ethical Fashion Trump Card Game is part of its Education Pack (download link to be added when this this is live).
Date: 11 November 2013, 4-6pm
Venue: University of Exeter, Streatham Campus, Streatham Court, Lecture Room C.
Setting the scene: journalism, activism & ‘Primark on the rack’
Our audience: curious & expert students
& Carry Somers
We researched a 2009 BBC Panorama documentary ‘Primark on the rack’ for followthethings.com. This was a documentary exposing Primark for producing its notoriously cheap clothes in Indian sweatshops. It contained a 45 second scene in which child labourers were filmed checking that sequins were firmly attached to its sequined tops. Primark claimed that this scene had been ‘faked’ and made a concerted effort to discredit the whole film, with mixed success (detailed on our site here).
As with many of our pages, we made a few scenes in Lego, uploaded them to a flickr set, and embedded them. Today, we added a couple of new scenes to our ‘Primark on the rack’ set, to bring the story up to date.
These scenes are intended to highlight a theme that cuts across a number of examples of followthethings filmmaking on our site: corporations responding to sweatshop, worker health and environmental destruction exposures by employing public relations and/or legal teams to ‘prove’ that key scenes – and, by implication, whole films – are ‘faked’. This is, for example, how Primark responded to the BBC documentary in 2009, how Dole responded to Fredrik Gertten’s documentary ‘Bananas!*’ in 2009 (link), and how Chevron responded to Joe Berlinger’s documentary ‘Crude: the real price of oil’ in 2009 (link).
This past week has seen relentless TV news footage and newspaper column inches devoted to the Savar Rana garment factory collapse. Journalists have told unfolding stories of dramatic rescue efforts and the shocking numbers of people who made Primark, Joe Fresh, Matalan, Mango, Benneton, Bon Marche and other branded clothes being found dead in the wreckage of their workplace or missing, presumed dead.
NGOs and others are putting pressure on these clothing brands to respond appropriately to this disaster by properly compensating its victims and their families, by signing agreements that they’d been reluctant to sign before, and by putting into place more comprehensive auditing practices so that what they agree to is more likely to be done in the future.
This pressure continues to be applied, and companies are responding. On Monday, for example, the BBC reported that Primark had released a statement saying that it ‘accepts all its responsibilities in this disaster’ (Source: BBC 2013 link). ALL of them. We shall see.
This is not a single documentary with a named director, whose work can be ‘discredited’ with the right PR and legal teams in place. This is ‘Primark on the rack 2013’. Click the photos to get to the whole 6 scene set.
Postscript: why Lego?
We’ve been inspired by Lego re-creations that we found online of hidden scenes from the ‘War on Terror’. They had been made and posted online in 2009 by an artist/blogger called Legofesto (see her flickr sets here). She argued that:
‘By using toys, I hope the viewer will linger longer over the image and think again about what is actually being depicted or described, in a visual language that is recognised by us all: LEGO. … The incongruity between the immoral and horrific acts and events depicted and the smiley-faced children’s toy create a tension’ (legofesto in Time Magazine 2009 link).
By photographing re-creations and publishing them online, she argues:
‘I want to keep the debate going. To keep it in people’s minds, to remind us of our atrocities because the media has moved on and they don’t want to dwell on the tactics [of the ‘War on Terror’]. … People are using Legofesto to talk about torture and state violence’ (legofesto in Carling 2009 link).
We want our Lego re-creations to help keep trade (in)justice debates going, to keep them in people’s minds, etc. in a similar way.