Category: garment factory

Guest blog | Hannah asks her students ‘Who are you wearing?’

A couple of weeks ago, we attended the Geographical Association (GA) conference in Manchester. This is a conference for geography teachers, student geography teachers and the people who train them. We talked to many who taught their students the geographies of trade through researching their own clothes. We went to a talk where Hannah Campion, a newly qualified teacher, explained how she sparked her students’ curiosity about these geographies using some of our teaching resources. With the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse only a few days away, we are publishing what she said…

A £4 t-shirt

A cheap white tee (click for image source)

A cheap white tee (click for image source)

My name is Hannah Campion. I am an NQT at The National Church of England Academy, Nottinghamshire. My fascination around the Geography of my ‘stuff’ developed from undergraduate study of commodity chains, commodity fetishism and Cook’s (2004) ‘follow the thing’ approach at the University of Nottingham. An assignment during my teacher training course on ‘Fantastic Geographies’ gave me the opportunity to bring this controversial issue into the classroom, to enable pupils to investigate and to develop a curiosity around the lives of our everyday commodities. The initial scheme is a 5 lesson sequence unveiling and unpicking the life of a plain white £4 t-shirt from production through to consumption. In 2014, I was asked to display my work at the Geographical Association conference in Guildford as part of the Ideas Zone exhibition. Since then, I have written an article for Teaching Geography (Campion 2015) and presented a Teacher-to-Teacher session at this year’s GA conference entitled ‘Behind the seams: global connections in the classroom (KS3)’.

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‘Behind the seams’: from Idea Zone to journal article

Last year we co-ran the Idea Zone at the Geographical Association conference in Guildford. We filled a table with Lego for delegates to recreate scenes described on our website. We set up a card table to make a play our Ethical Trade trump card game. And a Nottingham PGCE student called Hannah Campion brought along some lesson plans, teaching materials and student work showing how she’d used our site and classroom resources to develop a lesson series about ‘The Geographies of my Stuff’.  She was asked if she’d be interested in writing a short paper about all of this in the GA’s Teaching Geography journal. It’s just been published, and here’s an extract.

147 Ideas Zone

Hannah talks to delegates about her lesson plans, materials and student work.

“… My five-lesson sequence was developed for year 8 and followed on from a year 7 unit, ‘The Geography of my Stuff’. I wanted to develop students’ ability to investigate and critically reflect on the hidden connections which link them to often distant global communities, and to empathise with the people who live and work there. To do this, I chose a familiar but often untraceable commodity which students could easily identify with – a plain white T-shirt. … In the first lesson we used a ‘who, what, why’ starter, with images of horses, clothes and the Rana Plaza factory collapse to stimulate students’ curiosity. … Lesson 2 introduced the £4 T-shirt as the commodity to be investigated.  After we had covered the role of the first link in the chain, the cotton farmer, the main activity required students to explore, in groups, ‘How much of the £4 should x get paid?’ …  Lesson 3 focused on manufacturing and worker conditions. The enquiry question was: ‘Who was to blame for the Rana Plaza collapse?’ … Having helped students to step into the shoes of ‘others’ and investigate the structures and processes of the clothing industry, in lesson 4 we focused on the ethical standards of global retailers. The class was divided into two groups, representing H&M and Primark … [and] students played the Top Trumps game to compare multiple retailers. … [Finally] The assessment activity was to produce a newspaper article … entitled ‘Behind the seams… the story of a £4 T-shirt’.”

Source

Hannah Campion (2015) Behind the seams… the story of a £4 t-shirt.  Teaching Geography Spring, 26-28 (Click to access)

Next week: we’re in a shopping centre talking clothes

We’ve been working on one of 12 ‘Grand Challenges’ that the University of Exeter runs each year for first year students. The idea is that academic staff introduce first year students from across the university to the Grand Challenges of the 21st Century, through some hands-on learning and with the help of visiting experts (who students refer to as ‘real people’, in my experience).

Challenges this year include Climate Change, Global Security and Mental Health, and the one that we’re running is on Fashion ethics after the Rana Plaza collapse. 

There are four ways to find out more, to get involved, and to follow us next week:

1) Our blog

All the background information we’ve put together to prepare for this challenge. The Rana Plaza collapse and its ripple effects, and how we’re trying to appreciate and work with these ripples in the space of Exeter’s Guildhall Shopping centre, where we’re be occupying 2 disused shops and its main square for 4 days next week.

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Click image for blog

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Who made Carry’s Pringle dress? We get close…

At the Fashion Revolution Day advisory board meeting last month, we made the rash claim that we could find out (roughy) who made your clothes, through the kind of ‘Follow it yourself’ research that we do. We decided to take as our starting point a tweet by FRD’s founder Carry Somers.

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Watch this: BBC Breakfast on Rana Plaza

Our 4th #followtheteachers post: on subvertisement workshops

Vuitton

“What the §^*! are we doing here?”

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.

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How to make & play Fashion Revolution’s Fashion Ethics Trump card game

In November last year, we made and played a Ethical Fashion Trump Card game that we were developing for the Fashion Revolution Day Education Pack.

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!

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New for 2014: our Fashion Ethics ‘Grand Challenge’ at Exeter University

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 followthethings@yahoo.com, @followthethings or our Grand Challenges Facebook page.

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‘What (not) to wear’ event: an introduction

Whatnot conference slide

Click for the facebook event page

Date: 11 November 2013, 4-6pm

Venue: University of Exeter, Streatham Campus, Streatham Court, Lecture Room C.

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Our sponsor

A taster event for 1st year students: click for details

A taster event for 1st year University of Exeter students: click for details

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Setting the scene: journalism, activism & ‘Primark on the rack’

Primark on the rack Lego comic

Click for the flickr set with explanations

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Our audience: curious & expert students 

Screen Shot 2013-11-10 at 12.28.08 PM

Click to read more about this module

A draft followthethings.com page published last week: click to read

A draft followthethings.com page published last week: click to read

A draft followthethings.com page, published last week: click to read

A draft followthethings.com page, published last week: click to read

Cards 31-35

New student work: e.g. Ethical Trade Trumps game

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Our hashtag

Ask questions using this. They'll appear here. Click!

Tweet photos of your ‘Made in…’ labels & ask questions with this.

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Our speakers

James Christie-Miller

Click for our Grand Challenge Events page

Click for our Grand Challenge Events page

& Carry Somers

Click here for our Grand Challenge events page

Click here for our Grand Challenge events page

Why Lego ‘Primark on the rack 2013’?

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.

factory photo office photo

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.