It’s Fashion Revolution Week this week. To mark this, we’re showcasing our favourite examples of cultural activism which have supported its #whomademyclothes call to action. On Monday, we showcased the Guerrilla Projections of documentary photographer Ismael Ferdous. On Tuesday, we showcased the gentle Shop-dropping activism of the Craftivist Collective. And yesterday we showcased the power of Disobedient Objects like Fashion Revolution Germany & BDDO’s €2 T-shirt vending machine.
Today’s post focuses on a strategic impact documentary called the True Cost. This aims to unravel fast fashion’s grim and gritty supply chains in the wake of the Rana Plaza collapse. It juxtaposes scenes of fashion models strutting catwalks, YouTube shopping hauls, footage of Black Friday shopping chaos, TV news footage of garment workers sewing clothes in cramped factory spaces, talking head interviews with factory workers and owners, farmers, former corporate executives, academic experts, famous activists and ethical fashion royalty, brands working ethically, key people from NGOs like War on Want, and champions of free market economics.
What’s distinctive about the True Cost and the impacts that it has had is that it was crowd-funded, released via iTunes and Netflix, and tries to channel its audiences’ concerns to ‘do something’ through public screenings with panel discussions, its website and associated social media. This film enrolled its audiences from its crowd-funding forwards. It was a conversation, a collaborative ‘do something’, from the beginning. Despite its lack of mainstream funding or cinema listing, the making, reception and impacts of this film in relation to the Fashion Revolution have been nothing short of stunning. We’re posting this today because CEO Ian is on a True Cost panel in Portsmouth tonight. It’s a textbook example of the emerging genre of strategic impact documentary.
Judith Hefland & Anna Lee (2012) Put movies in the hands of movements. in Andrew Boyd (comp.) Beautiful trouble: a toolbox for revolution. New York: O/R, 164-5
Kate Nash & John Corner (2016) Strategic impact documentary: contexts or production and social intervention. European Journal of Communication 31(3) 227-242
We’re involved in running a session at the Royal Geographical Society (Institute of British Geography) annual conference this summer whose aim is to bring academic fashion experts into dialogue with the Fashion Revolution movement. We’re asking how fashion research can contribute to what is becoming a worldwide movement for a more ethical / sustainable fashion industry in the wake of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in April 2013. We’re looking for academic research from any discipline that can contribute to Fashion Revolution’s five year planning. Here’s what we’re doing. Please get in touch with Ian, Lousie and/or Alex to discuss any ideas. The deadline for abstracts is Friday 12th February.
– Call for papers –
Scholar activism and the Fashion Revolution: ‘who made my clothes?’
The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex on April 24th 2013, which crushed to death over 1,000 people making clothes for Western brands, was a final straw, a call to arms, for significant change in the fashion industry. Since then, tens of thousands of people have taken to social media, to the streets, to their schools and halls of government to uncover the lives hidden in the clothes we wear. Businesses, consumers, governments, academics, NGOS and others working towards a safer, cleaner and more just future for the fashion industry have been galvanised.
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
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)’.
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.
“… 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’.”
It’s a game
Students at the University of Exeter designed an Ethical Trade Trumps card game in November last year using data from free2work.org. This summer, we worked this up into a ftt-‘branded’ game, complete with rules, and templates so that groups of people could make and play cards with their stuff. You can download its templates here. This was designed with advice from the secondary school teachers involved in our ＃followtheteachers project. Natalie is using them with her A-level class to help with Globalisation revision: look!
When you make cards for your stuff and play them with others, you learn about the companies who make your stuff, their labour policies, transparency, monitoring and worker rights. In one sense, it’s a simple game of trumping – ‘Ha! My shoes’ worker rights score beats your Kitkat’s!’ – but making and playing the cards also raises questions about what you can find out about your stuff, what ‘monitoring’, ‘worker rights’ and a ‘living wage’ mean, how they are measured, and what to think about this.
Yesterday, we ran our first Top Trump workshop, at Bath Spa University, with Ranji Devadason and her students (a big thanks to them for giving this such a good go). Here we share the cards that were played at this first ever Ethical Trade Trump tournament!
The atmosphere was tense but fun. Poker faces were everywhere. Imagine being dealt some of these cards! How would you play them? What was it like for them to play with their stuff like this? We’re inviting them to say so, in comments on this post…
PS if you are unfamiliar Trump card games, check this Wikipedia page.
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).
‘If only they could see the truth.’ ‘We can help them.’
Yesterday, Greenpeace announced that:
After ten months of #PeoplePowered activities and behind-the-scenes haggling G-Star finally committed to eliminate all uses of hazardous chemicals from its supply chain and products by 2020.
G-Star joins corporations like Levi’s, Zara, Victoria’s Secret, H&M and Nike who have already agreed to do this.
The imagery conjured up in the Greenpeace campaign is vivid:
They say you can tell next season’s hottest trend by looking at the colour of the rivers in Mexico and China. That’s because global fashion brands like Calvin Klein, GAP and G-Star Raw are using hazardous chemicals and dyes to make our clothes. These chemicals poison our rivers, and traces of these hazardous chemicals also end up remaining in many of the garments people buy.
But it’s even more vivid if your campaign video is an animation. That’s where those words come from, and this is its ‘Detox Fashion’ video. Bubbles are popping. Worlds of production and consumption are coming into view.
At followthethings.com, we’re fascinated by the ways in which animation can be used in trade justice activism. Our favorite examples so far have been Emily James’ “The Luckiest Nut in the World” (our page with the film embedded is here), Melanie Jackson’s “A Global Positioning System” (watch this here, and read our page on it here), and ‘Make Fruit Fair: the Movie” (in a previous blog post here).
What is that animation can offer a campaign, that a film including ‘real people’ cannot? Check out our Nut and GPS pages above, and read this, for some answers…