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
Watch out for this new film coming to UK cinemas in 2017.
Moving through the corridors and bowels of an enormous and disorientating structure, the camera takes the viewer on a descent down to a dehumanized place of physical labor and intense hardship. This gigantic textile factory in Gujarat, India might just as well be the decorum for a 21st century Dante’s Inferno. In his mind-provoking yet intimate portrayal, director Rahul Jain observes the life of the workers, the suffering and the environment they can hardly escape from. With strong visual language, memorable images and carefully selected interviews of the workers themselves, Jain tells a story of inequality, oppression and the huge divide between rich, poor and the perspectives of both (source).
Reviews and interviews
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.
It was Fashion Revolution Day last Friday, the second anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex in Dhaka, Bangladesh in which 1,129 people died making clothes for High Street brands. This year, we helped to create education packs for the global campaign, hoping to finds ways in which teachers and students of all ages could interrogate (un)ethical and (un)sustainable fashion by asking ‘who made my clothes?’ We have written about Fashion Revolution Day’s approach to teaching controversial issues here. Below, however, we showcase a blog post by Professor Becky Earley on the ‘Who made my uniform?’ project she worked on at her childrens’ primary school in London. We think this is fantastic. Here’s an extract.
“… My son loves trainers. He’s a football fan and player, and the influence of the Arsenal team and their colorful attire – and what is donned by his group of friends at school and on his team at the local sports centre – is significant to him. He got the trainers he wanted for Christmas – bright orange. They looked amazing with his lime green away kit. Yet within days he starting asking for another pair, in a different colour. I took the opportunity to explain to him again about why ‘stuff’ is special. The materials, dyes, labour, shipping… all comes at a cost, and not just to the bank of mum and dad. At 8, he knows all this already. We talk about ‘stuff’ all the time. But he just can’t make the leap to applying this knowledge to his insatiable desire to be part of the team – to look the part. At his school the lost property area is a mess of unlabelled and unloved green, white and navy cotton and polyester. I decided to start here with my research, and look at the way in which primary school children relate to their uniform – their everyday clothes. The deputy head at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Chiswick and I hatched a plan to run a ‘Who Made My Uniform’ project, in response to the FRD provocation ‘Who Made My Clothes?’ Beginning with a carefully prepared school assembly on the actual day, the project consisted of a week-long residency by myself with the help of another mum, and a series of class projects run by the teachers. The photo story below documents the project. Over the summer term we asked:
- Where was my uniform made?
- Who made my uniform?
- What is it made from?
- How can I make my own clothes?
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