Cardiff Met, and especially the Textile courses, celebrated the International women’s day by inviting a few speakers to talk about what that represents in terms of global awareness of the women’s condition both in Middle East and in the Western reality:
Alumnus Alex Wall for Xandra Jane who decided young to start her own business based on sustainable design where nothing is wasted;
Jo Perrin, volunteer for Vintage Vision, a non profit social enterprise run by women that develop projects around vintage fashion from donated clothes and resell them together with the history and the emotions they bring along from their previous owners. Their approach is based on promoting the recycling and re-use of clothing and textiles;
Jean Jenkins, senior lecturer in employment research in Cardiff Met. Her research is based on the women’s work conditions in the garment industry, mostly in Middle East. Pubblications here.
As Jenkins’s research shows, while tailoring was mostly a male occupation, with the beginning of the mass manufacturing it arrived to be today a mostly women’s occupation (80%).
While in UK women’s rights became equal as men’s from the ’70, that doesn’t apply to the Eastern countries like Bangladesh, India and Cambodia, to name a few, where work conditions are still very poor and where most of the international well-known brands are manufacturing their garment careless of that reality. A reality where the vulnerable labor sector (mostly young and female) are forced to work within closed factories without the possibility to leave, often without water, proper rest, toilets and for 11/12 hours a day. The lack of a proper Health and Safety Policy and the local police forces that stand up in defense of the factory owners instead of the workers led in time to numerous cases of building crashes and thousands of deaths.
Considering as well that ‘THE FASHION INDUSTRY IS SECOND ONLY TO OIL FOR HOW POLLUTING IT IS TO OUR ENVIRONMENT’ as sustained by Alex in her website, we can only assume that this is the top of the iceberg and begin to wonder what’s actually behind our branded clothes and the real industry behind our textiles.
We as individuals, and most of all as designers/creatives have to become more aware and create awareness, research about the materials we use and how these can influence the life of the garment and of our environment ones it’s disposed of. Question the provenience of our clothes as well as our food and everything we come in contact with during our day to day life. So where does my t-shirt comes from, who made it and how much was he/she payed if I only bought it for 2£ and in what conditions did he/she worked for me to wear it?
One of the speakers said, with my big surprise I have to admit, that the boycotting of a label is not the answer, that by doing so we take the work away of the poor workers. That we should only ask that label to provide information from where does my garment comes from. But if we continue to buy from them anyway how do we prevent those worker from being enslaved? Why should the label begin to care about it if the income continues to be the same and they didn’t care in the first place anyway?
I bring here the most exhaustive definition of boycotting I could find, not in the Oxford or Cambridge dictionaries which I found reductive, but in the Italian Wikipedia one: ‘The boycott is an individual or collective action which aims to isolate, obstruct and / or modify the activity of a person, or that of a group of people, a company or an entity or even a State, as it was considered not conform to the principle or the universal rights or social conventions’
I conclude saying how much I appreciate my tutor’s involvement in creating awareness among us while i discovered it’s not a common use in all universities. I definitely have a different mind set, even thought I always tried to waste as less as possible and doing my best to make the difference, or at least to do my part in terms of sustainability and work ethics of the factories I come in contact with during my career.