Last Thursday marked a year since the collapse of a building in the Rana Plaza factory complex in Bangladesh. 1138 lives were lost and more than 2500 workers were left injured – the majority of whom were women. As Liz Parker pointed out to us last week, many women have been left struggling to pay their rent dues to injuries that prevent them working and even sending their children to school becomes a challenge as their fees and equipment to buy, all of which costs money.
It is well documented that the fashion industry has some big challenges to overcome to prevent something like this happening again and on April 24th we witnessed various actions taking place to mark the date, all calling for change and raising awareness that the current way of doing things is not sustainable in the long run.
On the way into work I noticed that as the stores around me opened their doors, Benetton did not. Two activists had locked themselves to the doors of the flagship store to prevent it opening. Silently they sat there throughout the day, the store did not open. Benetton were targeted, as they are yet to pay into the compensation fund for victims.
At lunchtime War on Want and Labour behind the Label were instrumental in organising a human chain around Gap, who are being targeted for not having signed the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety.
Later in the afternoon a group of around 60 students from LCF and LCC organised a ‘fashmob’ to ask shoppers to question “who made their clothes”. Teaming up with the Fashion Revolution Day campaign that is calling for greater transparency in the fashion supply chain, students spent part of the afternoon asking shoppers about their shopping habits and raising awareness about some of the issues faced by the industry, before marching along Oxford Street.
Wearing giant clothes washing labels and their garments inside ended their procession on Carnaby Street, where they danced and encouraged shoppers to turn their clothes inside out as a sign of curiosity about who is involved in making the clothes we wear.
Alice Bodgener, who is the events organiser for the Evolving Fashion Society at LCF and was one of the students instrumental in organising the demonstration, told us why she organised the demonstration, “I knew we had to mark Fashion Revolution Day in some way, we had initially discussed holding a panel discussion, but after a meeting with students from LCC, (lead by graphic design student Katie Baggs) we decided to collaborate and hold a demonstration. The purpose of the demonstration was to encourage students and members of the public to question who made their clothes. It was also a fantastic way to bring together students from across the colleges, to meet and discuss ideas around the future of the fashion industry.”
My day ended at another LCF event called PROTEST14, a photography exhibition that highlighted the power of fashion’s political potential. Under the guidance of Rob Phillips students were tasked with bringing their ‘protest’ voice to the fore through fashion. Words and slogans were emblazoned onto design work, photographed by Riccardo Raspa and displayed for one night only at the White Rabbit Studios in Shoreditch.
Fashion Revolution Day and the other actions that took place last week in London, elsewhere and online served to highlight the some of the problems within the fashion supply chain. As Liz Parker stressed last week, continuing to contact brands is as important going forward as it was last week. Indeed, the momentum of last week needs to continue for real change to take place.