Wednesday, 2 November 2011

The Occupy movement and the fashion industry

Protesters in the UK city of Bristol and, on the left, a rather stylish person representing fashion
Protests can be funny things. They start out with one small group of people's objection to something and their idea of how they can deal with it. As more people join the cause, as needs to happen if the movement is to have any serious impact, their beliefs and ideals can become confused and begin to spread over many different areas. Unfortunately, I think this may have happened with the Occupy movement, if only due to its global appeal.

In a search to learn more about what the protesters' actual demands are, I read the 9 points put forward in the initial statement of Occupy London, (you can find the full list here) and one in particular stood out to me:

"7.We want structural change towards authentic global equality. The world’s resources must go towards caring for people and the planet, not the military, corporate profits or the rich."

Now, I love fashion. Some people think of it in a snobby way, calling those involved with it superficial and stupid. This is obviously just a severe case of small-mindedness and lack of appreciation for beauty. However, this statement resonates with me and forces me to consider the fashion and retail businesses as they stand today. Can they really be using the world's resources to help people? Perhaps some people, like Mrs Moneybags who spends each Saturday afternoon perusing Harrods for a new designer dress. But she isn't alone - we in the West reap the benefits everyday of cheap clothing manufacturing costs overseas. And how do you think they get those production costs so low? It certainly isn't by giving each employee a six-figure bonus at the end of the tax year like the banks which Occupy seem so keen to put in their place. It's not even by giving them a fair wage and reasonable working hours. Exploitation is rife in the developing world, and the bigwigs at the helm of value high-street stores right up to Designer houses and their daddy companies. 

By no means am I trying to attack the creatives who design the clothes I love, and in turn the shops which turn them into cheaper imitations which I can actually afford. Neither do I want to undermine those sitting outside St Paul's, or in Wall Street, or wherever else in the world they choose to occupy, in fact I admire their expression of free speech and hope that they at least make an impression on some politicians who could really do with listening. I would just like to suggest that, instead of demanding a long list of things which will take years to implement, we as fashion consumers make a positive decision next time we buy an item of clothing. Check up on the seller's human rights policy, see if that website knows exactly where its products and ask someone, even if it's Google, whether the woman who made your dress earned even a fraction of what it cost you for her hard work.

But please, never EVER stop enjoying fashion.
from Chanel News


TheDollsFactory said...

well done girl
great post
Always following
The Dolls Factory

Idee Fixe said...

A major part of the reason many of the world's economies are in such trouble is not only due to corporate greed, but also because of the very good point you made about cheaply made clothing overseas -- which takes jobs away from our countries, and makes the rich richer by paying meagre wages and not caring about working conditions is a key point. Did you know that old Sir Phillip Green didn't pay a cent in taxes last year? Here in the US GE paid zero taxes and got a 3 BILLION refund. How does that work? And these are a lot of the issues that the Occupy Movement are concerned with. We bailed out the banks, and what did they do? They gave themselves all fat bonuses from the taxpayers money! I always thought if you screwed up major on the job you got the sack, not a bonus! Something has to change. Being more aware of where and from whom you purchase your clothing, what type of bank you use. So many ways to affect positive, peaceful change. I'm just as much as a fashion lover as anyone. But over the past 5 years I've cut my consumption levels, and shop quality that lasts, not something to wind up in the landfill. Its not always easy, but I save and wait for sales and I get a few AMAZING things each year that I will continue to wear for years. So there are solutions. Its all a matter of how you look at things I suppose!

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