Hey guys, happy February and welcome to another Fashion Factfiles blogpost!
The Fashion Factfiles is where we expose the brutal realities of the garment industry, the side that the big corporations and big names in fashion work hard to hide behind ‘girl power’ tees and ‘look at us recycling omg we do care’ campaigns.
This month we’ll be highlighting an issue that many may not be familiar with, but is absolutely horrific and heartbreaking: the Sumangali System.
WARNING: Content regarding sexual abuse and suicide throughout.
Actually let me begin with this disclaimer: ANY CRITICISM I MAY MAKE ABOUT CERTAIN SITUATIONS/ORGANISATIONS/GROUPS OF PEOPLE IS NOT AN ATTACK ON THESE PEOPLE AS INDIVIDUALS BUT THE SYSTEM FROM WHICH THEY HAVE DERIVED FROM.
On 20th August, Oh So Ethical held its third ethical
swap shop. AND IT WAS LITTTT.
So what exactly is a swap shop?
A swap shop is simply an event where people get together,
bringing any old clothes they’re looking to get rid of, and swapping them for
someone else’s! You can have public swapping events, or even just bring a bunch
of friends and family round and have a swapping party. Remember the good old
saying, ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’? Yep. Fully applies to
Ours was held in Leytonstone, with some of the most unique
and stunning pieces that you all donated, all hung up ready to be swapped. We
also sold beautiful fair trade handmade jewellery from Uganda made from
recycled beads and a range of vegan goods- with all proceeds going towards the
Rana Plaza Arrangement. This charity provides financial assistance to victims
of the Rana Plaza collapse and their families.
Waking through the entrance, we had a huge timeline taking
you on a journey from the beginning of
the garment industry in Bangladesh to the state it’s in now. It is actually
crazy to see how fast things have escalated in such a small space of time, but
it also gives us hope that maybe we can slowly undo the damage that has been
In the same room as the swapping we had a display we created from scrap
paper of a Bengali female with her first in the air with the quote ‘The hands
that wear bangles can also carry swords.’ This is a slogan created and used by
a group of female tea workers in India, who mobilised independently from trade unions to
improve their working conditions and increase their wages. These are the women
who define resilience and strength, which is something not usually associated
with women in the Global South in the mainstream media. They are definitely one of
Oh So Ethical’s greatest inspirations and the hashtag #lifegoals never better
fit to be honest (find out more about them here
also had quotes written in red and green hearts (Bangladesh n that)
around our Bengali Queen, with quotes from the Bengali garment workers
interviewed during a protest which took place demanding better
treatment, in the documentary
Udita. By doing this, we wanted to demonstrate that while Bengali women
are going through hell, they are still rising up against oppression and
standing up for their rights with immeasurable amounts of strong-will
and determination. They don’t need our pity, they need our
So why swapshops?
Many of us are becoming familiar with the term ‘fast fashion’,
which simply refers to when high street retailers mimic catwalk trends and
produce these trends at a cheaper cost. Due to various factors such as the ever-evolving
nature of social media and the various fashion weeks that take place, fashion
trends now change every few weeks, as opposed to every few months as before.
Therefore, in order for high street retailers to stay on top of their game,
they must keep up with these trends and produce cheaper versions of these
styles quickly for fashionistas hungry to remain on trend. As a consequence,
while it once took about six months for products to be on the market, it now
takes just weeks.
What’s the big deal?
By demanding new clothes at such a fast pace, in order to
keep up with the changes in trends, this puts pressure on the factory owners
who are expected to produce vast amounts of clothes in a limited space of time.
As a result, garment workers are set near impossible targets to reach daily. If
they don’t achieve these targets the workers (particularly women, who make up
80% of the workforce) are frequently subjected to physical, verbal and sexual
abuse. Many workers report forced overtime, unsanitary conditions, denial of
paid maternity leave, limited toilet breaks, and failure to pay wages and
bonuses on time or in full (read this article for a summary of some of the
horrible things female garment workers must endure http://bkaccelerator.com/9-ways-women-getting-abused-fashion-industry/).
Workers are further put under pressure by the constant competition between
retailers, who compete to see who can produce these catwalk trends as cheaply as
possible. This leads to a reduction in the percentage of income that goes
towards wages and worker’s safety. According to War on Want, the majority of
garment workers in Bangladesh earn little more than the minimum wage, 3,000
taka a month (approximately £25), which is far below what is considered a
living wage, calculated at 5,000 taka a month (approximately £45). This is the
minimum required to provide a family with shelter, food and education.
Not only this, but the impact on the environment is also debilitating.
In fact, fashion is known to be the second largest polluter in the world, next
to OIL! Indeed, the journey of a garment involves excessive amounts of
insecticides, pesticides and dyes which leak into water systems containing sea
life and often the only source of water for families living nearby. Other
environmental issues include the fact that large amounts of water are used up
during production (7000 litres is needed for just one pair of jeans FAM!),
excessive amounts of greenhouse gases (10% of total greenhouse gas emissions) are
released during production and when clothes are being shipped to the West. Not
forgetting the large amounts of clothes going to landfill (as much as 3 out of
4 garments go to landfill, with only a quarter being recycled) as we move from
one trend to the next (read this article to find out more about the impact fast
fashion is having on the environment http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/makingwaves/fast-fashion-drowning-world-fashion-revolution/blog/56222/).
With the world consuming about 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year, which
is 400% more than the amount we consumed just two decades ago, imagine the
impact this is having on both the workers and the environment.
You see what I mean?
Now you might be thinking, ‘it’s okay, I give my clothes to
the charity shop/those places that pay for your second-hand clothes’.
Unfortunately, they don’t tell you the whole story behind what happens to the
The fact is, we’re producing and getting rid of clothes at
such a fast pace that even charities cannot deal with the vast amount of
clothes they’re receiving. In fact, just 10-30% of donated clothes are actually sold in the UK. So
where are the rest of the clothes going? Most likely, Africa.
second-hand market is rampant in Africa and takes up
most of the garment industry, with people in many African countries
living by selling our second-hand clothes. In fact, a recent report
found that East Africa alone imported $151m of second-hand clothing last
year, most of which was
collected by charities and recyclers in Europe and North America.
governments in East African countries are now making plans to reduce
imports and even banning them, to reduce their dependency on our often
quality, unhygienic leftovers. Instead, they are preparing their own
industries and training their own citizens in textiles skills, as a more
means of income for their people that is not simply imposed on them for
So as you can see, a simple purchase can have huge
implications on the world around us.
So how’s a swapshop going to change things?
By swapping clothes instead of buying new ones, we are reducing
the constant excessive demands that are crippling and taking advantage of the
impoverished. We are reducing the environmental destruction required to produce
these clothes. We are reducing the amount of second-hand clothes being sent to
African countries and stalling their independence. If we all unite and perform
small acts such as this, imagine the change we could create.
NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF YOUR ACTIONS. EVER.
Thank you to everyone who came down, to Sikandar for the photography,
and to our mums and family and friends who helped out immensely- we had the
best time, and it really motivated us to carry on and hold more, so stay tuned!
“The hands that wear bangles can also carry swords.” YAAAASSSSS ladies tell em!!!
Read about the female tea workers who decided to organise and fight for their rights in response to
their poor treatment and the patriarchal unions that dismissed their
“There’s an ego problem. A man cannot stand and respectfully listen to a
woman. They don’t want to listen. So, we boldly walked away. But now
they are scared, and they will have listen to us. Women have won,
despite these men.”
are usually for faves but now they’ll be for Fashion! Don’t worry, we’ll still
deliver our reviews on our favourites at the end of every month!
Today’s Fashion Friday is all about The Fashion
Revolution. This organisation asks the big question “Who
Made My Clothes?”
OSE, The Fashion Revolution was influenced by the Rana Plaza story in
24 April 2013, the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed. 1,133 people died
and another 2,500 were injured, making it the fourth largest industrial
disaster in history. That’s when Fashion Revolution was born.’
three of us OSE girls are Bengali and we feel strongly about fair working
conditions. Fashion Rev believe in ‘an industry that values people, the
environment, creativity and profit in equal measure.’
perfectly explains the beliefs we share about fashion. The deaths of people who
were earning a living by mass producing clothes in harmful environments for us
in the West to pay for cheaply and dispose of unethically.
The after effects of Rana Plaza are still strong and
you can learn about this more on After Rana Plaza– https://instagram.com/afterranaplaza/ This project showcases the heart
breaking stories of people who have lost everything for us to get that next day
delivery skirt from H&M. These stories epitomise the importance of slowing
down the fashion industry.
Subtitles: “when she finished her work I always went to pick her from there.i
waited on the ground floor while she finished working. When she did overtime I
always waited for her there”, Samina Begum’s daughter Shahena lost her life in
Rana plaza tragedy. Nostalgia is the only gateway that can take her to Shahena
consumers had to consider the consequences of their actions for the first time.
What is the cost we are paying for our fashion—our appetite for trends and
cheap clothes? Do people actually realize whose life is behind the clothes they
wear? We must consider, what are the outcomes of this supply and demand, of
people’s lives involved, within the grand system of consumerism? Who is
winning? And, who is losing?’ – http://www.afterranaplaza.com/about/
key goal of The Fashion Revolution is to get everyone to work together, this
will result in a lot more transparency. Every detail of clothing has a source,
the colour/dye, the thread, scissors, sewing machines, electricity, hot glue,
plastic buttons and so much more. Every aspect of the clothing industry has the
potential to harm social and environmental factors. This is why transparency is
so significant. If a large clothing manufacturer knew the origin of not just a
dress, but that dress material, dye, buttons and zips, the industry would be so
much more cautious. We need to educate people and get them to want to educate themselves
about where they are sourcing their products.
True Cost is a documentary about the fashion industry, in the documentary I
learn that a group of workers were attacked for asking for a living wage and
better working conditions. It broke my heart. I don’t want to support and
industry that is ok with or oblivious to this awful treatment. This is why the
FashionRev movement is so vital in our so called ‘modern’ society.
are tips from The Fashion Revolution for businesses in the fashion industry –
are some ways that companies can demonstrate their commitment to transparency:
Showcase positive examples of brand/producer relationships.
2. Make one
product transparent. Companies could do this through tools like Provenance, Caretrace or
I receive numerous questions daily about veganism and although I’ve answered stacks of them and have resources on my blog, I thought it’d be best to compile useful resources here for easy reference. Feel free to use this to stay informed, reblog and add your own resources and share with uninformed hoes.
Yesterday was Kushi’s birthday, our adorable cousin who just turned two! She loves several kids characters i.e. Peppa Pig, Minions, Mickey Mouse, Ben and Holly and so on. So instead of buying her a bunch of minions toys that were probably mass produced in a factory in China, I could upcycle and old toy and turn it into something she would love.
As Kushi hasn’t quite mastered using the scooter I thought that a Cozy Coupe from Little Tikes would be perfect for her on days out. I didn’t want to buy a new one as I’d be adding to the demand on the toy industry. Kids buy toys by the dozens and then they get thrown out, the plastic ends up in the sea and adding to the pollution can also harm sea life.
I don’t know of any kids who might have a little tikes coupe or something like it so I searched on Gumtree for one and luckily someone nearby had posted their old Coupe on the site. Initially the coupe was going to be a Minions coupe but google had shown me a Minnie mouse coupe that looked so much more prettier. I also found this article of a bunch of different ways to pimp a coupe. The batman one looks awesome but Kushi doesn’t know of Batman yet.
I chose the Minnie Mouse Coupeby Megan because it looked adorable. However her method was too technical for my time frame and I cannot saw wood or had an spare wood lying about.
Instead I bought two A3 foam boards and black & red spray paint fromCowling and Wilcox. Rather than taking the whole thing apart and spray painting individual pieces I covered the red half with a blanket and lots of masking tape and sprayed the top black. In the process I got spray paint in my nose because I had forgotten to cover my nose and mouth >.< Once this dried I covered the black top in masking tape and sprayed the rest of the coupe red. I let this dry for a day while helping out with theConvoy to Calais drop off at Queen Mary (next one is on the 10th in Hackney don’t miss it).
Cutting Foam board is super tricky to get perfect edges so I cut as close as possible then covered the edges with black electrical tape.
For the bow I hadn’t decide how to make it but as I had an extra foam board and red spray paint I thought it would make a cool bow that would match the coupe. The border of the bow is made from nail gems that my sister bought years ago.
I glue gunned the ears together, then the bow on top and then each gem around the edge. Glue Gunning tiny gems does take about an hour to do and I burnt my fingers with the hot glue >.< I bought round white stickers from whsmith and used those as the polka dots but they started falling off so I glue gunned them all the the coupe. The coupe was finished by now I just had to spray on some lacquer so that the colours wouldn’t fade.
To make the pillow I used an old cushion as we have plenty and made a pillow case from red polka dot material. After sewing on the buttons I glue gunned it to the seats backrest.
In total this project took around 12 hours to make over a few days – not including drying time.
Items reused / upcycled –
Items bought –
Polka dot Material
If I had more time and the right supplies I’d try to find second hand spray paint and reused wood for the bow.