Educate, Engage, Empower.
It seemed impossible, but this year is finally coming to an end and we have officially entered the holiday season! Traditionally this is a season associated with fun and frivolities, however there is a more serious issue we would like you to consider.
It has never been easier to maintain awareness of modern-day slavery. We don’t have to look further than our own phones. We get news updates, social media posts and an opportunity to keep ourselves educated on the go. Information is literally available at our fingertips. In challenging times such as these, the power of social media has never more evident. It even has the ability to save small, independent shops from closing down during the Christmas period. And this starts with us.
The act of empowering another individual to become aware and conscious of the complexities of modern slavery is just as important as educating yourself. Spreading your knowledge to others is powerful. When you speak to one person about the reality of the fashion industry, they can pass the word on. Each of us can become a catalyst for raising awareness about anything we choose. Slowly, we are building a collective conscience about the journey of our clothing, who is involved and who is impacted by the production.
Perhaps not surprising, companies are struggling to stay open. Consequently, the number of jobs has been slashed. As clothing companies cancel or suspend orders from textile factories, it is the garment workers who bear the burden of not getting paid for their hard work. About 60 million people work in Asia's garment industry and falling sales have put many jobs at risk. Industry experts say that laid-off workers are likely to turn to exploitative jobs or may put their children to work to cope with the loss of earnings. We must pave the way to a sustainable future for both the workers and consumers in every industry.
During the first couple of weeks of University lectures, I was exposed to an interesting insight about farmers, which mirrored the position of garment workers in India. Farmers are far more likely to get involved in trans-national crime such as the production of drug crops, rather than the production of local legal crops, due to local customers buying goods from overseas companies who are cheaper and easier to buy from online. So, the farmers turn to producing and selling illegal crops for its attractive economic return. In our own society, we are guilty of choosing the cheaper option without thinking about how our choices are affecting the locals around us. Those overseas businesses who present themselves as the cheaper option are not always the best choice.
Research has shown that spending £10 with a local independent shop means up to an additional £50 goes back into the local economy. Much like the problems faced by the farmers previously mentioned, our local shops are suffering due to our actions. News about the struggle of small, independent businesses has spread wide and fast; battling to find their feet after supporting the nation during the first lockdown. It is our turn now to thank and support them, with national campaigns spreading in and around the UK encouraging everyone to shop local and/or seek a ‘quality alternative closer to home’. Initiatives have been introduced and encouraged by the public and supported by the government.
VISA last year supported 150 independent retailers by gifting them with personalised ads on billboards in six prime city-centre locations, and geo-targeted ads on social media for their #WhereYouShopMatters campaign. This year, another campaign encourages gift-buyers to shop locally at Christmas. In Bristol, an Eclectic Gift Shop was the shining star in a national ad for VISA. The short video shows the unique, handmade gifts made by independent artists supported in stores run by small businesses that customers are encouraged to buy. Even more reason to support local shops is the hidden fact that they also support charities, for example The Eclectic Gift Shop support four young people as part of The Prince’s Trust. Helen, a former fashion retailer and college lecturer shares that the best way to promote small businesses is through social media – a lot of people don’t shop local because they don’t know what’s available. So, the next time you see something you love in a shop window, don’t be shy, share!
Local Councils in Wales have also done their part to support the initiative, Denbighshire County Council introduced their #LoveLiveLocal campaign. They point out that on average each UK household spends £500 on presents, decorations and food at Christmas time, and they are hoping to encourage at least a third of the county’s 30,000 households to spend half their Christmas cash with their local retailers. They may be small but the businesses and the people involved are the heart of our towns and play a vital role creating new jobs and improving prosperity.
We’d like to share with you our favourite things to do this season, and hope you take inspiration from them …
Following JIF’s 3-E ethos, here are our ideas:
Widen your understanding and improve your relationship with the clothes you buy.
To Die for: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? by Lucy Siegle
Slave to Fashion by Safia Minney
Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion Paperback by Elizabeth L. Cline
Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion by Tansy E. Hoskins
A Harvest of Thorns by Corban Addison
The True Cost (2015)
The RiverBlue (2016)
Bitter Seeds (2011)
The Machinist (2010)
Follow and engage with some of our favourite activists and organisations, working hard to bring justice to fashion. Here are their Instagram accounts:
Fashion Revolution (international)
How to turn this into action? There are things you can do in the coming weeks:
Shop locally (for example, visit stores on your local high street)
Shop better brands (think realistically, is that 8p dress from an online clothing shop (Boohoo) enough to pay workers who made it?) https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/nov/26/boohoo-hires-sir-brian-leveson-to-oversee-supply-chain-overhaul
Stay politically engaged (for example: sign this petition)
Support small businesses by engaging with their online activities and posts and also buying their handmade unique items. (Such businesses have reopened and taken into consideration the fear of customers when in store so have new safety measures in place, so fear not!)
If you take one thing away from this blog today please let it be this; the next time you are buying something online think, is there a better ‘quality alternative closer to home’?