New York Fashion Week vs. the Ready Made Garment Sector in Bangladesh: whose interests are protected when ‘special’ police hit the streets for fashion?

The fashion industry is often seen as a complicated paradox. So much so that many professionals working in the field of worker rights and environmental security frequently shy away from using the word ‘fashion’ itself. In its place, they vote for ‘garment,’ ‘apparel,’ ‘textile,’ etc. While it’s natural for industry jargon to vary—different circles will have their own set of terminology—it is important to recognize that in the end we are all talking about the same thing: fashion.

Fashion, after all, designs the stage and sets the pace for the performance. For our part, if we cannot connect human and environmental security issues taking place within the industry’s supply chain to the fashion runway, we haven’t dug deep enough.

We were reminded further of this truth this week with a recent Ethical Style post on the special NYPD ‘fashion’ police slated for New York Fashion Week. According to the article, the plain clothed officers are placed amongst the crowd (positioned on either side of the runway), to keep the peace from anti-fur activist protesters.

Continuing our coverage on Bangladesh, we’ve been meaning to write a story on the government’s reported consideration of a special “industrial police,” dedicated to keeping workers in the ready made garment (RMG) sector in line with an “iron hand,” according to a newspaper in Bangladesh (Clean Clothes Campaign).

So, on either side of the supply chain, the industry flexes its muscles against unrest. But, when it comes to the systemic oppression of basic human rights, coupled with unchecked environmental degradation, whose interests are being protected?

The truth is, when it comes to security there is no real paradox—the violations may be clear as mud, but we know where there are and how they got there.

Image Source: Anna Wintour targeted by PETA via Ethical Style and Bangladeshi garment workers via Fashioning an Ethical Industry

Mary Hanlon

Mary is the founder, editor and lead contributor at Social Alterations. She is also a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh, where she researches responsible fashion and transnational labour rights activism in the wake of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh.

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