Category Archives: Curricula

Style and Status: Imperial Costumes from Ottoman Turkey

Some people are adamant that fashion is not art. This online exhibit proves them wrong.

Silk textile with gilt thread embroidery, 16th Century. Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, © The New York Times, Dec. 5, 2005.

The Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian Museum of Asian Art have created an online exhibit that features highlights from their 2005 exhibit entitled Style and Status: Imperial Costumes from Ottoman Turkey. The online exhibit is beautifully curated with interactive close ups of the costumes that are so detailed you can actually see the fabric grain. What’s so special about the Ottoman Empire? According to the press release in 2005:

“Three weaves were dominant: velvet (kadife), featuring a three-dimensional surface with some areas of pile and some of metal thread; brocade (kemha) and cloths of gold and silver thread (seraser)—the most expensive and luxurious. In the mid-16th century, Ottoman taste increasingly favored large, bold designs, such as medallions, stylized tiger stripes, and a triplespot design known as “çintamani” (literally, “auspicious jewel”). By repeatedly combining the similar motifs in different scales and patterns, the Ottomans were among the first to use recurrent motifs to create a dramatic and distinct visual language—a quintessentially “Ottoman brand”—that became identifiable with the empire’s centralized political strength and growing economic power—its style and status.”

If you are an educator and would like to incorporate this amazing online resource into your lessons, you can get some ideas from the resource for educators with a 4-part classroom activity that accompanies the exhibit.

Now…go explore!

Online exhibit: Style and Status: Imperial Costumes from Ottoman Turkey

Other online exhibits: The Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian Museum of Asian Art

Educator’s resource: Asian Art Connections: A Resource for Educators. Style and Status: Imperial Costumes from Ottoman Turkey

LEARN // Playfair 2012 Campaign launches new teaching resources

The Playfair 2012 Campaign has launched with new cross-curriculum teaching resources for learners aged 9-14.

Lesson ideas and activities make links between different subjects including art and designcitizenshipEnglishgeography and maths. By using this pack, pupils can develop their understanding of why decent working conditions are part of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals to end poverty, and take practical actions to help make the world a fairer place.” (Playfair 2012 Campaign)

We’ve reported on the campaign in the past, recommending teachers utilize this interactive online game in the classroom.

New resource materials include:

  • 10 lesson plans
  • 14 activity sheets
  • 4 colour photo cards
  • a DVD

Educators can order material directly from the campaign, or download the education packages, activity cards and pamphlets.

The campaign coalition is made up of Labour Behind the Label, the Trades Union Congress, the International Textile, Garment & Leather Workers Federation, the International Trade Union Federation, the Clean Clothes Campaign, Maquila Solidarity Network and Clearing the Hurdles.

Source: @playfair2012 

Otto von Busch Hacks Fashion Theory

As you know, we’re huge fans of Otto von Busch for his innovative work and research in ir/responsible fashion and hackivism.

In a recent project, Otto hacks fashion theory through a series of small booklets. We’ve just added them to our required reading list and so should you!

Fashion is the celebration of the immediate future. By being constantly new, fashion indicates that the future can be something else, and it pulls us there, by force almost, promising the endless possibilities of the new, the unwritten, our possible better self.” (The Virus of Fashion, Axel Trumpfheller and Otto von Busch: Pg. 27)

Click here to access and download the booklets.

Thanks to TED for sharing this project with us (stay tuned for the launch of their new site), and congratulations to Otto on his new post as Associate Professor of Integrated Design at Parsons New School of Design in New York!


Mass Faintings, Fixed-Duration Contracts and the ILO’s Better Factories Cambodia Program

You’ve likely followed the mass faintings of garment workers that have taken place in Cambodia this year. While most reports have cited gruelling working conditions and worker exposure to toxic chemicals as likely causes, reasons for the faintings remain unclear.

 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Fast Facts // Cambodia

The face of the Cambodian garment worker is that of a young, rural female. (Tearing Apart at the Seams, Yale Law: Pg. 8 )

 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Earlier this month, while investigating the faintings, the International Labour Committee’s Better Factories Cambodia (ILO-BFC) program offered various recommendations to factories, including the obvious suggestion that they adhere to full compliance with the Cambodian Labour Law (Media Update 06-08 August 2011 “Actions Have to Be Taken to Prevent Mass Fainting”: ILO-BFC)

Speaking of the Cambodian Labour Law…

Cambodian garment workers have seen a difficult year. Back in September, guest writer Dr. Robert Hanlon informed us on how the Cambodian court was cracking down on garment worker protests. The Clean Clothes Campaign still continues to fight for the reinstatement of workers who were fired during the protests: “Over 300 Striking Garment Workers Still Victimised.”

Add to this a recent report out of Yale Law School’s Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic, “Tearing Apart at the Seams: How Widespread Use of Fixed-Duration Contracts Threatens Cambodian Workers and the Cambodian Garment Industry.”

The report highlights an amendment to relax restrictions on fixed-duration contracts would compromise the rights of garment workers under both Cambodian and international law. As a result, the authors advise the government not to amend the current labour law.

The Cambodian government has been considering amending the labor law to ease restrictions on fixed-duration contracts. The country’s apparel industry is already facing heightened international scrutiny because of the mass firings of workers who participated in a strike last year over low wages. One of the main competitive advantages of the Cambodian garment industry is its reputation for progress on protecting workers’ rights, so it is important to understand the human rights consequences of using FDCs and the impact that permitting their expansion could have on Cambodia’s competitiveness. (James Silk, director of the Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic)

The study calls for the ILO-BFC program, along with other relevant parties, to work with stakeholders to support long-term contracts. In return, the program has stated it will investigate “how the general trend in using short term contracts can be converted in the industry wide understanding of the long term benefits of changing over to longer term employment relationships” (Media Update 17 August 2011, “Yale Law School releases a report on Fixed Duration Contracts”: ILO-BFC).

While we wait to learn how all of this will continue to play out, we thought we’d leave you on a positive note, and (re)draw your attention to an important health and safety education initiative we posted on our Facebook page a couple of weeks ago: The ILO-BFC’s Garment Workers Open University 2011.

Each Sunday, nearly 500 workers, from 20 garment factories, attended a full-day training to learn some basic knowledge about the Cambodian Labour Law, and obtain information about social protection services available to them. (ILO-BFC)

Check out the training resources available through the ILO-BFC, as well as their 2011 tentative training schedule. Click here for the list of active factories registered and monitored through the ILO-BFC.

Sneaky Business // Oxfam Australia organizes virtual protest to support the rights of footwear workers

Oxfam Australia has launched a new online campaign: Sneaky Business—a virtual march touring protesters across factories in Southeast Asia, China and Central America, all the way to the headquarters of leading shoe manufacturer, Nike. The march is a call for action for workers rights in the global footwear industry. As I write this post, there are 205 virtual protesters marching through Indonesia.

The journey shows that poor working conditions are a global problem. Worker exploitation exists whether in Australia, South East Asia or Central America. However Sneaky Business also demonstrates that there are companies doing the right thing— ensuring that footwear workers are treated with dignity and have access to their rights.(Oxfam Australia)

When the march finishes up in the next few months, Oxfam will deliver the messages of each protester to the shoe manufacturers. Teachers, this sounds like a perfect project to get your class involved with come September.

To join the march, simply choose your message and upload a picture of your sneakers!

Bloggers, be sure to check out the Sneaky Business Toolkit.

Great work Oxfam!

Oxfam International // Supporting garment workers through education and engagement

You know Oxfam as a leader in global humanitarian efforts—working toward poverty reduction, advocating and campaigning on behalf of human rights, leading the fight against unregulated international arms trade (all the way to the UN, with Arms Trade Treaty negotiations expected to close in 2012), promoting gender equality, health and education, responding to both chronic and acute social, environmental and economic crisis…the list goes on.

What you may not know is that Oxfam is also committed to supporting systemic change with respect to the labour rights of garment workers internationally through education and engagement.

Here are some of the exciting projects they’ve been working on—all excellent for use in the classroom:

While her name has been changed to protect her family and to ensure her job security (‘Sewani’ is an abbreviated word for ‘seorang wanita’ in Indonesian, meaning ‘woman’), her story is real: “I hope that by sharing this story people can have some image of the workers that are making their shoes. Some image of who we are and what our lives are like. I’m sure our conditions are really different with those who can afford to buy the shoes we make. Who knows, when they understand our conditions, they might speak out for us. We also want to live in better conditions.” (Sewani) Readers can send Sewani questions and leave comments on the blog.

By answering these FAQ’s, Oxfam has empowered educators, consumers, designers and proprietors alike to think critically about their role in the global apparel supply chain.

  • Oxfam Australia has run several successful campaigns in support of decent work, driving change through an online actions centre dedicated to worker’s rights.

Workshop //Sweatshops – 70 minutes

Lesson Plans:

No Sweat – Grade 9 Lesson Plan

No Sweat – Grade 10 Lesson Plan

No Sweat – OAC Geography Lesson Plan

No Sweat – OAC Poli Sci Lesson Plan

Oxfam GB has created a 25 minute assembly designed to educate students on the hidden narrative of labour taking place behind the brand, factory conditions and worker’s rights, cause and consequence of cheap labour and ways to take action. Materials include Assembly Slides, (in PowerPoint) and Supporting Notes (PDF).

Oxfam GB has also created a series of lessons that follow the cotton supply chain in India:

Background information about cotton, trade and India

Photo gallery of clothes production

Lesson 1: Placing India in the world

Lesson 2: Finding out about India

Lesson 3: Where does cotton grow?

Lesson 4: Tracking trade

Lesson 5: Questioning a photo

Lesson 6: Before and after

Lesson 7: Matching captions to photos

Lesson 8: Putting photos in sequence

Lesson 9: Oral presentation

Lesson 10: Ways of working

Lesson 11: Print making

Lesson 12: Fair Trade

Extra material to support your teaching

Moving beyond the classroom, Oxfam GB has partnered with Marks & Spencer to keep clothing out of landfills: “[s]ince 2009, they have diverted over 5 million tonnes of clothing from landfill, and raised £3 million for Oxfam.” (Trewin Restorick, for the Guardian Professional Network)

So, Oxfam is not only a leader in global humanitarian relief, but also in responsible knowledge sharing and cross-sector collaboration with respect to responsible apparel.

Interactive lesson plans educate learners on responsible fashion

The Creative Commons is embedded into our responsible education ethos; we have researched and aggregated content to create educational resources because we believe that accessibility leads to accountability. Of course knowledge is power, but without access to knowledge we will not move forward.

In 2009 we brought you “[Lesson 1] Sifting through the ‘Ecofashion’ Lexicon” and our “Fibre Analysis”. In 2010 we worked further to bringing you lessons on the social, cultural, economic and environmental interdisciplinary challenges facing the value system that is the global apparel supply chain.

Social Alterations 2010 //

[Lesson 4] Corporate Social Responsibility

[Lesson 3] Global Governance and the Corporation

[Lesson 2] Connect // Key Players

[Fashion High] Understanding the Impact of your Clothing (pre-16 learners)

Social Alterations 2009 //


[Lesson 1] Sifting through the ‘Ecofashion’ Lexicon

Fibre Analysis

Check out this how to on navigating our site:

Social Alterations 2010 // Program Guide from Social Alterations on Vimeo.

The Call of Juarez // Profit in Violence

Since 1993, more than 1,400 women have been violently murdered in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico (Maquila Solidarity Network). Thousands more remain missing. These femicides have gone unsolved since the murders have not been properly investigated by local and/or international authorities. While the found bodies of women rest buried in mass graves, the killers roam free. Ciudad Juarez is a war-zone— no one is protected from the systemic violence and corruption that plagues its citizens.

In 2010 MAC cosmetics and American design house Rodarte partnered to deliver a limited edition line of cosmetics inspired by the plight of the Juarez woman. Products in the line were given names like “Factory” and “Ghost Town” and advertisements featured a young model looking…well, dead.

Despite being well received by industry, outcry from within the fashion blogosphere resulted in the cancelation of the line. As one commentator stated in response to the collection, “in a sweep of total insouciance, for chic U.S. women, ‘Factory’ is an abstract consumable concept, a shade of mint frost, whereas for Mexican women in maquiladoras, it’s a sweaty, oppressive place where they’re frequently harassed, threatened, raped, and killed.” (Sarah Menkedick) Both MAC and Rodarte have since issued apologies, with the cosmetics company promising to donate profits from the line (once it has been renamed) to a legitimate organization working within the region. There is still no word on these details, however.

Of course, women are not the only victims in Juarez. The city is home to one of the largest drug turf wars in the world. In the last four years, more than 8,000 people have been killed (averaging 8 murders per day). Last week alone, between Thursday and Saturday, 53 people were gunned down (NPR).

Set to profit from the violence this summer through the release of their new game Call of Juarez: The Cartel is the French video game company Ubisoft, There has already been outcry over the game, with critics claiming it dehumanizes victims. No apology from Ubisoft; they claim the game is purely fictional—take a look at the trailer and see for yourself.

Despite the violence and controversy surrounding this socially devastated region, some companies have decided to (re)invest in the maquiladoras there. According to Bob Cook, president of the Regional Economic Commission in El Paso, Texas, one of the draws to manufacturing in Juarez is that the violence has seemingly not targeted industry.

The violence has not targeted industry? Are factory workers not included in this category?

On October 28th of last year four people were killed when “gunmen opened fire on a trio of buses carrying nightshift maquiladora workers to communities outside the city.”

When the mass killings of women (it is estimated that over 1/3 of these women were working in maquiladoras) first surfaced over a decade ago, industry did little to protect workers, claiming it was not their responsibility because the attacks did not take place on their property.

“Maquila owners provide little help to resolve the infrastructure and social services crisis in Juárez that they helped create. In 2001 at the height of the factories’ prosperity, their owners gave Juárez only $1.5 million in a voluntary tax, according to the New Mexico State University-based research publication Frontera Norte-Sur. At the same time, according to the Canadian organization Maquila Solidarity Network, maquila exports from the Juárez region totaled more than $10 billion.” (Amnesty International USA)

To say that industry needs to step it up when dealing with Juarez would be an understatement.

The 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day (IWD) has come and gone (March 8th). With this year’s theme, equal access to education, training and science and technology: pathway to decent work for women, we remember the women and men of Juarez.

An excerpt from the controversial corrido “Las mujeres de Juaréz” by popular Mexican band Los Tigres del Norte:

Que hay varias miles de muertas en panteones
clandestinos muchas desaparecidas que me resisto
a creer… (es el reclamo del pueblo
que lo averigüe la ley….)

English translation: There are several thousand dead women, in secret cemeteries. So many women have disappeared, it is hard to believe. These people demand that the law must investigate. (Mariana Rodriguez, “¡SOMOS MÁS AMERICANOS!”: The music of Los Tigres del Norte as Grass Roots Activism)

Shamelessly Idealistic? Free the Children // We Day: Vancouver, Canada

[Centre: This child was 12 years old when he was assassinated for standing up for his rights]

Acting is what I do for a living; activism is what I do to stay alive. (Martin Sheen)

Today I witnessed 18,000 youth stand up and shout out  in support for children’s rights. Have you ever heard 18,000 children chant freedom, again and again? I can assure you that it is a sound I will not soon forget.

Did you know that he has been arrested more than 60 times for activism? He looks pretty darn innocent in this photo!

This year’s We Day events saw Free the Children co-founders Craig and Mark Kielburger celebrate the hard work and dedication of students all across Canada—students who have collectively raised 5 million dollars, banking 1 million volunteer hours along the way, for children in need.

The event has attracted human rights and environmental leaders from around the world; on stage to support, celebrate and motivate these students were activists Martin Sheen, Al Gore, Reverend Jesse L. Jackson Sr., Rick Hanson, Ethan Zohn, Philippe Cousteau, Spencer West, Scott Hammell, and Robin Wiszowaty, and musicians Hedley, Colbie Caillat, and The Barenaked Ladies.

Click here to watch it live on demand.

Youth are not our future, they are our right now” (Reverend Jesse L. Jackson Sr.)

Empowering students by empowering teachers, the We Schools in Action program has built 150 schools (650 schools, over the last 15 years) in Kenya, Sierra Leone, Ecuador, China, Haiti and Sri Lanka and provided more than 60,000 people internationally with clean water.

Free the Children Founders Craig and Mark Kielburger

Want to get your students involved? Teachers, this is a year long initiative, with campaigns set to keep your students motivated and engaged throughout the entire process:

Halloween for Hunger asks children to collect canned goods instead of candy, for donation in their community: 2009 saw 217,000 pounds of food collected

• On November 19th students are asked to participate in a Vow of Silence; this day of action calls attention to the 218 million child labourers who have no voice.

• On January 12th, students celebrate and remember Haiti, through the We are all Haitians campaign

• February 19-25 is Aboriginal Education Week, where students are tasked to take action within their own local communities

• April 11-15 is 5 Days of Freedom. Register your interest and they will provide your school with posters, celebrity videos, motivational resources, etc.

Representing Social Alterations, I felt proud to be in the same room not with the leaders mentioned above, but with these kids…..these 18, 000 kids! It was like nothing I have ever experienced.

For more information, please check out We Day and Free the Children.