Category Archives: Consumer Education

WATCH // Media Theorised: Reading against the grain


What role does advertising play in journalism? Who funds and controls media coverage? Why is representation so important? How are stereotypes produced and reproduced through the media? Does the medium that we use consume information matter?

And, what does any of this have to do with responsible fashion?

The Listening Post has produced a series of short animated films introducing five media theorists: Roland Barthes, Noam Chomsky, Stuart Hall, Marshall McLuhan, and Edward Said. Media Theorised is a project that calls for a critical engagement with the media, and is a nice resource to share with friends, colleagues and students.

Many of the entanglements highlighted by these theorists are brought to the surface through the project itself, with respect to how it is shared and consumed, and all of these tensions would make great topics for further discussion: for example, the fact that I am sharing this content with you through a blog post on an English-language website; that the Media Theorized project was itself developed by a media network (Al Jazeera), and that each video has little Google advertisements that pop-up, and sometimes play before the video starts—a  reminder of the role of advertising in media (briefly mentioned in the Noam Chomsky piece); or the fact that you may have found this post through social media, and may be reading this content on a tablet, phone or laptop.

A couple of years ago I briefly shared some thoughts on how one of these tensions plays out in media stories related to labour rights for IANS: sponsored content surrounding responsible fashion, where the lines between corporate interests, corporate social responsibility, and critical journalism (or even bad journalism, for that matter) become blurred. Although I was picking on The Guardian at that time, the takeaway was that a critical lens is needed when reading any and all media coverage related to these issues (including coverage produced on this site).

I hope you’ll find these resources relevant and interesting. I’ve embedded a couple of the animations below. Each film comes with an essay and a downloadable poster – who doesn’t love a good poster?

Garment worker wages: select reports on trends and analysis from 2014

ILO 201415 Global Wage Report


The International Labour Organization (ILO) has just released their 2014/2015 Global Wage Report. While the report is not specifically focused on garment worker wages in fashion and apparel systems, it does overview global trends and highlights wage gaps, and I think it’s a good one to read through and bookmark to keep on hand.

With the report, the ILO has included a couple of short video clips explaining key terms, such as real wage and labour productivity, average wage and PPP$.

ILO videos re 201415 Wage Report

The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) published three reports in 2014 relating to wages for garment work in the fashion and apparel sector:

Living wage in asiaStitched up 2014

Tailored Wages 2014

And of course, this worthwhile read from the CCC and the Asia Floor Wage in 2009 remains highly relevant: Stitching a Decent Wage Across Borders.

Stitching a decent wage across borders










Click here for the full list of CCC publications.

What resources have you turned to in 2014 for trends and analysis relating to garment worker wages? Share in the comments below, or let us know via Facebook and/or Twitter.


Test your knowledge! And track fast fashion with this interactive Africa study map

How well do you know your geography when it comes to Africa? Unfortunately, many of us need to study up.

This online tool could be a great addition to learning activities on fast fashion supply chains – specifically on second-hand trade.

Add this tool to:

via Africa is a Country

Africa Study Map

EVENT// EFF’s SOURCE Expo 2012 Seminars

The ever-excellent Ethical Fashion Forum has decided to run the fourth SOURCE Expo, a trade show for ethical sourcing, online. What’s even more interesting is that their seminars (webinars) are free to attend!! This promises to be a very interesting event for both designers and consumers interested in learning more about responsible fashion. What an amazing opportunity to hear information directly from those working in the field, but space is limited so sign up now!

Here’s more info on this event:

What: “The event will showcase exemplary suppliers of sustainable fabrics and components, fair trade and ethical production units and factories from all over the world, and broker connections between suppliers, brands, and fashion professionals.

Through targeted online meeting spaces, a programme of seminars and 2 days of free access to extremely valuable sustainable sourcing information on SOURCE Intelligence, SOURCE Expo aims to open doors for suppliers all over the world- and make it easy for designers and brands to build sustainable supply chains.

When: October 31st & November 1st 2012. (Sorry for the short notice!)

Where: Online, sign up in advance here.

Webinar details: October 31st will cover “The Issues” and include webinars covering Innovation, Changing lives, Environmental impact and Sustainable textiles showcase. November 1st is dedicated to “Fabrics and Suppliers” with the following webinars taking place: Artisanal excellence; Luxury, structure, stretch, drape and flow; Wools and heavyweights; Casualwear, large quantities and printing; Accessories and components.

Details for each webinar, including the time, can be found here.

Source: Ethical Fashion Forum’s The Ethical Fashion Source Intelligence



Coming Up // The Six Items Challenge

The Six Items Challenge kicks off again in 19 days! The challenge begins on September 7th, overlaps with London Fashion Week (September 14th-18th), and concludes on October 7th which just happens to be World Day For Decent Work. How fitting!

The challenge:

It’s quite simple. Just pick six items from your wardrobe (not including workout gear, undergarments, socks, shoes, and accessories) and wear only those items for one month. I’ve attached a few photos of some of the items chosen by previous participants. Click on the photos to read more about their choices.


The goal of the Six Item Challenge is to bring awareness to the consequences of our fast-paced trend-driven cycles of  fashion consumerism. Labour Behind the Label explains:

“For workers in the garment industry ‘fast fashion’ is a millstone.  The drive to increase profits and get products into our high street shops faster and faster to satisfy an insatiable desire for new trends; the drive to sell more, consume more, make more, waste more unfortunately doesn’t mean that workers are paid more for making our clothes.”


How does this bring awareness to these issues?

“It’s a great talking point – friends and family will be fascinated to find out why you’ve set yourself such a crazy goal!”

If you would like to take this challenge a step further, you can also get sponsored for your efforts and help raise funds to support garment workers fighting for their rights. The fundraising website can be found here.

If you’d like to know more about the challenge, check out their website where they have a great blog featuring posts from the previous cycle of participants and a hints and tips page to help you get started. Good luck with the challenge!

UPDATE III // The NICE Consumer Project & the Copenhagen Fashion Summit

The initial stage of the NICE consumer project comes to an end this week and the NICE  Framework for Achieving Sustainable Fashion Consumption through Collaboration will receive its final revisions during the Copenhagen Fashion Summit. The framework is designed to inspire action from government, industry and civil society, it also highlights areas where more discussion is needed; for example, how can we create a transparent value chain, or an environment which fosters sustainable business models and supports sustainable behaviors?

Since my last update I have attended a workshop in London, and taken part in the final webinar, Stress Testing the NICE Consumer Framework on Sustainable Consumption of Fashion. At this event there were presentations from Puma, Levi Strauss & Co., Futerra, and Vanessa Friedman from the Financial Times. The session also included a summary of the progress midway through the consultation process. Cody Sisco [BSR] spoke about the major priorities raised by participants and other important areas including supply chain transparency, and the need for increased education, understanding and collaboration. For design students out there, he also mentioned the important role designers can play in moving things forward! A full recording of the webinar is available to download at BSR.


The Copenhagen Fashion Summit

The Copenhagen Fashion Summit starts today and promises to be an exciting event, which will bring together around 900 stakeholders to discuss sustainability and CSR in the fashion industry. Organisers have been keen to include young people in these discussions and a number of student representatives from around Europe will gather today for a Youth Summit, and present the results of their discussions at the main event tomorrow. The Summit will also launch an industry specific code of conduct, a joint initiative by the UN Global Compact and NICE.

“As an industry facing serious and widely publicized social and environmental challenges, the fashion and textile industry is uniquely positioned to launch a sectoral initiative under the umbrella of the UN Global Compact.”

George Kell, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact

If you can’t get to Copenhagen but want to keep up with the event then I know that @katetfletcher and the @NICEconsumer have already been tweeting live from the summit!

Further reading//

Press release: United Nations Global Compact joins forces with the fashion industry to launch first sector specific initiative

BSR: NICE Consumer Project Summary

BSR: NICE Consumer Research Summary




UPDATE II // The NICE consumer project

As promised here is an update of the second NICE consumer consultation webinars, The Art of Sustainable Consumption. At this session we heard from four speakers presenting a range of responses to sustainability. In bringing them together we were able to imagine what  ‘sustainable consumption’ might look like and also how some of these approaches could be linked.

Giordano Capuano -Vivienne Westwood- presented the model of ethical production behind Westwood’s Ethical Africa collection. The project began as part of an initiative of the International Trade Centre, which aimed to link luxury brands in the West to producers in communities where poverty is high. The exciting thing about this project (and others like it), is the long term ambition which involves, empowerment through meaningful work and training, and sharing skills that will help to achieve sustained trade opportunities in global markets. Whilst this example demonstrates positive production and sourcing, it is not a solution to ethical production that could be replicated in all sectors of the fashion industry today.

Next up Henrik Lampa (H&M) talked about how H&M is actively seeking to improve its supply chain through a more sustainable fabric sourcing policy, guided by research from Made By. Conventional cotton production has a negative effect on the environment and can also be damaging to people the land they rely on through the heavy use of pesticides and water; working towards ‘better’ cotton is a step in the right direction, and H&Ms efforts here will hopefully prompt other companies to follow suit!

[For insight into the limitations of current LCA models and benchmarks, check out Pulling Wool over our Eyes: The Dirty Business of LCAs, by Tone Skårdal Tobiasson, Editor at, and Kjersti Kviseth, Partner 2025design.]

Of course we also know that fast fashion is problematic in relation to the volume of disposable goods produced, and the production speed that is necessary to be competitive. These factors can translate into difficulties for suppliers and negative conditions for production workers; however it is hard to see how improvements here can be made from within individual companies when this would compromise their competitiveness in their market sector. Perhaps tackling this problem requires a multi-brand approach that will give all companies a level playing field whilst improving conditions for garment workers?

The next presentation by Mo Tomaney of Central Saint Martins, focused on design-led responses to sustainable consumption. Mo inspired us with these case studies from the design world, Junky styling, From Somewhere and Gary Harvey. Finally she introduced the student program Reclaim to Wear, which aims to prompt the next generation of designers’ to think sustainably. As a student designer myself this is of real interest to me, and I believe design could be involved at every level of sustainable consumption in diverse and exciting ways. Design can also act as a valuable conduit between seemingly conflicting needs, such as the desire for rapid change and the need to reduce waste.

Aptly, the last speaker Ellen van den Adel, talked about post-consumer textile waste. Discussing how the consumer benefits emotionally from the knowledge that their waste will be reused, and how consumers understand the message about recycling and many do recycle or want to. However the viability of the textile recycling industry is threatened by a number of factors which are likely to become more influential into the future. In response to this Work in Progress have collaborated with Textile 4 Textile to develop an automatic sorting machine capable of sorting textiles by colour and fibre type; this sort of technological advancement may help protect the used textile trade. Education and dialogue between companies, designers and textile recyclers could also help to improve the end of life opportunities for our clothing.

The seminar inspired a level of optimism about what is already happening to improve the sustainability of the products we consume, at the same time an approach to disposable ‘fast fashion’ remains unclear. This is the most complex of topics as it is inseparable from broader themes such as our economic structure, competition, and many social and cultural factors (for example the speed at which information travels today is related to the rapidity of trend cycles), all of which go far beyond fashion itself.

Listen to the entire webinar and view the presentations here.


UPDATE // The NICE consumer project

Last Tuesday I took part in the first of three webinars on the sustainable consumption of fashion entitled Introducing the NICE CONSUMER Project and the Draft Framework on Sustainable Consumption of Fashion. The webinar experience was new to me and I was unsure of what to expect, but also enthusiastic about the opportunity to participate in such an important conversation. Over the next month I will keep you updated with this project and its development in the run up to the Copenhagen Fashion Summit in May.



The event began with an introduction by Jonas Eder-Hansen of the Danish Fashion Institute followed by an overview of the research (thus far) by Cody Sisco from BIS. Both speakers highlighted  the infancy of this project and clearly set out the aims, objectives and limitations of this work….the road to sustainable consumption will be a long one, beginning with an attempt to define sustainable consumption and the NICE consumer.

The next speaker- Ian Morris, Head of Technical Services, Marks & Spencer plc.- described an on-going collaboration between M&S and Oxfam, which rewards consumers who donate their old clothes to charity. This project is an illustration of how a company has acted to positively influence consumer behaviour; in this case conscientious disposal, one strand of sustainable consumption. Part of the NICE consumer project involves analysing examples like this, which will help to inform the debate and the final framework.

Another feature of this project is its inclusive and open approach, making use of new technology and social media to extend the reach of discussions and inform a wider selection of society. As part of this, the webinar series gave attendees the opportunity to vote in online polling and ask questions directly to the speaker. This information is included in a recording of webinar which is already freely available to download. Opinion and feedback on the content of this webinar and the questions posed are encouraged and are easy to access through Twitter (@niceconsumer) and Facebook.

This event has given me an insightful introduction into the emerging conversation on the sustainable consumption of fashion. I am looking forward to the next event on Tuesday –The state of the Art in sustainable consumption– when the speakers will include H&M, TED (Textiles Environment Design) and Vivian Westwood.


Additional Resources //

Cody Sisco [blog]  The Journey to Sustainable Fashion  Consumption Has Begun





The Fair Wear Formula

The Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) has recently produced a short film which presents a clear summary of what they do, how they do it, and the reasons why. The organisation works towards fair labour conditions for garment workers. To define this they identify eight labour standards based upon the UN human rights principles. These objectives include maintaining a living wage, an end to child labour and the right for workers to form or join a union. The FWF supports brands in achieving these aims in an open manner and provides consumers with the information they need to shop ethically.

The position of the FWF is one of rational and constructive action, working in collaboration with many stakeholders to implement and monitor clear strategies for improvement. Brands who sign up may find they have work to do, but by signing up they are showing a genuine commitment to change. This is in contrast to the reactionary cut and run approach that is sometimes taken in response to exposure for labour rights abuses which can be more damaging to the workforce and does not help to address the long term issues.

When doing some customer research last year, I found that a lack of transparency in garment supply chains hampers efforts for change. I was told by many people that they didn’t have the information they needed to make ethical purchases. There was also a lot of confusion about what to believe, for example, when a brand’s ethical policy did not seem to reflect the reports in the news. The FWF provides consumers with a verification of labour conditions, however in the UK, there are still only a handful of brands signed up. This leads to another opinion repeatedly expressed to me: the lack of choice for ethical shoppers. If we as consumers want transparency and choice in the purchases we make, then maybe we should be the ones asking brands demonstrate their commitment to ethically produced fashion. One way may be to sign up for the FWF code.


Source: Fair Wear Foundation

Anti-Slavery International targets European Parliament through Cotton Crimes campaign

Anti-Slavery International has recently relaunched their Cotton Crimes campaign with a new video.

It is our hope that, through our short video, we will reach out, inform and encourage people to act in the interests of the children of Uzbekistan.” (Samuel Cooper, Anti-Slavery International)

Anti-Slavery International is calling on the European Parliament to remove preferential trade tariffs with Uzbekistan. Click here for more information and to sign the petition.

Over 60 international retailers have joined forces to boycott Uzbek cotton, publicly stating their commitment to the eradication of forced child labour through the Responsible Sourcing Network, an As You Sow initiative.

Click below to learn more about what’s happening inUzbekistanand to follow our ongoing coverage:

LEARN // Social Alterations / A Closer Look / Uzbekistan