Category Archives: Exhibition

Interview // Artist and activist Robin Pacific, TakeActionFAST campaign

As we mark the 106th anniversary of Triangle (25 March 1911), I wanted to share the work of Canadian artist and activist Robin Pacific. Since 2013 she has been working on a community project to raise awareness on the realities of work and life for garment workers in Bangladesh. In May she is launching TakeActionFAST, a labour rights campaign she has organised with partners in Bangladesh and in Canada (details below).

I first heard of Robin’s work when I was in Dhaka conducting part of my fieldwork in 2015. Recently I was lucky to connect with her and learn a bit more about her work.

Mary Hanlon:  To get started, could you tell us a bit about the F.A.S.T. campaign and how it came about?

Robin Pacific: We are now calling it TakeActionFAST (because the Heart and Stroke Foundation launched their own FAST campaign – cheeky!). In 2013 I received some funds from the Ontario Arts Council to do research on possible art projects about who makes our clothes. I turned the research into a collaborative community project and invited 30 women in groups of three to my house. I cooked for them, and gave a 10 minute talk about art, fashion, globalization, free trade and workers’ rights. Then the conversation just flowed. It was at one of these gatherings that someone came up with the idea for a logo called FAST – FAIR living wage, ADULT labour only, SAFE working conditions and No unpaid overTIME.

The idea for a campaign to tell retailers we will pay 5% more for our clothes if those conditions are met evolved over time and went through many variations. The necessity that I must go to Bangladesh if I wanted to speak on behalf of garment workers there also came about during those dinners.

MH: You’ve partnered with various sponsors and supporters. How did these partnerships come about, and how important was it for you to connect with groups in Bangladesh?

RP: This whole project has been about never giving up, and just relentlessly continuing even when it seemed there was no support. So I just kept e mailing people I heard about in Bangladesh, and at UniGlobal, and various Canadian trade unions. When they didn’t answer I emailed them again. When they still didn’t answer, I phoned them! Eventually the first trip came together. We made art with 100 garment workers represented by The Solidarity Centre/Bangladesh led by Alonzo Suson and Bangladesh Workers Solidarity Centre led by Kalpona Akter. We were very, very lucky to work with these outstanding trade unions. It was inspiring and transformative to meet young women who were risking their jobs—and sometimes their lives—to form a union.

If we hadn’t had the support of these two groups I think our visit to Dhaka would have been more or less futile.

We also were very graciously hosted at a luncheon by then Canadian High Commissioner Heather Cruden, and one of her staff suggested we connect with some survivors of Rana Plaza. This too was a profound experience, and humbling – meeting these people whose bodies and psyches were so shattered.

While in Bangladesh and after, I kept meeting artists, individuals, trade union members, members of NGOs, and I also go a little connected to the Bangladeshi community here in Toronto. All of these connections have immeasurably enriched the work I’ve done.

MH: What has been the biggest challenge you have faced so far?

RP: The biggest challenge I’ve faced, in a way, has been my own despair at all those points when things weren’t working out, when it seemed things would never come together. My challenge is not to take it personally and get discouraged when people aren’t interested, or reject various proposals for exhibitions, etc.

MH: As you move forward, what keeps you inspired? What scares you?

RP: What keeps me inspired is the heroism of the young women and men I met, and also the fact that I fell in love with Bangladesh, the way one does, inadvertently, with the people, the culture, even the insane traffic. I’m committed to social justice, and taking on this one issue and really working on it exclusively has kept me inspired. Also, I did put this on a long timeline. I wanted to accomplish one thing – the TakeActionFAST petition. Along the way I got to do some fun and meaningful art projects and meet so many extraordinary people.

The issue is off the radar of the media completely. This is what I call the Politics of the Aftermath. The media lurches from one disaster to the next, disaster porn as it’s been called, and no one seems to think of the long term after effects on the survivors of these horrific crises. I’m really counting on millennials to pick up the torch. I’m afraid that I’m just too much of an outlier – an artist trying to create a social justice campaign, not really encouraged by the local art world here, and a social justice activist who is an artist, so viewed skeptically, on occasion, by trade union people and activists, because I’m working alone. Everything I’m doing is hope and prayers that I can bridge these two complex communities.


If you’d like to support Robin and the campaign project, or learn more about her work and this community project, check out the project website here.

I particularly enjoyed seeing project photographs and listening to the audio recordings from interviews with workers, here.

While the campaign is live now, there will be a launch in Toronto in May. Here are the event details:

When? May 4 – May 5, 2017, 7 PM-12AM

Where? The Great Hall, 1087 Queen St. West, Toronto M6J 1H3 (at Dovercourt)


  • Online action campaign;
  • Canadian and Bangladesh bands, singers, dancers and food;
  • a pop up fashion market of indie Canadian designers;
  • a ‘Mock Sweatshop’ where participants can sew giant t-shirts with garment workers from Workers United Canada;
  • a Rana Plaza Memorial;
  • and art by and about Bangladeshi garment workers

ATTEND // Beauty by Design: Fashioning the Renaissance


This past weekend, I headed to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh to check out the exhibit Beauty by Design: Fashioning the Renaissance.

I’m so glad I did. The show challenges current assumptions of beauty by exploring how perceptions of body image have changed over time:

“The theme of body image is central: the historic paintings have been approached both as a means of challenging current perceptions of physical beauty, and as inspiration for a more diverse and emotionally considerate practice on the part of today’s fashion designers.” (National Galleries Scotland)

Leading the project is the Programme Director for Fashion at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) at the University of Edinburgh, Mal Burkinshaw, and Dr Jill Burke of the School of History of Art. The work is the result of a collaboration between National Galleries of Scotland and ECA, and has been in the works since 2012, when the project first launched.

The exhibit runs until 3rd May 2015, but if you’re not near Edinburgh, you can read more about the project here, and here. I’ll upload some photos to our Facebook page to check out as well.

EXHIBIT// Politics of Fashion | Fashion of Politics

Canada’s QUEEN of fashion, Jeanne Beker, is guest curator for an upcoming exhibit at The Design Exchange on the intersection of politics and fashion!

The exhibit covers political fashion from 1960 to the present including a paper dress covered with Pierre Trudeau’s face during the Trudeaumania days, fur coats splattered by PETA, skinhead fashion, and a few pieces from Jeremy Scott’s Arab Spring collection.

Here is Jeanne Beker chatting with the KING of radio, Jian Ghomeshi (big fans!), on Q today and doing an AMAZING job discussing fashion theory, elucidating on the deeper meanings behind fashion, and even adding a few points on second-hand clothing, consumerism, fast fashion, cultural appropriation and thoughtlessness within the fashion industry:


This exhibit is definitely on our #fashionbucketlist next time we’re in Toronto! Politics of Fashion | Fashion of Politics runs from September 18th – January 25th, 2015.


The Future Fabrics Expo focuses on the fashion industry and how its environmental impact can be lowered through innovation in the textile industry, and novel ideas to transform the fashion system and design practice.” (The Sustainable Angle 2012)

This November be sure to check out the Future Fashion Expo hosted by the London College of Fashion. This event is organised by The Sustainable Angle with the support of the Center for Sustainable Fashion. Visitors to the Expo will have the opportunity to view a diverse range of fabrics and gain a feel for their aesthetics and performance, as well as finding out about their production.

The Sustainable Angle has been researching and presenting high quality fashion fabrics which are produced with the intention of reducing environmental impact throughout the supply chain, addressing issues of biodiversity, water, waste and energy. These materials are sourced from international mills, suppliers, and cooperatives, highlighting both environmentally considerate and ethical production.” (Center for Sustainable Fashion 2012)

Last year, I attended the first Future Fabrics Expo and found it to be an informative research opportunity that I highly recommend to others. As a fashion student interested in responsible sourcing most of my research had previously been online and I was grateful for the chance to browse at the Expo; getting up close to so many new and exciting fabrics.

Now in its second year the Future Fabrics Expo is expanding to include further information about other aspects of fashion supply chains as well as moving to the prestigious Rootstein Hopkins Space. I am excited by the broader scope of this year’s event which again promises to be an invaluable experience for designers and students alike.

To register for the event visit

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

ATTEND // (sustainable) Fashion’s Night Out, New York

If you’re in New York, check out (sustainable) Fashion’s Night Out, hosted by EcoSalon, Of Rags, NYC Fair Trade Coalition and Textile Arts Center.

Not just for an evening of shopping and celebrating, but also education! FREE education!

(sustainable) Fashion’s Night Out is a collaboration that celebrates sustainability’s place in the fashion world and in the global economy. The term sustainable is in parenthesis for the event title because this word itself is not the focal point of the event, rather, the evening aims to show that anything fashionable should simply make a positive impact and not need a qualifier to differentiate it. (Ecosalon)

Click here for the details, and enjoy the festivities!

Suzanne Lee’s BioCouture grows clothes

Suzanne Lee, Senior Research Fellow at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London and author of Fashioning The Future: tomorrow’s wardrobe, is brilliantly combining fashion and biology in search of alternative fibre/material.

BioCouture is currently on display:

Trash Fashion: designing out waste

Antenna Gallery, The Science Museum London, until June 2011


The Future That Never Was: Alter Nature

ModeMuseum Hasselt, Belgium, until June 2011

Listen in on her recent TED talk:

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.


There are two events in particular that we were sorry to have missed recently: IXEL MODA (Colombia) and the Ethical Fashion Source Expo (UK), held in conjunction with the RITE Conference

The congress in Colombia, founded by Danilo Cañizares and Erika Rohenes Weber, is unique in its integration of international runways and professional presentations. College of William & Mary Professor, and author of Couture and Consensus, Regina Root serves as President Ad Honorem of Ixel Moda and oversees the academic vision of the congress along with fellow scientific committee members Kathia Castillo (Brazil) and Alex Blanch (Spain). Root’s keynote speech, invited by the founders and the sponsors which included among others the Cartagena Chamber of Commerce, the Colombian Ministry of Education and Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, focused on Latin American heritage in world fashion.

The announced theme for next year’s congress is “Origins of Latin American Fashion”.

The conference also featured speakers such as Marsha Dickson of University of Delaware, author of Social Responsibility in the Global Apparel Industry and editor of Sustainable Fashion- a Handbook for Educators as well as Francesca Granata, editor of Fashion Projects, among other fantastic presenters.   

Lucky for us (and you!) Fashion Projects and TED have posts up on their sites to sum up some of the great research and work presented.

Jen Ballie and Matilda Aspinall, two of TED’s PhD students, checked out the EFF Expo, and attended the ‘Innovation’ seminar. If you too missed out on these events, pop on over to TED and Fashion Projects to learn more.


Our friends over at Re-dress in Ireland have been BUSY!

In less than one month, Re-dress will present FASHION EVOLUTION, Ireland’s 3rd ethical fashion week:

“Fashion Evolution aims to re-vitalise the spirit of the Irish fashion industry, with a schedule of exciting events catering for consumers, producers, retailers and supporters of fashion alike.” (Re-dress)

Our mission is to provide the Irish fashion sector with the tools needed to make more sustainable fashion choices.” (Re-dress)

We don’t think they’ll have any trouble accomplishing this goal–just take a look at what they have planned!

When: Tuesday 4th April
Where: Online
Cost: Free

When: Wednesday 5th 6-8pm
Where: Sugar Club, Upper Leeson Street, Dublin
Cost: 15 Euros BOOK NOW!

When: Wednesday 5th 8.30-10pm
Where: Sugar Club, Upper Leeson Street, Dubin
Cost: 10 Euros BOOK NOW!

When: Thursday 6th 9am-2pm
Where: Fallon and Byrne
Cost: 40 Euros (students and unemployed 20 euros) BOOK NOW!!

When: Thursday 6th Time TBC
Where: TBC

When: Friday 7th 7pm
Where: Smock Alley Café

What: EJF Cotton T-shirt exhibit
When: Tuesday 4th-Saturday 8th 10am-5pm daily
Where: The Greenhouse
Cost: FREE

Location: Ireland
Link out: Click here
Start Date: 2010-05-04
End Date: 2010-05-08