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Responsible Fashion Roundup

The Social Alterations team is constantly coming across interesting content from a wide variety of sources. This is a curated selection of thought provoking reading we’ve done in the past month related to responsible fashion.


§ Let’s begin with designer interviews: one well-established and one up-and-coming. Katharine Hamnett talks with The Wild Magazine about her journey to fashion and sustainability, while The Genteel interviews Lucia Cuba on her controversial collection that reflects her passion for socio-political issues in her homeland, Peru.

Stop and Think

“Katharine Hamnett is most famous and recognized for her slogan t-shirts that became wildly popular in the 1980s, bearing slogans such as “Choose Life” and “58% Don’t Want Pershing” (missiles). The statement t-shirts became so widespread that they were copied by nearly everyone in the industry. Perhaps surprisingly, Hamnett welcomed the imitations (The Wild Magazine).”

Fashioning a Political Case

“Under the birth control policies implemented by President Alberto Fujimori’s government, hundreds of thousands of Peruvian men and women were forcibly sterilised over a four-year period in the late-1990s. Amanda Coen looks at how fashion designer and social activist, Lucia Cuba, is raising awareness of this highly contentious subject through her latest project, ARTICULO 6 (The Genteel).”


§ On the sweatshop front, Forever 21 faces an investigation which reminds us that worker issues exist in ‘developed’ countries as well. Meanwhile, although I personally don’t agree with the strategy, some universities have severed their contracts with Adidas.

Forever 21 Under Investigation For Using ‘Sweatshop-Like’ Factories In Los Angeles

“The leggings you just bought at Forever 21 may have more problems with them than an excess of sequins. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Forever 21 clothing is being produced in “sweatshop-like conditions” by workers in Los Angeles-area factories, the agency said in a press release on Thursday (The Huffington Post).”

Universities Dump Adidas Over Labor Disputes

“In its reckless quest to overtake Nike in the sportswear market, Adidas built a footloose global supply chain to force its factories into cut-throat competition (The Nation).”


§ The second season of Vice’s Fashion Week Internationale, a webseries investigating the under-reported fashion weeks in overlooked locales from Cambodia to Nigeria. Vice steps behind the catwalk to look at the realities that exist around fashion and the industry in these countries. PSFK interviewed Charlet Duboc, correspondent and co-producers of the series. I’ve also added a link to the latest episode which just happens to take place in South Korea, a country that’s close to my heart. I strongly encourage you to watch the other episodes, particularly the one about Cambodia. Fascinating! Especially in light of the events that have been taking place there related to garment workers and the living wage debate.

Why don’t we ever hear about Nigerian Fashion Week?

“PSFK talks to the co-producer of Fashion Week Internationale, a VICE series, about communicating the controversial and often unreported issues surrounding under the radar fashion weeks from around the world (PSFK).”

Seoul Fashion Week

Fashion Week Internationale lands in Seoul, the technology and entertainment capital of East Asia. Charlet tries and fails to understand why people there shop at 4 AM, gets a makeover on the subway, and meets Donald King, the loneliest punk in the world (Vice).”


§ The Asia Floor Wage Cambodia published a post on their facebook page that detailed the outcome of the 9th Asia-Europe People’s Forum (9AEPF). Charles Hector reported the following:

“What was interesting was the outcome of the workshop entitled “Combating Erosion of Worker and Trade Union Rights”, which was attended by about 80-100 participants, who did at the end of the 3 1/2 hour program on the 18th afternoon come up with recommendations, all of which were discussed and adopted unanimously….

The call was for the abolition of outsourcing [i.e. the contractor for labour system], and short-term employment contract.

Regular employment with security of tenure until retirement

2-party employment relationships between principals or owners of workplaces as employers, and workers that work in the said workplaces as employees of the said principals and owners.”
§ For a more detailed look into the outcomes of the Forum, read the final declaration published on the AEPF website. There are quite a few interesting recommendations that are long overdue. Whether they will in fact be implemented is another story. After all, our dominant economic paradigm is driven by economic growth (defined in monetary terms) and efficiency (usually related to externalizing costs). Will we be able to force a paradigm shift by redefining the norms and values that underpin our economy? This seems increasingly likely as we begin to face major conflicts (Spain, Greece, Montreal, the Occupy movement etc…) spurred by our current system and the dismantling of the welfare state in favor of austerity measures that are slowly becoming the new status quo. When I consider the fact that Italy’s democratically elected leaders were replaced by undemocratically appointed technocrats, I can’t help but wonder if this is where we’re headed? To whom are governments accountable? If the answer is no longer citizens (and evidence suggests this is the case), then do we even have a say anymore? …let’s get back to fashion.


§ And finally, Mary wanted me to add this article to the roundup: Mike Flanagan (Clothesource) questions the universality of workers’ rights in a recent “Flanarant” for Just Style.

Workers’ rights not a universal option

“Anyone believing that human rights abuses are endemic in offshore production should compare the levels of protection afforded to factory workers in the developing world supplying major Western brands with the experience of garment workers in the West. It’s not as clear-cut as it seems (JustStyle).”


Social Alterations to present at ECO Fashion Week Vancouver: Oct. 19



Will you be in Vancouver, Canada, on October 19th?

Mary will be speaking at ECO Fashion Week this season, alongside Tara Sawatsky (Canopy), Martin Hojsik (Greenpeace International), Carly Stojsic (WGSN), Myriam Laroche (Eco Fashion Week), Katharine Shipley (Our Social Fabric), Mark Sklazeski (SustainU), and Melissa Ferreira (Adhesif Clothing).



  • 2:00pm @ Robson Square


  • Textiles and Manufacturing
  • Labour and Manufacturing
  • Industry Trends
  • Consumer Behaviour and Awareness
  • Recycling and Upcycling

Click here for more information on the SMART TALK line-up.

The seminars are free, but you’ll need to register in advance to hold your place (limited seating).

If you’ll be there, please make sure to introduce yourself and say to Mary!

EFW Season 5 runs from Oct. 15 to 19th, click here to view the entire event details and schedule.

Responsible Fashion Roundup

The Social Alterations team is constantly coming across interesting content from a wide variety of sources. This is a curated selection of thought provoking reading we’ve done in the past month related to responsible fashion.


§ Bangladesh’s garment sector woes made the New York Times twice in the last two months (granted, the first article was not published in September but it is very relevant and I highly recommend it):

Export Powerhouse Feels Pangs of Labor Strife

“As Bangladesh garment workers have seen their meager earnings eroded by double-digit inflation, protests and violent clashes with the police have become increasingly common (NY Times).”

Fighting for Bangladesh Labor, and Ending Up in Pauper’s Grave

“The murder of a labor organizer bore a grim familiarity in a country with a brutal legacy of politically motivated killings (NY Times).”


§ It’s September and you know what that means in Uzbekistan. Once again, we see a mass mobilization of the Uzbek population to pick cotton. The Washington Times published an update on this year’s cotton harvest. We’ve covered this topic before on SA and we’ve also included Uzbekistan as the first station in our SAGE module where we also highlight the impact of the cotton industry on the Aral Sea. Vice places this into a wider context discussing the political implications of water scarcity in Central Asia.

Uzbek government breaks promise to end child labor in cotton fields

“Uzbekistan’s prime minister pledged last month to end child labor in the country’s cotton fields. But as the harvest season gets under way, human rights activists say children as young as 13 are being put to work under grueling conditions, despite extreme measures to recruit adult labor (The Washington Post).”

Is Central Asia on the Verge of a Water War?

“[A] new kind of conflict is rising in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan that could eventually lead to the first water war of the 21st century (Vice).”


§ In textile news, FastCompany writes about the startup Modern Meadow and the possibility of lab-grown leather which takes BioCouture to a whole new level. Is this the sustainable alternative to today’s vegan leather?

In Five Years, You May Be Wearing A Lab-Grown Leather Jacket

“Modern Meadow–a lab-grown meat startup–is getting closer and closer to growing leather in a test tube. But that’s just the beginning. Why grow regular leather when you can use your lab to make leather better? (FastCompany, Co.Exist)”


§ Speaking of vegan shoes, EcoSalon has decided to take a closer look at Melissa Shoes. Their conclusions closely resemble ours posted three years ago here & here.

Behind the Label: The sustainability claims behind Melissa Shoes

“Melissa shoes are widely assumed to be eco-friendly. However, they are made from PVC, which is widely known to be one of the most environmentally unfriendly plastics (EcoSalon).”

As Public Enemy said…


§ And of course, everyone likes money, money, money! TreeHugger does not disappoint in this post on industry stats, but along with the economics of fashion, TH provide a small glimpse into the social aspects so often ignored….all with links to learn more!

25 Shocking Fashion Industry Statistics

“So many clothes, so many staggering statistics (TreeHugger).”


Six Items Challenge // Week 1

Well, we’re officially 12 days into our 4 week #SixItemsChallenge for Labour Behind the Label. We’ve written up our thoughts and feelings so far with the challenge (trust us that it is a challenge), and hope you’ll pop over to their site to hear about them. Please also check out the stylings and stories of our fellow ‘Sixers’ – they are rocking this challenge and making it look easy!


Links you’ll need if you want to connect:



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