Category Archives: Torture

Consumer Education

Curb Your Consumption’s Katie Hart, recently asked my opinion on the three most important things consumers need to know, and the difference it would make to the fashion industry if consumers were more educated and conscious about the clothes they buy.

Here are my answers:

What do you think are the 3 most important things consumers need to know?

Consumers need to know and understand their role in, and association with, the social and environmental problems that occur in the lifecycle of a product. In this way, consumers need to take on part of the responsibility for the social and environmental impacts associated with the products they purchase. I don’t see anyway around this. Furthermore, it is crucial that consumers take on this responsibility in terms of their impact in the user end stage of the lifecycle (in laundering habits, for example).  Having said that, it’s equally important for consumers to stay away from feelings of guilt over their purchasing and behavioural decisions, and instead move forward towards feelings of empowerment. How does a consumer gain control, however, when the “best” responsible product on the market only truly represents “the best of the worst”?

In the context of choice, consumers might feel forced to choose between people or planet: People: [social (ex. human rights), cultural (ex. artistic traditions and language), political (ex. corruption), economical (ex. micro-finance), etc.] and Planet: [environment (genetic modification, chemicals, petroleum dependant materials, carbon footprint, environmental impact, biodegradability, etc.), animals (cruelty free, vegan, etc.)]  Consumers are beginning to feel like they can’t have it all—that when they make one good decision, like supporting a cruelty free product, in the context of animal rights, they have endorsed the use of a completely toxic chemical, that hurts both people and planet (take PVC, for example). Consumers need to know the truth, and the truth is that they can have both— it is possible. People are a part of this planet. They cannot be separated, and should not be separated at any stage in any products phase of life. ‘Cradle to Cradle’ design theory embraces this relationship, with respect for “all the children, of all species, for all time” (McDonough and Braungart, 14).

Both consumers and designers need to understand that, when dealing with a corporation, profit will always come before people and planet, so long as the market designer allows. SA supports the theory that designers have to be good enough to create profit without compromising people or planet. Again, it is possible.

Both consumers and designers need to not only understand  the crucial role they play in determining the impact within the lifecycle of a product, but also understand that they don’t necessarily have access to the information needed to make properly informed decisions on the actual social and environmental consequences of that product.

Both consumers and designers need to know that they have a choice. The choice for the consumer is to consume less and demand better. The choice for the designer is to learn more and do better. In doing so, they will each have taken on part of the responsibility for the social and environmental impacts associated with these products and taken responsibility for the social and environmental impacts associated with the products they purchase in terms of their impact on the user end of the lifecycle.

What difference will it make to the fashion industry if consumers are more educated and conscious about the clothes they buy?

Consumers play a crucial role in transforming the fashion industry; without them on board and engaged in the process of transformation, responsible products will ultimately fail. The consumer is the user, after all. If they are not happy, they will look for something else—something better. When consumers become more educated and conscious about the clothes they buy, they become empowered and seek out products with more confidence. SA believes that designers have a responsibility to be more educated and conscious, a responsibility to design something else—something better. Once educated on the issues, consumers can help facilitate change through their purchasing power as the end user.

The customer is King. The customer is the one who sets the rules. The customer is the one who can have an impact on any company.” (Designer Peter Ingwersen, Noir)

To learn more about Noir and what Ingwersen calls “social ethics” click here, and watch the short Documentary for Illuminati II: From the Heart of Africa.

Image Credit: Noir Illuminati II via Inspire Me Please

Clearing the Hurdles

Clearing the Hurdles challenges sportswear companies Nike, adidas, Pentland, Puma, Lotto, New Balance, Asics and Mizuno on the working conditions within their supply chain, and offers a snapshot of the state of play for these companies, identifying four key “hurdles” facing workers within the sportswear industry, and recommending solutions for how to overcome them:

  1. Develop a positive climate for freedom of association and collective bargaining;
  2. Eliminate the use of precarious employment in sportswear supply chains;
  3. Lessen both the frequency and negative impacts of factory closures; and
  4. Take steps to improve worker incomes, with the goal of reaching a living wage for all workers.

You can view all company responses, here, as well as the Play Fair letter.

This image  is a mere screen shot of the (very interactive) Response Chart and Response Key. Click on the image to be taken to the Chart of Responses.

The Play Fair campaign is made up of  the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and the International Textile, Garment and Leather Worker’s Federation (ITGLWF), in partnership with Maquila Solidarity Network, and other organizations worldwide.

Ethical Fashion Symposium, Scotland

Title: Ethical Fashion Symposium, Scotland
Location: Scotland
Link out: Click here

Edinburgh College of Art, in collaboration with Fashioning an Ethical Industry and the Scottish Academy, are hosting a two day symposium for students and tutors on fashion related courses in Scotland on ethics in fashion.

Day 1
The fashion cycle: Interactive introduction to the symposium and to the social and environmental issues in the fashion industry
Liz Parker, Fashioning an Ethical Industry

Communicating sustainability
Helen Spoor from sustainability communications company Futerra.

Sustainable Design
Jessica Hemmings, Associate Director, Centre for Visual & Cultural Studies

Bringing responsiblity into fashion business
Speaker to be confirmed

Fashion Future: What can you do at university, as consumers and once in business?
Liz Parker, Fashioning an Ethical IndustrySpeakers include

Day 2 – putting ideas into practice
Students and tutors will work together in multi-disciplinary, multi-university teams on the brief: ‘Universities and colleges in Scotland are working together to promote ethics and sustainability in fashion. In teams, develop a product, idea or strategy for engaging students with fashion ethics and sustainability’.

Students will present their work in a format of their choice, for example, a poster, visualisation board, campaign idea, presentation or garment design.

The event will take place on Monday 18th January and Tuesday 19th January 2010 from 10.00am – 4.00 in Lecture Theatre E22 at Edinburgh College of Art.

18th and 19th January 2010: 10.00am – 4.00pm

For more information and to register please click here.
Start Date: 2010-01-18
End Date: 2010-01-19

Fast Forward: Fashioning an Ethical Industry International Conference

Fashioning an Ethical Industry Conference_Fast Forward

Title: Fast Forward: Fashioning an Ethical Industry International Conference
Location: London
Link out: Click here

“In a time when we are increasingly concerned with the impact of the fashion industry on people and the planet students need to be equipped to design the way we make and consume fashion differently.

This two day international conference will bring together educators, industry experts, academics and selected students to explore how fashion can be taught to inspire responsibility for the rights of workers making our clothes.” (FEI)

SPEAKERS confirmed include:
Otto Von Busch – Haute-Couture Heretic
Alex Mcintosh – Centre for Sustainable Fashion
Nieves Ruiz Ramos – Bibico
Sophie Koers – Fair Wear Foundation
Academics and students will present papers peer reviewed by a panel
chaired by Doug Miller Professor in Ethical
Fashion at Northumbria University

Local Wisdom by Kate Fletcher, Reader in Sustainable Fashion at London
College of Fashion

This event is by invitation only. Invites have now been sent out by
post. If you have received at invite please RSVP by 13th January. If you have not received an invitation but would like to join us at this event please register your interest online.
Start Date: 2010-03-02
End Date: 2010-03-03

Meet// Reyna Martinez: Stitched up in Honduras Speaker Tour

Over a two-year period, Russell managers carried out a campaign of retaliation and intimidation in order to stop workers at two of the company’s Honduran factories from exercising their right to organize and bargain collectively. (People & Planet)

Below is a message from Fashioning an Ethical Industry (FEI):

People and Planet and Labour behind the Label present Reyna Martinez – sharing her story of the mission to defend the human rights’ of factory workers supplying Fruit of the Loom in Honduras.

On November 7, 2008, a 36-page report documented serious violations of workers rights by the Russell Corporation, a company wholly owned by Fruit of the Loom. Over a two-year period, Russell managers carried out a campaign of retaliation and intimidation in order to stop workers at two of the company’s Honduran factories from exercising their right to form a trade union and bargain collectively.

The courage of workers in Honduras and a university boycott has forced Fruit of the Loom to listen to the pleas of their employees, and they are now negotiating with the union in Washington DC, which they previously refused to do.
Buy Right
Hear Reyna Martinez’s story:

24th November: Edinburgh University David Hume Tower, Conference Room
25th November: Birmingham University, Guild Council Chambers
26th November: Oxford University
27thNovember: Bristol Kino Cafe, Nice Tree Hill
30th November: London UCL University

For further information on the speaker tour please see the People and Planet website

Source: People and Planet, via FEI

Curb Your Consumption

MA Design Studies (MADS) student, Katie Hart has recently launched an initiative set to investigate the relationship between consumer behavior and over-consumption. Through the online lab, Curb Your Consumption, Hart shares her research and ideas, bringing together resources, news, events, and links on the subject.

Her final project explores patterns of consumption within the UK. Along the way, Hart hopes to “work with a diverse range of consumers to:

  • Educate and communicate the problems with over-consumption of fashion products in the UK
  • Understand what consumers need in order to actually change their behaviour (i.e. labelling, information pack, seminars etc)
  • Contribute to a grassroots movement of positive change in consumer behaviour” (Hart, About Me)

Here are some of the exciting things happening over on her site:

Hart has created a large visual artifact that illustrates “the problem with fashion overconsumption, and the global torment we are creating with this excessive spending” (Hart, About My Project). She will also be conducting a series of workshops. If you are interested in participating, be sure to contact her. Her book, titled Buy Now. Pay Later – today’s treasure is tomorrow’s trash, will soon be available on her site, and she is currently working on what she calls “bite-size learning materials” on the following topics:

  • Fibres and Fabrics – taking the microscope to our clothes
  • The hands that touch our fashion – a journey into the histories of our garments
  • Fast Fashion – the issues
  • Recycling/Reuse – what to do with your clothes when they are worn out

If you would like to learn more, be sure to follow Hart on her journey toward solutions for sustainable consumption and learn how you can ‘curb’ your consumption habits.

***Will you be in London the first week of December? Her work will be on display at the MA Design Studies Final Exhibition, Applied Imagination – Bringing Method to the Madness at T2 Truman Brewery – from 4th – 8th December 2009.

Here are some images of her work via the online lab:

The_global_problem with fashion2     So Far_So What     The_global_problem with fashion

For more images, visit Curb Your Consumption.

MADS is a graduate program offered through Central Saint Martins. For more information on the program, click here.

A New Approach to the Issue of Living Wages

Stitching a Decent Wage Across Borders[Worker sowing at home. India, 2009. © Ankur Ahuja/ Clean Clothes Campaign.]

One of the root causes of poverty wages in the industry is the power of global buyers to constantly relocate production in search of ever lower prices and better terms of trade. This power is used to exert a downward pressure on wages and conditions – labour being one of the few ‘production costs’ or ‘inputs’ that can be squeezed. 

The solution

The basic idea of the Asia Floor Wage is to put a ‘floor’ under this, thereby preventing this competition from forcing wages below poverty levels and making sure gains are more equitably shared along the supply chain. The Asia Floor Wage alliance have formulated a unified, regional demand for a minimum living wage which is decent and fair and which can be standardised and compared between countries. This regional collective bargaining strategy will unite workers and their allies from different Asian countries behind one wage demand. 


The goal is to attain this standardised minimum living wage for workers across Asia through negotiations between garment industry employers and workers’ representative organisations, and with the mediation and support of governments, inter-governmental organisations and social movements.

The report constructed by the Asia Floor Wage organisation is available here.

Source: Asian Floor Wage

Let`s Clean Up Fashion: 2009 Report

Let’s Clean up Fashion 2009: The State of Pay Behind the UK High Street reports a disconnect between the what’s happening in the boardrooms, the development of corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies and procedures, and what is actually happening on the ground.

“Wages are low because they are kept that way through a global competition that engages workers, factories and whole countries in a race to the bottom – A race where the winners are those that can produce as quickly, cheaply and flexibly as possible” (LCUF, 2009 Report: 2)

LCUF 2009


According to Fashioning an Ethical Industry (FEI), this year’s guide is not only relevant to high street retailers, but should also be of interest to both fashion design students and tutors, “with indepth company case studies that can be incorporated into university projects or teaching.” (FEI)

“The scandalous truth is that the majority of workers in the global fashion industry rarely earn more than two dollars a day, in an industry worth over 36 billion a year in the UK alone.” (LCUF, 2009 Report: 2)

In this year’s report, Let’s Clean Up Fashion (LCUF) has claimed that “[n]o brand or retailer is paying its workers a living wage, or has yet put together a systematic programme of work that is likely to raise wages to acceptable levels in the near future.” (LCUF, 2009 Report: 3) In 2008, LCUF argued there are “four pillars that underlie a meaningful living wage initiative: using a collaborative approach by working with other companies, trade unions and labour rights groups; supporting worker organising and participation; addressing commercial factors throughout the supply chain and creating a clear road map to implementing the living wage for all workers.” (LCUF, 2009 Report: 4)  

The 2009 report lists high street companies who have lost the plot when it comes to basic human rights in the workforce, and presents in depth case studies of each, citing where and why they have fallen short, with comments on what they need to improve. Here is the list of companies included in the report:

Alexon, BHS, Ethel Austin, House of Fraser, Peacock Group, Asda/George, Clarks, Debenhams, French Connection, John Lewis, Laura Ashley, Levi Strauss & Co, Matalan, River Island, Sainsbury’s, Arcadia Group, Aurora Fashions, Burberry, Tesco, Gap, Marks & Spencer (M&S), Monsoon Accessorize, New Look, Next, and Primark.

Click here to read the report online, and here to download the full report in PDF.

Labour Behind the Label has been reporting on these issues since 2006. Click here for previous reports.

Labour Behind the Label. (2006 – 9) Lets clean up fashion: The state of pay behind the UK high street, Bristol: Labour Behind the Label.


Source: FEI and LCUP

Social Alterations featured on Fashioning an Ethical Industry

As followers of SA likely already know, this online lab was developed as a result of my research, ‘Social Alteration: Sustainable Design Solutions through Socially Responsible Design Education’ at Athabasca University. A few months in, SA has grown to include the work contributing writer and collaborator Nadira Lamrad, as well as contributing writer Katrine Karlsen, and has already created the SA Fibre Analysis as our first piece of free downloadable curricula.

I’m excited to report that Fashioning an Ethical Industry has added this work to the student project/dissertation section of their site! Thank you for your support!

Click here to check it out, as well as to learn more about these inspiring student initiatives:


2222 magazine

Louise Boulter

University College for the Creative Arts (Epsom)

BA (hons) Fashion Promotion and Imaging



What is ethical wear?

Anita Costanzo

Universita IUAV di Venezia

Corso di laurea in Design della Moda



Danielle Fell

Nottingham Trent University

Fashion Marketing and Communications



Carolina GomezCan El Salvador develop and sustain homegrown design

Carolina Gomez

Chelsea College of Arts and Design

Textile Design

3rd Year




Nathalie Gottschalk

Ma Ethical Fashion Graduate


Consumer Guidebook NectarConsumer Guidebook Nectar 

Cathy Gray

University College of the Creative Arts 

Work done in 3rd Year – now graduated


ethical shopping bookFILM CLIP and ‘Ethical Shopping Guide’

Kelly Levell

Arts Institute at Bournemouth

BA Fashion Studies Degree


Polly PocockInstallation in response to exploitation of garment workers

Polly Pocock

North Devon School of Art

FdA Fine Art 

Anna Vening‘Designing Happiness’

Anna Vening

Chelsea College of Art and Design

BA Textile Design

BSR Conference 2009


Title: BSR Conference 2009
Location: San Francisco, CA
Link out: Click here

The 2009 BSR Conference kicks off tonight in San Francisco with a Human Rights Networking Reception starting at 5:30pm. Of the many interesting panel sessions, including “Integrating Sustainability into Sourcing, Design, and Production of Products” with Amy Leonard and Erik Joule from Levi Strauss & Co’s, Hannah Jones will be discussing Nike’s Considered Design Ethos during the panel “Integrating Sustainability into Corporate Innovation” at 4:30 on Oct. 22nd.

We’ve mentioned Nike’s Considered Design Ethos before (see Nike Talks Trash and Nike: Considered Design Ethos, Steve Nash and the “Sixty Million Dollar Man”).

Check out this article on Greenbiz to learn more about Nike’s Considered Design initiative.


“In a world that’s been ‘reset’ by a trio of global crises—the sharp worldwide recession, accelerating climate change, and a collapse of trust in business—the implication and opportunities for business are enormous.

“Now more than ever, innovative sustainability strategies are needed to deliver business value today, and position companies to successfully meet the greater challenges ahead. The BSR Conference is an essential opportunity to learn how to leverage your resources, implement changes, and succeed in a world where business as usual is no longer viable.

“Don’t miss your chance to be part of one of the largest and most influential communities of corporate responsibility leaders, at what ranks among the top 12 influential executive gatherings for 2009. A new, restructured format with more—and more varied—session time than ever before means that you will be able to customize your agenda with the topics, level, and length of sessions that are right for you. Any way you design it, the BSR Conference will deliver a practical and interactive learning experience, unrivaled access to industry experts, and the knowledge you need to lead in a ‘reset world.’” (BSR)

Start Date: 2009-10-20
End Date: 2009-10-23

Source: GreenBiz and BSR