RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016

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157 Scholar activism and the Fashion Revolution: ‘who made my clothes?’ (1): connecting producers and consumers
Affiliation Economic Geography Research Group
Social and Cultural Geography Research Group
Convenor(s) Ian Cook (University of Exeter, UK)
Alex Hughes (Newcastle University, UK)
Louise Crewe (The University of Nottingham, UK)
Chair(s) Ian Cook (University of Exeter, UK)
Timetable Thursday 01 September 2016, Session 1 (09:00 - 10:40)
Session abstract The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex on April 24th 2013, which crushed to death over 1,000 people making clothes for Western brands, was a final straw, a call to arms, for significant change in the fashion industry. Since then, tens of thousands of people have taken to social media, to the streets, to their schools and halls of government to uncover the lives hidden in the clothes we wear. Businesses, consumers, governments, academics, NGOS and others working towards a safer, cleaner and more just future for the fashion industry have been galvanised. Originated by ethical fashion pioneers, and drawing in designers, academics, writers, business leaders, policymakers, NGOs, brands, retailers, marketers, producers, makers, workers, consumers and activists, the Fashion Revolution movement that catalysed this change has nexus thinking at its heart. After two years marking 24th April as Fashion Revolution Day, its #whomademyclothes? question for brands and retailers has had an extraordinary social media impact (64 million people used this hashtag on Twitter and Instagram in April 2015, and Fashion Revolution’s online content was seen 16.5 billion times). The Fashion Revolution movement has become truly global, with co-ordinators in over 80 countries. This popular support has given it considerable power in campaigning for change with governments, brands and retailers. Our aim for this session is to bring fashion academics within and beyond geography into critical dialogue with the Fashion Revolution movement, to share insights from their research and to inform the Fashion Revolution’s work over the next five years. In Fashion Revolution’s white paper (Ditty 2015, 25), five areas for further research and thought have been outlined, to which the papers will speak: 1.Consumer research & demand; 2. Policy and legislation; 3. Theorising fashion value; 4. Engaging farmers, producers, workers and makers; 5. Amplifying and supporting NGO work
Linked Sessions Scholar activism and the Fashion Revolution: ‘who made my clothes?’ (2): slow sustainable fashion in practice
Scholar activism and the Fashion Revolution: ‘who made my clothes?’ (3): engaging publics
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2016@rgs.org
New-Old Jeans or Old-New Jeans? Unpicking perverse, provocative and paradoxical temporalities in young people's clothing consumption
Rebecca Collins (University of Chester, UK)
Young consumers have long been identified as the instigators of revolutions in a host of apparel-based trends (Abrams 1959). Yet despite also being positioned as potentially potent drivers of more ethical and environmentally sustainable forms of consumption (Collins and Hitchings 2012; Ditty 2015), a lasting 'sustainable fashion' trend has failed to emerge from contemporary youth culture. A fundamental tension within the notion of 'sustainable fashion' concerns the rapid throughput of currently-desirable clothing, and the consumer complicity which allows the almost-new to become not-new-enough. As identified by the recent Fashion Revolution white paper (Ditty 2015; see also Mistra Future Fashion 2015), direct intervention by consumers into the material lives and value(s) of clothing is one of several approaches requiring widespread uptake if the meaning and nature of 'fashion' is to be recalibrated. This paper reports on an ongoing research project exploring the role of aesthetics – particularly aesthetics related to the multiple meanings of ageing – in young people's (un)willingness to manually intervene in the material lives of their clothes. Provoked by the recent UK trend for jeans with pre-ripped knees, this study interrogates how material manifestations of time elapsing shape young consumers' relationships with their clothes. Specifically, this enquiry examines the extent to which – and circumstances in which – young consumers view the visible history of their garments as positive, and the role played by personal interventions (e.g. acts of repair, customization, upcycling or repurposing) in transforming an un(der)loved and un(der)used item into one with heightened value. Drawing on practice-based workshop-interviews with twelve 18-22 year olds, this research seeks to contribute to emerging debates around sustainability, consumer agency and ownership in relation to the consumption of fashion, and, through this, to the calls of the Fashion Revolution.
Where were my clothes made? Tracing the spaces of transnational clothing production in Istanbul
Anke Hagemann (Technical University of Berlin, Germany)
At least since the collapse of Rana Plaza, it is clear that fair fashion production is not just a question of wages and workers' rights, but also one of architecture and the built environment. But where exactly are our clothes made? The "Made in ..." label usually informs consumers of clothes about the country of export, and efforts to increase transparency in global supply chains gradually shed light on working conditions in remote locations, but the numerous, concrete, tangible places that a product passes through in the course of its manufacture, remain largely invisible. Despite the fact that industrial production for the world market is driving urbanization processes in newly industrialized countries across the globe, the globalized production of consumer goods and its specific settings and circulation routes have not yet played a significant role in urban research. This contribution will investigate how clothing production shapes urban environments in and around Istanbul (and is, reversely, shaped by them), by tracing a transnational production chain – from sites of clothing retail in the center of Berlin to sites of wholesale, clothing production and home-based work in Istanbul's business districts, peripherel industrial areas, and working-class neighbourhoods. Analysing the urban setting and architectural profile of different stations within the production process, as well as the spatial scope of the actors' activities and networks, sheds light on the spatial logic of the hierarchical and exploitative production system: Unequal conditions and profit margins at different levels of the value chain are mirrored in the characteristics of the built spaces where particular types of work are conducted. Eventually, the "Fashion Revolution" may be not only a matter of fair and eco-friendly manufacturing, but also one of liveable urban environments.
Changing global production networks in the fur-fashion industry
Jana Kleibert (Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space, Germany)
The fashion industry, and fast-fashion in particular, have come under pressure for the abuse of human rights and environmental issues. Fur as an input into the clothing industry, in addition, touches upon questions of animal rights and bio-commodification. Animal activists have campaigned against the use of fur for a long time, but the debates about fur and fashion have remained rather disconnected. Today, real fur is undergoing a resurgent trend in the fashion industry. No longer limited to luxury consumption item, faux and real fur applications have also become integrated into fast-fashion circuits. The creation of new market segments, including fast-fashion applications, and shifting geographies of consumption in emerging economies are two important reasons for the revival of fur-fashion. Following the Fashion Revolution's call to increase transparency in global production networks of fashion, we map the segmented fur-fashion production and consumption geographies, distinguishing between four types: traditional and designer fur products, high-end luxury branded fashion, mass-produced apparel and fast-fashion, and vintage or re/upcycled items. This paper presents first findings from the research project "geographies of dissociation" involving empirical research in Hong Kong, Berlin, New York and Milan.
The Journey of Jeans
Andrew Brooks (King's College London, UK)
From the tragedy of the disastrous collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh to London Fashion Week; the social, cultural and economic impacts of the clothing trade are felt around the world. In this project we (Katelyn Toth-Fejel, Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion and Here Today, Here Tomorrow, and Andrew Brooks King's College London), trace the journey of a pair of jeans through the global economy, using an infographic which follows jeans from first conception, to end of life. Starting with the process of design in the U.S. and then following from cotton farming in Uzbekistan, denim weaving in eastern China, sewing in Bangladesh, to retail in London, the socio-economic life of a pair of jeans is mapped. But the story does not end here, and the infographic also traces what happens to second-hand jeans when they are donated to a charity recycler in the UK and track how they are exported, sold again, and re-worn in Mozambique. The illustrations and accompanying text follow our jeans across continents to show how poverty, the environment and consumption are linked, demonstrating the diverse impacts of fast fashion. In this talk the infographic will be presented and the opportunities and limits of this intervention are explored. This will include the impacts beyond the academy; the ability to direct consumer attention towards alternative socially and environmentally sustainable modes of clothing consumption; and the benefits of working with a cultural partner who works for the London College of Fashion and Here Today, Here Tomorrow; an independent ethical fashion retailer.
Discussant comments
Carry Somers (Fashion Revolution)
Discussant comments