PERSPECTIVES

Livia Firth Highlights the Urgent Need for a Living Wage in the Garment Industry Through This Documentary

Livia Firth Highlights the Urgent Need for a Living Wage in the Garment Industry Through This Documentary

Ahead of eighth anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh (April 24), Livia Firth launched a new Fashionscapes documentary about the urgent need for a living wage in the garment industry.
Photo: Reza Shahriar Rahman/Polaris
For me, activism has always been about being a challenger. When we start challenging the status quo, or even a simple action like getting dressed, and start asking questions… change really happens.
Something like this happened a few years ago, after I returned from a trip to Bangladesh. I went there to see what had changed in the two years after the devastating Rana Plaza garment factory collapse on 24 April, 2013, which killed more than 1 100 people. The majority of the victims were women, killed while they were sewing clothes for us. Let that sink in, please. At the time, I could not stop thinking about something Nazma Atkar, a garment worker I met in Dhaka, had said: “Livia, nothing will ever change unless there is a transnational agreement on wages. Until then, brands will always hop from one country to the other in pursuit of the cheapest possible production line.”
Business and Human Rights Researcher Thulsi Narayanasamy in Fashionscapes: Living Wage
Would something like this even be possible, I wondered? At the next meeting of The Circle – the NGO I co-founded with Annie Lennox and many other amazing women, to work together to achieve equality for women and girls in a fairer world – I challenged some of our lawyer members with this question. Little did I know that that query would spark a revolution.
Six years and three reports by the lawyers later, and The Circle has just submitted a proposal of legislation to the EU parliament for a living wage. To make you understand why this is beyond exciting and a real game changer, let me put things in perspective.
Children working in factories
The readymade garment industry stands as the poster child for exploitation. In an increasingly globalized world, companies source goods from factories where people work in conditions and for wages that would be illegal, and likely criminal, in the main marketplaces for those goods. So when a group of internationally renowned women working in senior positions began conversations with legal colleagues in garment hotspots including Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Cambodia, garment workers began talking to them after their shifts. Sometimes these encounters took the form of hurried conversations outside factory gates. Through this network, a flow of evidence began to travel, carried by women from the factory gates of “secret” factories to a network of women legal professionals across the world. Together, this network was able to prove that fast-fashion wages are in contravention of human rights. This is the biggest challenge to slavery in fashion that we have ever seen – and it doesn’t stop there.
Women working in factories
With filmmaker Andrew Morgan, we decided to tell this story through a new episode of our Fashionscapes documentary series. Fashionscapes: Living Wage illustrates how The Circle’s mission of truly fair living wages will reshape an entire industry and work to create a more equitable, just, and humane world economy.
The battle for a living wage in fashion is a story that’s time is now. It reflects a growing understanding of ways to dismantle the dangerous status quo through nuanced activism. This story contains many pointers as to how to use radical, collaborative activism to speak truth to power and how to position and articulate a solution to a long-standing injustice. It tells the story of unexpected collaboration by people across transnational boundaries combining their expertise – whether that be legal or lived experience working day to day in this system – and using the tools of activism to bring decisive change. It helps shake the foundations of “head in the sand” passivity from “consumers.” It reinforces the agency of the active citizen.
Human Rights Lawyer Jessica Simor from The Circle
As Bill McKibben, American environmentalist and co-founder of climate campaign group 350.org, says, “When we fight, we win a surprising amount of the time. So we should probably fight more often.”
Fashionscapes: Living Wage is available to watch at Fashionscapes.tv
Watch Livia Firth and Manuel Arnaut discuss all this and much more by tuning into Vogue Arabia’s Future of Sustainable Fashion digital event on June 28 at 4pm UAE time/3pm KSA time. Click here to register.Read Next: Livia Firth on Why Need to Stay Vigilant About Fashion’s Impact on the Planet

15 of the Best Modest Looks from the Fall 2021 Season to Covet

15 of the Best Modest Looks from the Fall 2021 Season to Covet

How uplifting to witness the new Fall 2021 collections starting to filter through – they feel like a temporary jolt out of a pandemic-induced haze. And designers really have gone ‘all-out’ this season, presenting beautifully ethereal films (Dior) and cinematic shorts (Miu Miu) from the dreamy halls of the Palace of Versailles to far-flung snow-capped mountains. Lockdown has obviously inspired the desire for wanderlust and fantasy, and the fashion? Well, it’s all the better for it.
An undercurrent of protection and utility – familiar narratives for Winter offerings – is, understandably, evident once again in oversized quilted coats (Chloe), padded ski jackets (Miu Miu) and cropped shearling-trimmed bombers (Givenchy). At Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri tucked 50s headscarves into turtleneck sweaters, topped with elegantly-cut, ankle-grazing coats – investment pieces that feel right, for now.
Going back to the aforementioned ‘jolt,’ take in Jonathan Anderson’s bold and offbeat collection for Loewe to feel the fizz of new ideas blossoming. Zig-zag prints, cocoon shapes, colorful accessories – this is outright fun and frivolous fashion that requires no justification… coming to an extravagantly staged Tim walker editorial soon. This is artwork for the body: a blue two-piece trimmed with giant tassels, draped silk tops with huge buckle-like embellishment, wide striped culottes, and fluffy psychedelic mohair sweaters – pieces that simply radiate joy.
For those going back to the office, there are plenty of suggestions for an elevated everyday wardrobe from Elie Saab, Hermes and Fendi, whose flowing silk skirts and belted tonal blouses with extra-wide cuffs combine comfort, modesty and chic wearability. Jil Sander, too, has plenty to inspire a wardrobe refresh with long leather gloves and point-toe knee boots paired with geometric dresses, topped with a neck scarf in the same print – effortless layering done really, really well.
Read Next: 5 Key Fall 2021 Fashion Trends to Know Now

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