Fashion and Human Rights

 

Brightonians love fashion — bowler hats, tie die sarongs, patent stilettos — you name it, someone will be wearing it. But in amongst this mélange of hedonism do we ever stop to think where it all comes from?

You don’t have to delve far beneath the sparkling facade of this global industry to discover a more complex reality than the one displayed to us on our high-street shelves. Whether on the cotton farms of Uzbekistan where children are often forced out of school to work, or the Bangladeshi garment factories that so tragically hit our headlines last April, running through its seams are people whose livelihoods and lifestyles in countless different ways, somehow depend on what we wear.

Clothes are to be loved, admired and treasured — there’s nothing better than finding ‘that’ top that makes you feel a million dollars — but our changing attitudes and expectations of what we can ‘get for our money’ may be compromising the human rights of others. Intertwined with the new ‘fast fashion’ era that seems to have become the norm in the 21st century (£2 tops worn once then chucked) are questions to be answered about who is paying the price for our bargains. Putting these questions in a framework of human rights brings to light many different issues — labour rights, gender equality and the right to a childhood to name but a few.

I feel a bit like I am preaching to the converted — Brighton is already renowned for its charity shops, vintage stores and eco ethos — but as Amnesty’s exciting clothes swap and sale approaches I thought it would be fitting to remember how important and far-reaching our decisions about where we spend our money are and how fashion can be inextricably linked to human rights.

So remember before you chuck that skirt you’re bored of in to the recycling bin, just how costly it was to produce (I’m not just talking about money), and whether someone else might give it another few years of love before its time is up.

Please dig deep in to those wardrobes and donate generously to our clothes swap this month — 31st August 1-4pm at the Unitarian Church — or simply come along to find some real bargains that will support human rights rather than compromise them.

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