David Berman asks his reader to understand the ways in which design can impact society, arguing that it has the potential to change the world. Berman successfully establishes and outlines the need for change, and inspires his readers, both designer and design aficionado, to open their minds to the possibilities of a new design industry. What might such an industry look like? For starters, it would hold itself accountable.
With supporting Forwards from Erik Spiekermann (of Spiekermann Partners and Honorary Professor, University of the Arts in Bremen), Min Wang (Dean of Central Academy of Fine Arts School of Design in China and design director of the Beijing Olympics) and Richard Grefé (Executive Director of AIGA), there is no question that Berman’s work is not to be taken lightly.
It is not a book about outlining his own accomplishments as a designer, or his own designs. Rather, it stays focused on qualifying the ways in which design has failed democracy, the environment, the feminist movement, and in fact design itself.
All hope is not lost, as Berman maintains an extremely positive attitude in outlining the ways that design can be used toward creating positive and lasting change. The message is simple: designers have a social responsibility.
I absolutely loved this book, and can’t wait to use it as a guide in my own research.
I wrote earlier on the upcoming Fashioning an Ethical Industry Conference: Putting ethics into practice. It is an event that I am really looking forward to, as this year’s theme is well aligned with my research question (thesis due March 31st, Yikes!). There are lots of events going on at this time through both FEI and the Ethical Fashion Forum (EFF). Please check out these other three events:
Fashion plus workshops and masterclasses
The Ethical Fashion Forum is running a seminar series called “Spotlight on Sourcing”, as part of their Fashion+ project, focused on how fashion can change lives. The series includes:
Ongoing from 20th January 2009
1. Evening seminars on the 3rd Tuesday of every month (excluding fashion weeks) featuring presentations by leading practitioners and experts, updates from suppliers, and structured networking.
2. Masterclasses for smaller groups, going into more depth on each of the issues raised by seminars. Run by experts and practitioners. Masterclasses allow you to focus and work through sourcing challenges faced by your business.
This event information was taken directly from the FEI Events page, here.
9th March 2009
Open FEI workshops and staff training in Scotland
Staff Training 10.30am – 1.00pm and Student Workshop 2.00 – 4.00pm at Edinburgh College of Art.
Staff Training: This session is a unique opportunity for tutors and support staff at higher or further education instiutions to explore poor working conditions in the garment industry and learn how to integrate ethical issues into course curricula and student’s projects. This session will include presentations from Bangladeshi speakers about their work improving conditions for garment workers in Bangladesh and Liz Parker, FEI project coordinator and a co-editor of ‘Sustainable Fashion: A Handbook for Educators’, discussing different approaches to teaching ethical issues for a wide range of disciplines from design to fashion business and marketing.
Student Workshop: This session will give students the opportunity to hear about working conditions in the garment industry and explore how the lives of workers could be positively transformed by changing the way the fashion industry currently operates.
This event information was taken directly from this FEI Events page, here.
3rd April 2009
Ethical and Eco Fashion Show
Come and see some of the best in ‘eco’ and ‘ethical’ design including Howies, Enamore, Myella, SI:SU and Gringo at the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea on the 3rd April 2009 from 6 to 9.30pm. Tickets cost £4.50 for adults and £3.00 for concessions and can be purchased from Swansea Environmental Centre, Pier Street, Swansea, SA1 1RY or call 01792480200. All proceeds from this event will go to Fashioning an Ethical Industry and Swansea Environmental Centre.
Register for FIBERcast, taking place on Monday, Feb. 23, 2009 @ 1:30 pm Eastern. Registration is free, but if you miss it live it will be available for download afterwards:
“For our first FIBERcast, join Dr. Hye-Shin Kim of the University of Delaware in examining social responsibility’s role in transforming production and sourcing practices in the global apparel trade. Her guests include Marsha Dickson, University of Delaware professor and chairperson of the Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies, board member of the Fair Labor Association, and co-author of the new book Social Resonsibility in the Global Apparel Industry, and Doug Cahn, of the Cahn Group, LLC, who has been a corporate responsibility and public policy executive for the past 30 years, including vice president of human rights programs at Reebok International. Learn why social responsibility is still needed in the apparel industry and how industry practitioners can align social responsibility initiatives with core business, bottom-line goals.”
I will be attending and will post notes on this site.
The issue of transparency is an important one. So, here’s a little blogging transparency … I write this ethical fashion blog on my ‘Made in China’ Espresso Brown Dell Inspiron 1525.
The National Labour Committee released a report today titled “High Tech Misery in China: The Dehumanization of Young Workers Producing Our Computer Keyboards” Sure enough, Dell is one of the companies manufacturing products in the Meitai Plastics & Electronics factory highlighted in the report in Dongguan City, Guangdong China.
According to the report, the base salary at the factory is 64 cents/hour. Minus room and board, workers take home 41cents/hour. Tax all in, my ‘made to order’ laptop set me back $620.48.
Other companies producing in the factory include Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Microsoft and IBM.
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) released a ‘Hunger Alert’ update today regarding the state of poverty and TB amongst handloom weavers in Varanasi, India. According to the report, the weavers are suffering from lack of medical attention, government neglect and extreme poverty and hunger. You can read the entire alert, as well as view a letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health and World Health Organisation calling for their intervention here.
What does this have to do with sustainable fashion design?
To say that the textile sector in India is vast would be an understatement. A decline in India’s handloom weaving industry has left these weavers without work to provide for their family, and created a situation where they are too ill to change their circumstance. Human Rights violations against the handloom weavers in Varanasi cannot be ignored. Sustainable solutions must include all aspects of the industry.
On a related note, the Centre for Sustainable Fashion released information this week regarding the Shared Talent: India competition. This competition will showcase sustainable textiles in India. For more information on the competition, see here.
This is a one day conference that will bring together experts in ethical fashion, as well as students and tutors, to discuss the current state of the ethical fashion industry, and ways to put ethics into practice. There is no question this will be an excellent conference.
You can read more about this year’s conference and speakers here.
To read a report on last year’s event click here, or to listen to a podcast, click here.
A recent campaign from UNITE HERE Canada claims that the right to freedom of association is at stake for employees at ZARA, in Montréal, Quebec. According to a recent press release, “ZARA has engaged in conduct which may have violated the Québec Labour Code. This has included demoting two employees who led a union drive at ZARA’s downtown Montreal store, firing four employees who supported the union at ZARA’s Rockland Mall store, and holding anti-union meetings at three Montreal stores, in one case telling employees that joining a union is ‘treason’ against the company.”
Many textile and apparel companies boast a commitment to operating within the legal frameworks of the countries in which they manufacture. It would seem only reasonable to expect as much (Congratulations! You didn’t break the law!). Considering the standard of human rights within such countries, should this fact be celebrated?
December 10th marked the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In this video, Basil Fernando, CEO of the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), highlights the issue of “non-rule of law”. According to Fernando, the last 60 years of Human Rights has only worked to establish the conversation of rights. He hopes the next 60 years will see the realization and achievement of Human Rights. On this 60th anniversary, I hope that consumers will consider the standard of the law within the countries their garments are produced, and support companies that promote international labour standards rather than those that hide behind frameworks of corrupt legal systems.
The AHRC has released their annual report on the state of human rights in 11 countries (Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka and Thailand). You can download country reports here
The AHRC also works to document the countless human rights violations taking place in Asia. To receive notification of the AHRC Urgent Requests, just subscribe to their mailing list. Once you receive an urgent request, it only takes a few seconds to follow the link and send the letter of complaint they have already written for you to the appropriate individuals. You can subscribe here.