London fashion week for many is four days of glitz, glamour and elation as reams of clothes spill out of designer’s sketchbooks onto the runway. For four days, articles pop up on our favourite fashion magazines dissecting everything from the length of hems to the latest prints on sheepskin jackets…
And, like many others, I count myself as one of those people who just can’t resist the intrigue of an industry that is built around its aesthetic value.
Which is how I found myself arriving, last week, at London fashion weekend, gleefully armed with a free tote bag and goodies. Lured in by the stacks of striking dresses at reduced prices in dozens of pretty rooms, it was hard to see how something as nice on the eye as a beautifully cut, sequinned, cotton t-shirt could do any harm.
But we know it does.
Behind the scenes of London #FashionWeek, and the Weekend showcase, is a complex supply chain. The cotton t-shirt that I stood admiring, and wondering if my bank balance would ever stretch to accommodate, was as likely as any other to have passed through many hands, through various mills and factories, to the fashion house that would carefully place it upon its shiny rails.
And of the many hands that could have been responsible for its making, could have been a young woman or girl with a story like Ms A.J. Ms A.J was taken to a mill by a human trafficker, and was employed in the cleaning section of a spinning mill. She had been told by the mill’s management that she would receive 3000 rupees after completing three years of work.
Ms A.J was not provided with a monthly salary – just food and accommodation. While on the scheme, she was beaten by other workers, and could not tell her parents what was happening to her. She had no money and could not escape from the mill. Social Action and Voluntary Awareness (SAVE) heard Ms AJ’s story and met her – they told her story to a court, who heard her complaints, and demanded she be freed.
Ms A.J was part of the hidden side of the supply chain, the part that is often given less attention.
Inspired by her story, and buoyed to take action to draw attention to the too often unnoticed section of the cotton supply chain, I approached a high-street fashion retailer the next day to deliver my postcard for the Make Fashion Traffik-Free campaign. It became clear, throughout my conversation with a sales assistant, that we all want our clothes, wherever we buy them, to be traffik-free.
Next time I visit London fashion week, I want to be able to gaze, guilt-free, at t-shirts that were made by people paid more than 98p per day. I want the hands my cotton passes through to be ones that see all the benefits of fair labour practices.
Behind the scenes of London #FashionWeek are 200,000 young women and girls trafficked into spinning mills in Tamil Nadu, India. Together, let’s make that change. Join me, and take action, by delivering a post-card to your favourite high-street shop.