What it means to be a fashion activist in the age of the pandemic
The consideration of sustainability with fashion has traveled a long, rugged terrain to seek firmer ground in recent years – we now know to buy more consciously, examine our buying decisions, and terms like that “ organic cotton ” and “ carbon footprint ” are firmly anchored in our daily lexicon. However, the road to creating a fair trade industry does not end with realizing the environmental impact of fashion. It is also essential to widen the perimeter to take into account its economic and social resonance. And with the world caught in the throes of a historic crisis, the battle to demand systemic change is now borne by a new guard of activists, crusaders and change agents.
Fashion activism has of course existed in different forms throughout the pages of history, but how important is it in contemporary times? “Being a fashion activist means I’m an ally,” says Ayesha Barenblat, founder of the non-profit organization Remake, adding, “It means listening carefully to communities affected by the impact of fashion and amplifying the voices of women who make our clothes. ”The notion is supported by Sascha Camilli, activist and author of Vegan Style: Your Herbal Guide to Fashion + Beauty + Home + Travel. “It’s easy to dismiss fashion as frivolous, but the truth is, fashion is indicative of the times we live in, and since we all wear clothes, it’s an industry for everyone. It is therefore up to all of us – businesses, governments and individuals – to make a change in this broken mechanism, ”she explains.
The need for fashion activism during the pandemic
While activism is a crucial cornerstone of the industry in ordinary times, the onset of an unprecedented pandemic has made the role of the Independent Crusaders indispensable. “The pandemic and the resulting economic slowdown have shattered the inequalities created within the system,” observes Barenblat. This has resulted in a host of problems, she believes – the fallout from brands demanding discounts, late payments and production costs below the cost of production have resulted in lower wages, scarce benefits. departure and financial turmoil for the most vulnerable in the economic chain.
In response, she launched a viral campaign called #PayUp which detailed a seven-step plan to hold fashion brands accountable: insist brands honor their original payment contracts, ensure worker safety, invite transparency. in financial audits, increase worker representation, end famine. wages and offer greater involvement in passing worker-friendly laws. “The fruit of our relentless campaign since March 2020 has enabled twenty-one brands, including ASOS, Primark and more, to pledge to pay and release more than $ 22 billion in money owed to factories and workers across the world. garment in the world. And that was only possible because 270,000 citizens signed our original petition and millions more got involved in our campaign, ”she explains.
The challenges of fashion activism during the pandemic
But even as the need for activism in the face of economic and social injustices continues to grow, the absence of in-person protests during the pandemic has posed a unique set of challenges. Camilli recognizes that while social media can serve as a practical tool to amplify an protest, it also has a set of shortcomings. “Before the Internet, organizations had to write leaflets in the streets and rely on the mainstream media to amplify their voices. Today, a powerful message can be seen by people from multiple continents on the same day. However, it is also becoming more and more difficult to stand out from the noise. The digital landscape is so saturated that it can be difficult to make your voice heard, legitimized, believed and followed. Out of so many people yelling about different things, why should anyone listen to you? It has become more difficult to motivate people to make room for change, ”she says.
Barenblat agrees that sustained action in a world of content overload and distraction can be tricky. “Since we’re swimming in content, something can go viral one day and then go away the next. We need our community to stay focused because clothing manufacturers around the world still need our time and attention, regardless of the trending hashtags, ”she says. As a digital native, she is also aware of the burnout that can arise in the virtualverse. “The problems we are trying to solve are difficult. As we are constantly connected through social media, it can be difficult to let go and take a break. That’s why we always encourage our community to be kind to themselves. It’s a long fight and we don’t want to exhaust ourselves, ”adds the Californian activist.
The future of fashion activism
With online petitions and digital mechanisms changing the landscape, what will fashion activism look like in the post-pandemic era? Barenblat envisions a world where activism and advocacy are more inclusive and intersectional. Ethical fashion activist and writer Mikaela Loach agrees: “We need to link fashion as an issue to other issues – racial justice, anti-capitalism, workers’ rights and more. Forming a coalition with different organizations is what will make us stronger. “