Last night I helped organise a Scottish Ecological Design Association (SEDA) event about the harmful effects of the fast fashion industry. Held in the David Hume Tower, George Square, Edinburgh, the event was well-attended by both students and people involved in retail and textiles industries.
The 3 hour session was loosely based around the ground-breaking documentary ‘The True Cost‘. Released in 2015 and made by the director Andrew Morgan, the film exposes the devastating environmental impact and human cost of the fast fashion industry, while also looking at the larger issues of consumerism, mass media and globalised capitalism. A couple of pretty gruelling excerpts were shown from the film, and these contrasted nicely with the shorter and charming documentary ‘Unravel‘, also made in 2015, by Meghna Gupta. The latter film focuses on the mainly female workers in a factory in the historic city of Panipat, North India, who recycle westerners’ cast offs.
The evening kicked of with a talk by Vivienne Low, a sustainable fashion designer who is the Scottish co-ordinator of Fashion Revolution, a global movement set up in the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster of April 2013 (in which 1,134 people were killed when a garment factory collapsed near the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka). Fashion Revolution is a not-for-profit global movement with teams in over 100 countries around the world. Fashion Revolution campaigns for systemic reform of the fashion industry with a focus on the need for greater transparency in the fashion supply chain, aiming to “radically change the way our clothes are sourced, produced and consumed”.
The second talk was by Martha Myers, founder of SHRUB, a zero-waste co-operative based in Edinburgh that is “working for a world without waste”. It has a clothes’ swap shop, a food share and runs sewing and bicycle workshops.
Despite some harrowing images, including of underpaid workers protesting for fairer wages being shot at by police, in the films shown, the mood of the evening was generally upbeat. Regulations around textile workers’ rights are being tightened by the European Union and United Nations. India has also passed new laws in this area. Some Asian countries have yet to follow, though. We were also told about several grassroots initiatives in Scotland that are leading the way in changing peoples’ attitudes and designing more environmentally-friendly products – from SHRUB’s own community initiatives to the world’s first hemp-framed glasses made by Hemp Eyewear in Edinburgh.