No to Racism: The heart of quick fashion is racism-it 's time for reform

  • by Societal Store

No to Racism The heart of quick fashion is racism-it 's time for reform

LONDON, United Kingdom — Racism is a common problem in all cultures. However, The fashion industry makes massive profits from black and brown women's exploitation. The time to call it out is now.

The evidence to support this awakening is rife in the fashion industry. From the experience of black workers in some companies to the absence of black models in Instagram feeds and statistical data gathered from prominent fashion schools, racism in fashion runs to the very heart of the industry.

Black Lives Matter

The fashion industry looked inward at the deep-rooted biases ingrained within the system in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations triggered by the tragic death of George Floyd; biases it had been comfortably benefiting from for decades.

An unprecedented number of campaigns have made corporations responsible for their actions, taking advantage of the opportunity to call for anti-racist reforms. Societal promotes equity and diversity through clothing and decrees that "the fashion industry is one of the most powerful industries and must use its platform responsibly for the greater good of humanity.

The Fast Fashion Industry Is Racist

Of the 74 million textile workers worldwide, 80% are women of colour  according to Labour Behind the Label a campaign that works to improve conditions and empower workers in the global garment industry.

Bad for the Planet, Worse for People

Since its inception, the quick fashion industry has been based on the abuse of garment workers. Every year, the United Kingdom spends billions on clothes and yet some garment workers just take home £20 a week. 80 per cent of the 74 million garment workers worldwide are women of colour. Brands have developed a production model that keeps garment workers poor and working to increase their own income in dangerous conditions. Quick fashion 's buying activities include turning a blind eye to unlawful subcontracting and permitting forced and unpaid overtime. The degradation of the rights of garment workers by producers and the government has been facilitated by these activities. A legacy of colonialism is the economic exploitation on which quick fashion is based. European imperialism was a way to establish extractive states and dominate non-white countries from the 1500s until the middle of the 20th century.

Bequests continue to this day. Western buyers want cheaper and cheaper clothes and they want bigger profit margins for brands too. In the supply chains of fashion, knock-on injustices and exploitation are either embraced by customers or blurred by mindful marketing strategies that peddle female empowerment and more. 

Be a defender of human rights

Brands need to pay living wages to garment workers in order for there to be real improvement. In reality, it is that simple. This is particularly true if a billionaire is the individual who owns the brand.

However, fashion schools also have a vital role to play in uprooting institutional bias as gatekeepers to the sector, but critics argue they still have their own issues to address.

Systemic Racism within Art, Design and Fashion Institutions

Less obvious in the way parent universities of colleges such as Central Saint Martins and London College of Fashion, react to another defining occurrence in 2020: the surge of demonstrations by Black Lives Matter and mounting outrage over systemic racism. The cultural discourse has put an unflattering spotlight on higher education institutions of fashion, which have long faced scrutiny for constantly disappointing Black, minority, or socio-economically marginalised students.

An anonymous account with reports of racist encounters that seemed to come from unidentified students and workers at UAL emerged on Instagram in early June. There are over 100 posts in the account, which includes reports of white students using blackface and tutors using racial imagery in class. There are over 10,000 signatures on a student-led petition to counter institutional racism at UAL. A related petition from students at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology has gathered nearly 2,000 signatories. Similar complaints have been posed from Savannah to Antwerp at fashion institutions.

Beyond individual institutions, how schools approach these issues is significant. Fashion schools play an integral role in defining and educating the designers and business professionals of the future as the principal recruiting engines of the business. Their racial diversity shortcomings pave the way for the shortcomings of the sector. Yet building inclusive structures would help lay the groundwork for a fashion industry that is more inclusive.UAL's black students had the lowest continuation rate for four of the five academic years between 2012 and 2017. In 2019, Black students at FIT made up just 9% of the student body (the same number as UAL, according to recent estimates from 2018), and had a graduation rate of 84% compared to 91% for non-Black students. After graduation, too, the trend persists. 71 percent of white students advanced to jobs or further study within six months of graduation, compared to 69 percent of mixed-race students, 67 percent of black students and 65 percent of Asian students, according to UAL's most recent data from the 2016 to 2017 academic year. Black learners had the lowest rate of development for the four years before that. PC Williams, a associate lecturer at Central Saint Martins, said, "I think the time for our Black students struggles needs to come to an end as our records of accomplishment prove we are failing them; our records of growth prove we are failing them; their words show we are failing them."

The problem extends from the policies of schools and "it is fully rooted in our pedagogy," said Siobhan Clay, an academic working on the Academic Enhancement Model of UAL.

Meanwhile the Royal Academy of Fine Arts aims to train staff on inclusive arts education and look at the curriculum with a "decolonizing" lens, its Dean Johan Pas said. AMFI said it was "taking big steps, taking serious measures and reserving a budget to develop as an academy and institution." Polimoda did not outline clear action plans but claimed in a statement that "it has always implemented a zero-tolerance policy against any form of discrimination." In the longer term, reform would require reconsidering approaches to teaching.

It’s Time for Societal Change

Anti-racism isn’t just about changing how we interact socially, it also extends to the choices that we make as consumers and the brands that we choose to support. 

And what is fashion meant to do when the great unmasking roars on? "It's time to clean the house and get things right," says Karen Binns, the Design Roundtable 's fashion director. “The consumer will be asking for receipts, so get ready.”


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