Who is a Fashion Victim?

Dr. Alison Matthews David took us on a fabulous journey through the toxic history of dress, in both myth and reality, during her lecture Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present. If Dr. Moon revealed the truth of contemporary production of fast fashion in her presentation few weeks ago, Dr. David traced the issues of manufacturing back to the 18th century by claiming, “Clothing has been the cause of death, disease and madness throughout history, by accident and design.”[1] That struck me as particularly intriguing, because instead of being paralyzed by guilt and feeling hopeless, I felt a sort of relief from socioeconomic pressures. I was able to step out of the box and review heavy global topics from a new perspective, as Dr. David interconnected medical science, art history, material culture, curatorial practice and other disciplines in her research.

“Who is a fashion victim?” Dr. David asked, which made us think deeply. She has reshaped the way we think about the stereotype of the fashion victim. Anyone could be a victim in the fashion system, especially the workers mentioned in Dr. David’s case. I agree with her notion that there is a structural distance between producers and consumers in the global economy. As stated by Lise Skov, “Practically all the social relationships mediated through clothing or other consumer products belong to the consumers’ life world, and do not connect with seamstresses, truck drivers, crane operators, carpenters or washing machine manufacturers.”[2] It is necessary to point out that producers are often left out of the conversation in mainstream media, as people only pay attention to those with glamorous roles, such as designers, stylists, buyers, editors and brand ambassadors. I was shocked after reading Felt Hat Making: Its Processes and Hygiene and An Epidemic of Silicosis among Former Denim Sandblasters. I did not realize that this physical damage is irreversible and that we still create beauty ideals that harm other people. This is dangerous because when we become ignorant, we tend to take globalization for granted. A technological and scientific solution to the problem of a shortage of materials can actually cause environmental and ethical problem in the long term.

At the end of the post, I wanted to share an article written by Oliver Wainwright from The Guardian and a few images about a town in China that makes the world’s Christmas decorations. I hope to bring some awareness to the issues we have discussed since the first week, which do not only happen in the fashion industry; they actually exist in our everyday life.

Oliver Wainwright, “Santa’s real workshop: the town in China that makes the world’s Christmas decorations”, The Guardian, 2014.

Access at: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/architecture-design-blog/2014/dec/19/santas-real-workshop-the-town-in-china-that-makes-the-worlds-christmas-decorations

Santa’s workshop … 19-year-old Wei works in a factory in Yiwu, China, coating polystyrene snowflakes with red powder

Santa’s workshop … 19-year-old Wei works in a factory in Yiwu, China, coating polystyrene snowflakes with red powder. Photograph: Imaginechina/Rex

Christmas decorations being made at a factory in Yiwu city, Zhejiang province, China - 15 Dec 2014

Wei gets through at least 10 facemasks each day, trying not to breathe in the cloud of red dust. Photograph: Imaginechina/Rex

The two men produce 5,000 red snowflakes a day, and get paid around £300 a month

The two men produce 5,000 red snowflakes a day, and get paid around £300 a month. Photograph: China Daily/Reuters

Christmas plastic snowflakes are dried as red powder used as colouring hovers in the air

Production Line: Christmas plastic snowflakes are dried as red powder used as coloring hovers in the air

[1] Alison Matthews David, Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, forthcoming 2015)

[2] Lisa Skov, (2011), “Entering the Space of the Wardrobe”. In Creative Encounters Working Papers Series, No. 58

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