A Mini Fashion Protest: Reading

Cast your minds way back to last Autumn, to a London Fashion Week held in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh and the Craftivist Collective and War On Want’s highly inspiring Mini Fashion Protest campaign.

Heavily pregnant and armed with my hand stitched mini protest banners, I headed to Reading’s bustling Oracle shopping centre, in the hope that my tiny embroidered words might make someone think twice about where the clothes they are buying might be coming from and who might be making them.

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This banner reads “Please show respect to the women who make your clothes. Let’s pay a living wage to all garment workers“.

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Exploitation: It’s not okay here, it’s not okay anywhere” This one was stitched not only in solidarity for those exploited abroad, but also in solidarity for many British retail workers who are paid minimum wage (not a ‘living’ wage) and have unfair working contracts.

One thing I have learnt about display mini protest banners is that it is hard to feel inconspicuous when putting them up there. My heart always pounds, my hands feel a little clammy. Add to the mix being eight and a half months pregnant (and unwisely wearing bright pink and red stripes) and these feelings double. Triple even.

But I really believed in this campaign and believe in conscious consumption, safe working conditions, fair wages, human rights and thinking about the environmental impacts of our consumer choices and we’ve not even touched on the emotive issues around child labour yet.

Maybe someone saw my stitched words by the Oracle riverside and briefly thought about some of those issues? Someone definitely saw them, as nearly five months later the cable ties holding my ‘exploitation’ banner to the bridge are still there.

Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops: A #minifashionprotest

Mini Protest banner at London Fashion Week AW 2012 Somerset House

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about ethical fashion, not only for myself, but also when I’ve been looking for clothes for the impending arrival of the Tiny Overlord. Many adult and children’s clothes seem to be made to meet fads and to be disposable.

Now I love my clothes, I see them as part of my self expression, but I don’t want my clothing choices to have a human cost. Millions of workers around the world suffer poverty wages and exploitation producing cheap ‘fast’ fashion for our shops.  In April, over 1000 garment workers were killed in Bangladesh when the Rana Plaza factory collapsed, they were making clothes for major brands such as Benetton, Primark, Mango and Matalan. And this wasn’t an isolated incident – check out this shocking infographic.  But these unsafe working conditions are not the only issue associated with our love of fashion, there are also low wages, human rights abuses, as well as awful environmental impacts and we’ve not even mentioned the issues around child labour.

I don’t think people should have to suffer like this to provide clothes for my family and I, so alongside making ethical shopping choices, I’m going to be joining the Craftivist Collective and War on Want for a fantastic and beautiful #minifashionprotest.

Mini Protest Banner in Paper Dress Vintage Boutique

Regular readers of this blog will have seen the Craftivist Collective’s mini protest banners in action before, they are a wonderful way to make people think in a non-threatening way. This time I’ll be joining many other craft loving activists in making these beautiful eye catching banners and putting them in a public place for people to discover and to encourage people to consider the uglier side of fashion without feeling preached at.

Craftivist Collective mini banner kit

If you would like to get involved, it couldn’t be simpler: All you need is stitch a thoughtful and provocative slogan on to a small fabric banner and photograph it in a public place. Send your photograph to the Craftivist Collective and it will be included in an exhibition at the Knitting and Stitching Show’s Upcycling Academy in London in the Autumn, in the run up to London Fashion Week.

Not sure where to start? Then the Craftivist Collective have mini banner kits (pictured above) available here, there is also a video about how to make a mini banner here, ask the Collective (who are very friendly, especially if you are a bit shy – trust me!) a question on their Facebook page or check out where you can join other crafters to make your banners together at a ‘stitch-in’ here. Photos of your mini banner need to be with the Craftivist Collective by 5th October to be included in the exhibition.

I’m looking forward to seeing what we can create.

All photos in this post are by the Craftivist Collective.

 

Making do: Thoughts on Conscious Consumption

A few things have been playing on my mind recently. The first came from reading Lucy Siegle’s incredible thought provoking book ‘To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?‘ and the realisation that I am very guilty of not knowing where many of my purchases come from. The second came after visiting a well-known High Street baby care shop and feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of ‘stuff’ that is thrust in the way of parents and parents-to-be. Along with the polite but clearly primed to ‘push stuff to the bumps’ sale assistants (no one had even ever spoken to me, when I had visited the same store pre-bump…), I left feeling intimidated and with a strong desire to protect the creature in the bump from what felt like an unnecessary level of consumerism.

How can I avoid this consumerism for the bump creature, when I am not currently in a position to be able to justify a lot of my own purchases to myself? As a result, I have recently been reading a lot about conscious consumption, about making do with less, about reining in the impulse spending and having more disposable income to spend on experiences, rather than ‘stuff’. About knowing where the ‘stuff’ comes from (being able to explain where stuff comes from) and making informed shopping decisions based on that. We are very lucky to be able to afford everything we ‘need’, I just wonder if we need so much ‘stuff’?

While browsing many money saving sites and blogs, I stumbled across the fantastic ‘My Make Do and Mend Year‘, the blog by the rather fantastic Jen who is undertaking the challenge not to buy anything new for a year. Anything she buys that is non-perishable  must be secondhand, pre-owned, vintage, retro, upcycled, re-conditioned etc etc. But NOT new. Now this appealed to me on two levels – it would meet my desire to be a responsible and conscious consumer, but it also fires sparks of creativity in my direction. Not buying things, but making things, fixing things, upcycling things, getting crafty and inventive while trying to be more ethical… Now you are talking my language!

So, while I set myself some ‘rules’, I’d like to introduce to you my ‘Making Do’ project where, in the spirit of Little Stitch, I hope to share with you my crafty endeavours while I strive to ‘make do and mend’ more and buy less. I think it will be interesting and I think it will also be fun, let’s see how we go…

A little celebration of craftivism: It’s only fair

This was a little craftivism project back when I worked for Lush, the blog post was originally published on 18th April 2012:

My last weekend working in a certain high street handmade cosmetics shop was during Fairtrade Fortnight. It was time to party and I organised an in-store tea party to promote fair trade practices and products.

We were encouraging people to step forward  and to change something they probably use everyday (like tea or lotion) to fair trade products. By us choosing fairly traded products through our consumer choice, we can help offer farmers and workers a better chance to work their way out of poverty, through fairer wages, safer conditions at work and investment in projects to improve life for their whole communities.

So we had fair trade tea, we had fair trade cakes and we even had people powered fair trade smoothies. But it’s a party, the shop needed decorating. I have been well and truly bitten by the craftivism bug and made this bunting to help decorate the shop and to also enforce the fair trade message.

This was the first time I have made bunting and it was surprisingly easy. To save time I cut the flag shapes from some vintage fabric (I think it was once bedding) with pinking shears to prevent fraying. The letters are made from felt off cuts (so they also didn’t need any additional hemming) and were simply handstitched on to the flag shape. The flags were then attached to some bias binding and machine sewn.

I think it was pretty but with an effective and strong message. Plus the eagle-eyed amongst you will also notice that it is grammatically correct…

I’m already embarking on another ‘craftivist’ project. It feels good to have found an outlet that meets my desire to be involved in craft and activism. Watch this space…

In celebration of the Craftivist Collective launching a crowdfunding scheme for their first book, I’ve been sharing some of my favourite personal craftivist projects on the blog this week. You can see more of my little celebration of Craftivism posts here.

 

It’s only fair

This was a little craftivism project back when I worked for Lush, the blog post was originally published on 18th April 2012:

My last weekend working in a certain high street handmade cosmetics shop was during Fairtrade Fortnight. It was time to party and I organised an in-store tea party to promote fair trade practices and products.

We were encouraging people to step forward  and to change something they probably use everyday (like tea or lotion) to fair trade products. By us choosing fairly traded products through our consumer choice, we can help offer farmers and workers a better chance to work their way out of poverty, through fairer wages, safer conditions at work and investment in projects to improve life for their whole communities.

So we had fair trade tea, we had fair trade cakes and we even had people powered fair trade smoothies. But it’s a party, the shop needed decorating. I have been well and truly bitten by the craftivism bug and made this bunting to help decorate the shop and to also enforce the fair trade message.

This was the first time I have made bunting and it was surprisingly easy. To save time I cut the flag shapes from some vintage fabric (I think it was once bedding) with pinking shears to prevent fraying. The letters are made from felt off cuts (so they also didn’t need any additional hemming) and were simply handstitched on to the flag shape. The flags were then attached to some bias binding and machine sewn.

I think it was pretty but with an effective and strong message. Plus the eagle-eyed amongst you will also notice that it is grammatically correct…

I’m already embarking on another ‘craftivist’ project. It feels good to have found an outlet that meets my desire to be involved in craft and activism. Watch this space…

In celebration of the Craftivist Collective launching a crowdfunding scheme for their first book, I’ve been sharing some of my favourite personal craftivist projects on the blog this week. You can see more of my little celebration of Craftivism posts here.

 

Desconocida Unknown Ukjent

My friends, the wonderful Craftivist Collective, have launched a crowdfunding project to get their first book published. Regular readers will know, that I am a huge fan of craftivism and the creativity and accessibility opportunities this kind of ‘slow activism’ provides. So here are a collection of some of my favourite craftivism projects I have been involved in since I first met Sarah and the Collective two years ago. Please have read and see what craftivism can do and maybe we can make this book happen? This was first published on my old blog on 10th February 2011…

Almost exactly six months ago I blogged about an art project I had taken part in called Desconocida Unknown Ukjent, which I had discovered through the fabulous Craftivist Collective. Pallant Gallery were also kind enough to send me two labels to embroider at home.

Embroided name labels

Desconocida Unknown Ukjent is an international art project by the Norwegian artist Lise Bjorne Linnert to raise awareness of the murder, trafficking and abuse of women in Ciudad Juarez, on the Mexican/ US border. Since 1993, between 500 to possibly over 1000 women are believed to have been murdered in the city or have disappeared.

labels

In this art project, each participant embroiders the name of one of the dead or missing women of Ciudad Juarez and also embroiders the word ‘unknown’ to remember all the unidentified victims of similar crimes worldwide, taking the time used to embroider the name or words to remember these people.

The Aussie and I were on the South Coast this week and were able to go to Chichester to visit the Pallant Gallery and see Lise’s complete work.

All the embroidered labels in the art gallery

When embroidering the individual labels it was difficult to even imagine how they would all look all together. The labels have been displayed to spell out the lyrics of the Mexican and the USA national anthems in Morse Code, which is why there are gaps between some of them.

It is difficult to describe the emotions of what it was like to see them all together. Embroidering the single label was very moving because you knew that person had faced hardships we don’t even have to consider in the UK. But when I saw the whole wall of the labels, remembering that every single one of them represents someone that is dead or missing and that the authorities have so far done nothing to investigate a single one.

labels

I find it very difficult to put in to words the combined feeling of utter sadness and anger at the injustice.

 Please have a look at Lise Bjorne Linnert’s blog to find out more about the project.

For an update on Ciudad Juarez, there was a report on this morning’s Radio 4 Today Show (at 08.31)

Desconocida Unknown Ukjent

My friends, the wonderful Craftivist Collective, have launched a crowdfunding project to get their first book published. Regular readers will know, that I am a huge fan of craftivism and the creativity and accessibility opportunities this kind of ‘slow activism’ provides. So here are a collection of some of my favourite craftivism projects I have been involved in since I first met Sarah and the Collective two years ago. Please have read and see what craftivism can do and maybe we can make this book happen? This was first published on my old blog on 10th February 2011…

Almost exactly six months ago I blogged about an art project I had taken part in called Desconocida Unknown Ukjent, which I had discovered through the fabulous Craftivist Collective. Pallant Gallery were also kind enough to send me two labels to embroider at home.

Embroided name labels

Desconocida Unknown Ukjent is an international art project by the Norwegian artist Lise Bjorne Linnert to raise awareness of the murder, trafficking and abuse of women in Ciudad Juarez, on the Mexican/ US border. Since 1993, between 500 to possibly over 1000 women are believed to have been murdered in the city or have disappeared.

labels

In this art project, each participant embroiders the name of one of the dead or missing women of Ciudad Juarez and also embroiders the word ‘unknown’ to remember all the unidentified victims of similar crimes worldwide, taking the time used to embroider the name or words to remember these people.

The Aussie and I were on the South Coast this week and were able to go to Chichester to visit the Pallant Gallery and see Lise’s complete work.

All the embroidered labels in the art gallery

When embroidering the individual labels it was difficult to even imagine how they would all look all together. The labels have been displayed to spell out the lyrics of the Mexican and the USA national anthems in Morse Code, which is why there are gaps between some of them.

It is difficult to describe the emotions of what it was like to see them all together. Embroidering the single label was very moving because you knew that person had faced hardships we don’t even have to consider in the UK. But when I saw the whole wall of the labels, remembering that every single one of them represents someone that is dead or missing and that the authorities have so far done nothing to investigate a single one.

labels

I find it very difficult to put in to words the combined feeling of utter sadness and anger at the injustice.

 Please have a look at Lise Bjorne Linnert’s blog to find out more about the project.

For an update on Ciudad Juarez, there was a report on this morning’s Radio 4 Today Show (at 08.31)