Recently, this has meant exploring “fast fashion”. Students got a chance to inspect my own “high fashion” wardrobe … or at least a few of my favourite shirts and T-shirts. They looked at clothing labels and used the internet to research where the various pieces were designed, manufactured… and sold. They found that brands they recognised – like Zara, Espirit and H&M – were usually based in developed countries, like Spain or the US, yet the majority of the labels we checked out showed my shirts and T-shirts were made in less developed ones, like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Turkey, and all my items been bought in China or the UK. We then moved on to looking at something they agreed every single household had – a pair of jeans.
We explored all the different elements – from brass buttons and zips, to stitching and pockets – and mapped where the Head Office was, where the raw materials were collected, where the parts were manufactured and assembled, and where the jeans ended up on sale. What we quickly realised is that our jeans were almost as well travelled as we were.
Students were quick to realise this is not always a good thing and that whilst we all want affordable clothing, the pollution caused by all that shipping isn’t a positive. Our next steps will be to look at alternatives and how we can take action ourselves and collectively.