You Are What You Wear

Rich Mix Youth Takeover

‘You Are What You Wear’ was an event put together by Aishah Siddiqa, which looked at the growing costs and problems associated with human fashion and clothing. The event started with a detailed documentary, which explored a range of different topics within the fashion industry, and how it’s problems are affecting the workers associated. It was then followed by a panel discussion with people from a range of backgrounds.

The documentary gave an in-depth analysis of a range of topics, including information on sweatshops and sweatshop disasters that have not been accounted for fully. It also showed individual cases where women left their families to work in these sweatshops, which sometimes paid under $10 a month. It truly highlighted the inequalities faced by women in these 3rd world countries where labour can be very cheap. On the contrary, it also gave opinions of cotton farmers in Texas, who tried to continue to grow organic cotton as much as possible, as opposed to genetically modified cotton. Although the problems were very different from one another, they can both be categorized as unsafe working conditions. The main problem in America was the use of these fertilizers and crop products which help the crop grow. These fertilizers and crop products were slowly killing the farmers, with doctors seeing very similar symptoms in a lot of the farmers that were exposed to these crop products. On the other hand, the main problems in third world countries, such as Bangladesh and Cambodia, were that the workers (majority being women) were given unsafe working conditions alongside extremely low pay. However, their demands were not seen to, and so they still work in these unsafe conditions for very little money.

The documentary also highlighted the environmental impact of the decisions of clothing manufacturers and factories, focusing on ‘disposable clothing’, leather and cotton. Regarding ‘disposable clothing’, it is said that within the fashion industry, it now has 52 seasons a year, a season to represent each week. We now consume 400% more clothing than we did just two decades ago, with the average American generating 82 pounds of textile waste each year. Clothing used to be something that was held onto for long periods of time, however with clothing becoming so cheap, it is now becoming more disposable. Leather was focused on as it’s production is continuously linked to many environmental and human health hazards. It is very toxic, as the chemicals used to ‘tan’ the leather is harmful to the workers. The waste generated also makes the water supply for many communities polluted, leading to a spread of diseases. Cotton was focused on too as it represents almost half of the total fiber used to make clothes items today. It is mostly now genetically modified, however it is largely untested, therefore leading to concerns for both the land and human health.

The panel discussion was a very interesting discussion, composed of representatives from a variety of organizations. They were  Aishah Siddiqa, from Oxfam, Amit Rai, a lecturer at Queen Mary’s University, Muna Suleiman and Noreen Niazi, representing MADE, and Fiona Gooch, from Traidcraft ( A range of interesting questions were asked, with highly informative responses being given. This lasted for roughly 30 minutes, before the end of the event where networking and socialising took place.


Rohun Batra

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