WOMEN : POWER : FASHION - Chapter 1

Ways of Change has arrived in the Netherlands for the summer and we have been welcomed by some unexpected (low and then high) temperatures and a seemingly endless amount of ethical fashion advocates and events!

We sent our Communications Coordinator, Kasey, to the experiential installation, "Women Power Fashion", a sweatshop in the middle of the main shopping street in The Hague, Holland, hosted by Mama Cash and Clean Clothes Campaign. In three essays she gives us a taste of her takeaways.

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One: Initiate Consciousness

For an intervention in unconscious consumer habits, Mama Cash and Clean Clothes Campaign chose the right battleground. The shipping container turned "sweatshop" held its own on a bustling shopping street in The Hague. The front-facing wall was glass. Looking in you could see the small rows of sewing machines and ironing boards. Fabric littered the floor.

The volunteers, all women wore face-masks as they focused on their tasks. In the top right corner was a scoreboard keeping count of the completed items. In this case, the product was men's work ties decorated in the colors of the Women Power Fashion Campaign, bringing awareness and support to the organizing efforts of garment workers around the world.

I han't applied in advance for the shift, but when I noticed an empty work station I jumped in. Over the course of the next two hours the place operated less like a sweatshop and more like a community meeting. We shared our personal experiences, highs and lows of the fair fashion movement and thoughts on how to expand it.

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But first, who got us here? The consumers? Government? Multinationals? The impulse to shift blame kept arising. Focusing on who to blame only distracts from the system that dictates it all; capitalism. Fast fashion is made possible by capitalism, a man-made, money-powered system that by design puts profit over people and uses tools like advertising to "manufacture our consent."

One of the women, a college-age student, expresse the lack of power she feels as an individual in creating change. She continues to be lured to fast fashion despite feeling badly about it. Her disconnect speaks for many and is a testament to the grip of advertising. It's a form of sorcery embedded in our environment that has, over generations, convinced us that products provide the meaning to our lives.

We consent to-or reject-our own domination with our dollars, a vote that we cast continuously. Without consciousness, our votes cannot reflect our true selves. Cultivating consciousness is disruptive at first (giving up past shopping habits) but necessary in making choices easier (no longer feeling controlled by those habits). Consciousness is accessible at every level. It's simply about slowing down, pausing and recognizing every choice, or purchase, as an expression of our innermost values. It's about developing awareness around our habits, perspectives and ways of relating in order to break from learned destructive patterns and co-create the world we wish to live in.

Interested in exploring consciousness through activities and discussion in an uplifting and safe space? Join one of our upcoming Co-Creative Workshop events.   

Cara Boccieri