Category Archives: Featured

Clean Clothes Campaign: A Fight For Ethical Clothing

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For many, the recent arrival of megabrands Topshop and Zara in Perth were long overdue. It isn’t difficult to see why international chain stores of this nature are insanely popular. In addition to the celebrity endorsements and the frequency with which each on-trend collection is released, the main appeal lies in the affordability. While shopping at these stores seems to be a win-win situation for the buyer (cool clothes for cheap prices!), the ugly truth is that with each purchase, we are endorsing and continuing the exploitation of overseas workers. The majority of these clothes are manufactured in Asia, where unsafe working conditions, insufficient wages and derelict living conditions are all issues faced by more than 15 million garment workers.

The current working environment of many garment factories is downright dangerous. It was only in April of last year that Rana Plaza, a Bangladesh building that contained five garment factories, collapsed. Rana Plaza manufactured clothing for global brands such as Benetton, Mango, Primark and Walmart. The collapse killed 1,138 workers and injured another 2000. Cramped, unsafe factories aren’t the only issue – workers are often faced with gruelling workdays and are forced to work ten to twelve hours, increasing to even eighteen as deadlines approach. This often involves working in close contact with harmful chemicals and machines. For example, sandblasting – a process that gives denim a ‘worn out’ look – can result in the lung disease silicosis. Furthermore, employees are often not even allowed to use the toilet or have access to clean drinking water.

Many employees depend on overtime pay to help their meagre wages, but in many factories, overtime pay is withheld by managers who set unrealistic daily targets. Add to this the fact that most workers are already paid less than the minimum wage, and it is not surprising to learn that their living conditions are as woeful as their working ones. For example, in Cambodia, more than 500,000 people are employed by the garment industry, and yet the minimum wage is just US$100. Thus, for many of these workers, food and adequate shelter are luxuries. When Steffi Eckelmann, a German photographer, interviewed a group of Cambodian garment workers, she learned that it was common for three to six women to share one room that was less than eight square metres. There was no ventilation or furniture; the women slept on the floor on plastic sheets.

This where the Clean Clothes Campaign steps in. The revolutionary campaign cites its mission as “improving working conditions and supporting the empowerment of workers in the global garment and sportswear industries”, and since its founding in 1989, its network has been expanding worldwide. Currently, the Clean Clothes Campaign consists of trade unions and NGOs distributed across 17 European countries: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

The Clean Clothes Campaign is founded upon a number of beliefs. Their first principle states that:

All workers – regardless of sex, age, country of origin, legal status, employment status or location, or any other basis – have a right to good and safe working conditions, where they can exercise their fundamental rights to associate freely and bargain collectively, and earn a living wage, which allows them to live in dignity.

Other founding principles include the right for workers to know of their rights and their entitlement to education and training; the right for the public to know how and where their garments are produced; the right for workers to lead their own organising and empowerment; and the need for garment companies and retailers to adopt a standard of labour practice as outlined by the Clean Clothes Campaign. The comprehensive list of the campaign’s beliefs is accessible on their website.

The aforementioned principles are a given in first-world countries, so it’s easy for us to forget that a significant portion of the world is nowhere near as fortunate. The Clean Clothes Campaign heavily relies on support from the public in order to execute its mission of improving the working conditions in the global garment industries. By logging onto their website, you can make a donation, sign their petitions and learn more about the cause. The campaign’s latest petition endeavours to increase the minimum wage of Cambodian garment workers from US $100 to $177, an essential step in the fight for a living wage.

Help fight the exploitation of garment workers by logging onto www.cleanclothes.orgAll images from Clean Clothes Campaign.

Asuar – “As You Are” by Lauren Atkinson

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Asuar is a Perth-based fashion label created by the talented Lauren Atkinson. The designer uses hand crafted patterns and exquisite materials to bring unique creative designs, inspired from art, architecture, and travel. Her travel to Vietnam has birth the latest Spring/Summer 14/15 collection. Read our interview below to know more about Asuar and the designer behind it.

What inspired you to create Asuar in the first place?

I have been interested in art and textiles for as long as I remember and my mind is always going crazy with new ideas that can be translated into printed cloth or garments. I completed a BA in Contemporary Arts with a double major in Visual Art and Contemporary fashion and then I went onto work as a freelance textiles designer and for a textiles wholesaler, which developed my knowledge about the fashion industry, and gradually the business developed quite organically.

What differentiates Asuar from other fashion labels?

Asuar is a boutique label that prides itself on creating unique, quality pieces for the relaxed Australian lifestyle. All processes are completed in house, from the artworks for print, to the final sampling. This allows us to constantly respond to the creative process, which, I feel generates more of a sense of authenticity.

Can you tell us a bit of the process of creating your designs?

The creative process varies, however it is a culmination of capturing natural beauty through selecting exquisite materials, manipulating fabric and introducing interesting images derived from travel, culture and experiences. The recent Spring Summer collection was influenced by my travels throughout Vietnam and the visual relationships I built with the local street and village cultures.

What 3 words describe Asuar?

I guess carefree, textural and comfortable springs to mind.

Who do you see wearing your designs?

I see both younger and older women who are really cool and down to earth! The pieces can be worn either individually or electively. I think it is really exciting to see the outcome of when people mix pieces from different sources, old, new and reinvented.

What challenges have you faced as an emerging designer?

It has all been a huge learning curve really from sourcing, sampling, marketing, sales, PR and production. There is a lot to manage but it has been a great experience. I guess the biggest challenge is ensuring that the sales and delivery dates align with other prominent Australian designers, which is just a matter of being really prepared and ordering supplies in advance, as unexpected delays are quite common.

Can you share with us your experience in showcasing your designs in Telstra Perth Fashion Festival 2014? How did you feel about it?

Yes, Asuar showed in the WA Designer category and it was a really nice experience where we had a great support from the community. It is such an awesome event for both emerging and established designers and I feel so privileged to be able to be part of it.

What have been the highlights of the journey in creating Asuar?

Nothing tops the feeling after shooting a campaign. So much goes into the sampling and organizing the components of a shoot but the highlight, for me is collaborating with other creative individuals that understand your vision and then producing images to reflect the story and the brand.

Can you describe your daily style?

I guess my style is quite relaxed and eclectic. I don’t live by rules where you must match this with that. I tend to mix interesting statement pieces with basics and vintage items. I am very drawn to fabrics with a beautiful hand feel or colour and I definitely buy quality over quantity these days.