Fashion Takes Action at FAT

This upcoming Sunday is Mother’s Day. You should certainly be counting yourself lucky if you are fortunate to spend the day with your Mom, or even luckier a Grandmother or Great Grandmother; brunches will be had and memories will be shared. It’s easy to take these opportunities for granted; in fact it’s easy to take a lot for granted when we live in a place that affords us the luxury of said brunches. From our loved ones to the food on the table to the clothes on our back, even our vocation, even if it is not at the most optimal point, are in general advantageous opportunities we are lucky to have in abundance in the “West”. It’s not often that a medium like fashion can really force one to consider this, but two weeks ago, Fashion Takes Action hosted a show at Fashion Art Toronto that hopefully instilled this reflection within a lot people and the industry at large.

Our FTA presentation was on the second to last day of the weeklong FAT festivities and the theme could not have been more appropriate within a week dedicated to Fashion Therapy; our day was dedicated to “Escape”. With this in mind, we featured three of our members who work distinctively with production units in emerging markets and developing countries, harnessing skill and using sustainable methods. Nationwares, which showcased handmade shoes, bags and accessories; Azadi Project, which produces their wares with artisans in countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh; and Local Buttons, who creates unique refurbished pieces with second hand clothing from Haiti, which is stitched by local tailors; all embody the triple bottom line of encompassing people, planet and profit into their overall business plan. 

The week before the show, the now infamous Bangladesh tragedy happened: a building collapsed, which housed a variety of production units for huge Western chains, with the death toll currently surpassing 1000. As a dedication and show of solidarity during the show, all the models, the designers and myself as host wore black ribbons for these workers and their families. 

In addition, the models wearing Azadi Project, since this brand has worked directly with artisans in the country, all carried sign boards dedicated to furthering the education and plight of the Bangladeshi workers.

The garment production sector in Bangladesh provides 80% of its exports and has provided women in particular a new avenue for independence via earned income. While it is perhaps easy for us to decide to boycott certain brands because of this tragedy, this fact should not be lost on us. As we celebrate with our own mothers or share in the joy of being one, let us also remember the great opportunities we have and not take them for granted. Fashion can be a tool that connects generations and cultures; let’s work hard to keep it a positive and sustainable one.

by Meaghan Grewal