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Fast fashion’s exploited workers

Deborah Lucchetti, Clean Clothes Campaign coordinator

This article has aleady been published on Buone Notizie, Corriere della Sera April 13th 2021

Le ali non sono in vendita, viaggio nel mondo della fast fashion (Wings are not for sale, a journey into the world of fast fashion) is a new movie directed by Paolo Campana, with the artistic supervision of Sara Conforti and produced by FAIR with the scientific contribution of the Clean Clothes Campaign. It’s the final result of a journey that lasted over a year, during which we tried to reflect together with the girls and boys on the phenomenon of fast fashion.

How much do we know about what is hidden behind this model of development? Often very little.

Once upon a time, brands launched three or four new clothing collections every year, often at the beginning of the seasons; today, brands like H&M, Zara, Primark or Uniqlo offer up to 50 collections a year, one a week, at incredibly low and competitive prices.

Clothes whose biography few people know. Aggressive processes of delocalization, in fact, have distanced geographically and symbolically, in our imagination, the history and the problems of the women workers who produce these goods: that price is actually so low, “I can afford it”, “I can buy as many as I want and throw them away shortly after”, because someone else, somewhere else in the world, produces those clothes in miserable working conditions. Excruciating shifts, physical and psychological violence, unpaid overtime, violated freedom of association are some of the characteristics at the base of the cycle of fast fashion.

So what’s left? The impulse to buy. Fashion brands and distributors, through precise advertising campaigns, have transformed desire (a path) into impulse (the zeroing of that path). Buying then becomes “losing control” and, as consumers, becoming cogs of the system.

The good news is that we can interrupt this vicious circle: through education to active citizenship and critical consumption of new generations we can produce a change. For this reason FAIR, in collaboration with “hòferlabproject”, has promoted a series of workshops in four institutes in Milan, Genoa, Foggia and Turin followed by two master classes in Genoa and Turin, involving young students through an experimental approach that combines artistic practice and activism. The docufilm, enriched by interviews with experts, infographics and in-depth analysis, recounts this journey by giving voice to the boys and girls who experienced it.

It was an exciting journey that allowed us to closely observe their point of view. We were able to build with them a space of confrontation that is both intimate and political on the multidimensional impacts of fashion, on people and on the theme of critical consumption. They are the real protagonists of this movie, they are the ones who demand a radical change in the model of production and consumption.

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