If Brands Use Empowering Messages For Marketing, They Need To Empower Their Makers Too

by: Well Made Clothes Staff | 2 weeks ago | News

Image: Paloma Elsesser in the H&M ‘She’s A Lady’ campaign. Image source.

According to renowned fashion forecaster Li Edelkoort, “the perversion of marketing has helped to kill the fashion industries.” And it’s true that marketing is largely to blame for the fact that so many people now mindlessly consume trends as soon as they hit the racks. But when does this marketing actually become more insidious than just fuelling a shopaholic culture? The answer to that question is when brands start using that marketing to share empowering messages that don’t actually reflect their real-world practices.

Feminism has been a big marketing message used by fast fashion retailers over recent years, for example. We saw this with H&M’s controversial ‘She’s A Lady’ campaign, as well as the plethora of ‘The Future is Female’ T-shirt copies. But all of this is in stark contrast to the fact that there’s no feminism in fashion’s female production workforce. According to Fashion Revolution’s 2015 White Paper, “systematic exploitation remains rife.” These human rights violations run the gamut of forced and child labour, repression and discrimination, and unsafe, dirty and unfair working conditions. Considering the vast majority of these garment workers are women, this is obviously very antithetical to the ‘empowering’ messages being splashed across fast fashion T-shirts.

“In Bangladesh alone, there are 3.8 million people working in the garment industry and 85% of them are women,” explains ethical fashion advocate and Well Made Clothes co-founder Kelly Elkin. “The statistics are drastic when you’re talking about the amount women get harassed compared to men. There’s a lot of sexual harassment, but there’s a lot of mental abuse as well. Because the superiors tend to be males and often they don’t understand women’s issues. Even things like having adequate amounts of toilets available at particular times of the month, for example. Simple, basic needs that women in countries like Australia don’t even think about.”

So what can we do as consumers then, to see through all that false advertising? Well next time we see a ‘Future is Female’ T-shirt, we could start by asking the brand who makes their clothes. Small steps like this can go a long way in shifting the overall culture and helping brands to understand that empowering messages are all well and good, just as long as they are backed up by the actions to match. If brands want to use empowering messages for marketing, then they need to empower their makers as well.

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