On friday 100 14-18 year olds from across the South-west congregated at UWE in Bristol for the Fashion Victims conference organised by ourselves, Fashioning an Ethical Industry, Soil Association and Bristol Fairtrade Network.
The event was in effect a sequel to last year's highly successful Cotton On conference, but this time we focused on a younger audience specifically - and asked them to bring their teachers too so that they could learn about sustainable fashion as well!
The conference was opened by Tara Starlet who spoke about her experience of working in the various stages of the Indian textiles/garment industry courtesy of BBC's Blood, Sweat and Tshirts reality-tv show.
After Tara, Anannya Bhattacharjee a garment workers organiser from Delhi spoke about her work in the slums of Delhi and the conditions that garments workers there are subject to. Davo Vodouhe then gave a presentation about his work in Benin with organic cotton farmers and the advantages that organic farming has for the health and finances of small scale cotton farmers there. Davo's work is supported by Pesticide Action Network UK.
The morning's workshops included Designing for Sustainability with Rose Sinclair of Goldsmith's Design Department. In her workshop students worked together in groups to come up with approaches to ensuring that environmental, social and economic sustainability concerns are included in the design of garments from the very outset of the design process.
After lunch People and Planet and the Fairtrade Foundation led a session on introducing Fairtrade cotton into schools and colleges. At the same time, Lyla Patel of TRAID led an interactive workshop on climate change and textile waste in the UK. She had several interesting examples of how we can make the most out of the wardrobes we have already without having to buy new clothes, including Sheena Matheiken who is wearing the same black dress in a different way everyday for a year. Inspired by this, all the participants were asked to customise the same little black dress for a barbie doll; Lyla then photographed all the results and will post them online.
The day ended with a clothing customisation/up-cycling workshop led by UWE staff. So far all the feedback we've had has been very positive, photos will follow shortly. Thanks to everyone who came and participated.