This project will create a 'pop-up' online fashion magazine that features the perspectives and voices of garment workers in Southeast Asia. The goal is to have the people who sew the world’s clothes use new media to share their thoughts on the future of the industry, as well as their favorite trends, brands, celebrity style, and their own street style. There will also be a diary section where the workers can write about their lives and what they face in their work. We will be publishing content for the two weeks before New York Fashion Week in Fall. During Fashion Week, we also plan on using social media to provide commentary on the shows from the other side of the world. We hope that our pre-Fashion Week online magazine will be the beginnings of a global dialogue between two ends of the productions spectrum.
Why It's Needed
Too often those who create the world’s clothes are treated as just extensions of their machines or are just seen as victims. Ignoring the plight of factory workers is easy when they aren’t valued enough. People don't want to think about factory workers because it is too depressing. Moreover, the fashion world is often too focused on the styles and opinions of the wealthy. With this project I want to show how fashion can be found in unexpected places. I also want to explore a mechanism of how workers on the other side of the world can become active commentators and participants in the global fashion world; not to be pitied, but to be seen, valued, and understood. The website will be an important step in bridging the fashion world, with those at one end of the production line speaking to those at the other end. Furthermore, the project can serve as an exploration of a possible model that could be replicated in other industries and fuel a surge in conversations from the bottom-up.
I started researching the situation of factory workers in 2005 and learned from them about the long hours and the abuse they faced. Then from 2008-2010 I lived in a community of factory workers on the Thailand-Burma border and it was there I realized how many of the young people who work in factories in the global south are creative forces themselves who often care a great deal about fashion as a mode of self-expression.
My neighbors and I would pore over fashion magazines and I loved the insightful comments they gave page by page. They would create their own clothes, sewing traditional textiles into new modern patterns. Some of the biggest fashionistas I know worked in factories. Fashion was an active part of the community as well, with fashion shows often being part of community events. I already have a great team of people in Burma and Thailand excited to start working on this project! I will act as one of the editors, build the website, and take photographs and shoot video that will accompany the site and the writings of the workers.
The funds from this Kickstarter will go to paying for translation, tech gear for workers, and other production costs.
Follow the project this summer on our Instagram and Twitter @RunwayInFactory
Risks and challenges
I will be in Southeast Asia this summer and want to make this project highly participatory and ensure the factory workers’ ownership of the website. So for example, things like the website’s name, design, and structure will develop further in the next few months. This project is as much about the process as the end result. Finding the right workers and overcoming obstacles of their long work hours, lack of access to technology, and language barriers will be an important experiment. I already have some great team members in Burma and Thailand and we will work to find the right methods to make sure the writers/workers are fully incorporated. For example, we’ll consider getting each writer a smart phone, so that way they can follow fashion social media/news as well as take photos of their world around them. The whole project is exploring a lot of issues with the global communications and technology divide and I will just have to see how much is possible to do.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (20 days)