Fashion Bytes

Photo via The Guardian

A few weeks ago, The Guardian ran a piece about the cotton market in Tanzania, discussing the poverty of the farmers and the corruption of the sales agents. Midway through the article, the author refers to the “falling price of cotton” as one of many reasons for the farmers’ poverty. This directly contradicted the Guardian piece in September on the end of fast fashion, which quoted that the price of cotton was at its highest level “since the American civil war in the 1860s”.

Looking at the bottom of the article, I noticed that the author was in fact a Tanzanian journalist, while the fast fashion piece was written by a Guardian reporter in Britain. This made me wonder, how much do we really know about the clothes we wear? As fashion and textile scholars, we know more than most. But what about the average person, or new students to fashion and textile studies?

Obviously the raw cotton must be milled and woven into the cloth that then goes into the fast fashion clothing, and the correlation between underpaying the farmers because the finished product is becoming too “expensive” for the consumer is easy to follow if ethically unsound.

How do you teach your students about the ethical pitfalls that can be involved in fashion? Do you consider this an ethical question? How can we teach others or help the Tanzanian farmers and others like them? Is it even our responsibility?

Please share your thoughts.

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