The Extinction Rebellion funeral finale at London Fashion Week made headlines this past September. A group of 200 protesters donned funeral attire, their message grievously clear – we are in the process of killing our planet.
The protest was written up in The Guardian and more ironically, Vogue, among other publications. Most of the articles described the event and noted the demands of the activists but there were precious few details about what was to come.
Protests, demonstrations and disruptions are tools to foment awareness and support for issues that require urgent attention. The act of galvanising people to collectively express their views has – for a long time – been an instinctive method of provoking change. From the Monday Demonstrations to the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Protest, and everything in between, these events are imprinted on our historical consciousness and they become important reference points in our future fights for justice and equality.
According to a Harvard study, protests are effective, not because they get the attention of politicians, but because they burn away the dangerous lethargy of apathy. The ensuing fire sparks realisation, transforming everyday citizens into activists and mobilising them to join the fight. A new light is shone on problems that governments, politicians and corporations would rather gloss over.
The Art of Protesting
These days, it seems that we have the art of protesting down pat – the imagery, the costumes, the music, the banners, the symbolism and most importantly, the emotions. While we bask in the euphoric high of taking to the streets, of standing shoulder to shoulder with our fellow activists, we cannot forget that fixing these problems will need prolonged effort and sometimes, difficult sacrifices.
The Next Step
We need to be devising sustainable post-demonstration strategies which will allow us to take concrete next steps. It’s time to stop running from reality and instead, we must be ready to tackle the banal details of this fight and ask the ask hard-hitting question. The complex web of interconnected problems needs to be dismantled from all angles and protests are just one prong.
Let’s ask questions, equip ourselves with information and take action.
The effort to disrupt the way we fabricate and consume fashion is an important and noble one. We must funnel interest away from fast fashion brands and towards slow, circular and sustainable clothing. But at some point, we might need to seriously consider drastically reducing our consumption of clothes, maybe even stopping altogether. The obsession with fashion is getting out of control thanks to Instagram which has, by many accounts, stoked our desire to transform ourselves into unrealistic digital caricatures of ourselves.
Let’s stop the madness and stop feeding into the frenzy for more clothes, more looks, more outfits of the day.
What Happens To The Garment Workers?
If we stop shopping, won’t there be consequences at the other end of the chain? In our bid to phase out fast fashion, we must think of the garment workers who rely on this work as a significant source of income. In Bangladesh, the ready-made garment (RMG) sector employs at least 3.5 million people. What happens to them if they lose their jobs? Many garment workers have expressed fear that their livelihood will be destroyed if boycotts continue.
As the debate speeds up around the human rights violations in sweatshops, we must make space for the voices of the women, men and children who are right in the eye of the storm. Their experiences must factor into our fight.
Socialism, Capitalism And Everything In Between
The precarious situation of these garment workers and the merciless damage to our environment have been insidiously spawned by the ruthless capitalist system we live in. How do we disentangle ourselves from this toxicity? What could be a sustainable system that allows the developing world to evolve without being subjected to the crushing demands of the developed world? Should we be reinventing capitalism? Adjusting socialism? Maybe a new school of economics all together?
This Is Your Fight Too
These are tough questions, and the path to the answers will be lined with frustration, failure and uncertainty.
But we WILL get there.
You and I are soldiers in this fight and ultimately, we need to equip ourselves with the facts and figures. We need to make concrete changes right this second, whether that means consuming only sustainable fashion or even renouncing shopping altogether.
Go out and protest. It’s important. But when we get home, let’s be ready to pick up where the banners and placards leave off.