Our Press Team were tasked with posting a press release every day. Here’s what they have written about the fifth and final day of our Challenge, when they returned to the University of Exeter campus to present their findings at a Grand Challenge showcase.
— UofE_challenges (@uofe_challenges) June 6, 2014
Press Release 08/06/2014
Students stage unique ethical fashion show
Friday June 6th was the final showcase for all of the University of Exeter Grand Challenge projects. For one group their final challenge was to create a fashion show that showed what they had learned about ‘fashion ethics in the wake of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in April 2013. The crushing to death of 1,130 garment workers in Dhaka Bangladesh has been widely acknowledged as an ethical turning point in the fashion industry.
The students ran a stall in the University’s Forum building. They handed out, among other things, papers showing the detective work they had done to answer questions asked my members of the public about their clothes. Clothes that had been made in the Fashion First Aid Surgery in Exeter’s Guildhall Shopping Centre were displayed on mannequins, and a film made by the projection team was shown on a flat screen television. This created the buzz for what was to follow: the performance on the Forum’s main stage.
This began with two students introducing the project to an audience of students, facilitators and academic staff who had participated in the 8 different Grand Challenges that had taken place that week. Three other students then came up to the microphone, taking rolls of paper from Rana Plaza bags that they had made with artist Catherine Cartwright that week. They read emotive stories about individual factory workers, to convey the effects of the Rana Plaza collapse on people who were there.
Another group of students then performed a visual representation of the voicelessness of garment factory workers. Three models were dressed in black and stood in a triangle formation. Three more students came on stage and carefully gagged and blindfolded them with strips of gauze bandage to show how their lives were bound by the fashion industry. A till-roll of paper on which tweets about the Rana Plaza collapse were written was wrapped around them by another student as they were read out to a clearly moved audience.
Another group of students then came on stage wearing ethically-sourced clothes provided by Exeter-based fashion label Sancho’s Dresses. Each carried a voice bubble with the name of the woman who had made what they were wearing because they could answer one the the most important questions in ethical fashion: ‘who made my clothes?’.
Due to student encouragement, members of the audience tweeted their photos and thoughts about fashion ethics during the afternoon. The Forum’s live social media screen was overflowing with support.
The rest of the afternoon was filled with musical acts, free food, and a 30 minute circus show which had everyone enthralled. After the fashion show the team opened up Alfie the black cab photo-booth, parked just outside, for audience members to take ethical fashion selfies.
Dr Ian Cook, who led the Challenge, described the students’ work as ‘an astounding combination of care, imagination, creativity and hard work. We know that it’s had an impact in the city and in the ethical fashion community worldwide. A team of over 50 students have learned important skills that they can take forward into their studies and their careers, but more importantly they have learned how they can contribute, individually and collectively, to worldwide struggles for trade justice.’
He continued, ‘None of this would have been possible without the support of Hannah Lloyd-Jones, Rebecca Bainbridge, Jessie Becker-Rock and Antony Aleksiev of the Grand Challenge team; University Press Officer Ellie Gaskarth; postgraduate facilitators Antonios Basoukos, Kate Berrisford, Becca Savory, Annie Blanchette, Paulina Luzecka, Britni Wilcher, Sue Hocknell and Robert Kalibala; Falmouth University Fashion First Aid Surgeons Mia Idiens, Millie Pascoe, Al Lawrence & Nancy Piner, consultant fashion surgeon Irene Griffin, Laurel Coxon of Arrietty and Kalkidan Legesse of Sancho’s Dresses; artist Catherine Cartwright, producer Carla Hayes, Guildhall Shopping centre manager Sheryel Ashwell, fashion industry experts Carry Somers, Martin Buttle, Jocelyn Whipple and Kate Fletcher, advisory board members Professor Louise Crewe and Dr Alex Crang, ‘our band’ Cider Fecks, every person who visited the Guildhall and spent time talking to our students in person and online, and – last but not least – Alfie the Black Cab and its plastic owl.’
The Ethical Fashion challenge team have worked tremendously hard over the past week and have achieved a great deal. But, of course, this work can never be over. Let the fight for an ethical, transparent fashion industry continue. More will come out of this challenge. To be continued…
For more information on this project, see
Storify ‘live feed’: https://storify.com/followthethings/talking-clothes