Amy Malone of NCAD is this year’s pick for our Spotlight Award. Congratulations. Malone’s work lies somewhere between sculpture, hand crafted, textile, text based, the concept driven, and activist. Her installation, We are now ready to move to something else, stood out as one of the most pared back and focused in the undergraduate degree shows this year. She approached the heavy issues of labour exploitation in the big business of the international textile trade with a contemporary sculptural flair. We loved it.
Unraveling The Consumer’s Power:
An Investigation Into The Unsustainability And Exploitation Of The Textile Industry
With a combination of aspects including advertising and the outsourcing of labour, the textile industry is becoming increasingly exploitative and is now completely unsustainable. We put so little value on our clothing that it has essentially become a disposable product. Much of this stems from the type of advertising clothing companies bombard us with on a daily basis. Advertisements that aim to convince us that all we need to be happy is to purchase their product. Misleading us into the belief that our lives will be complete if we simply consume more. This creates a distorted idea of clothing where it becomes more of a luxury than a necessity. Although with clothing prices at an all time low it is an extremely affordable ‘luxury.’
This view of clothing means that very little value is placed on those who make our clothes. The prices we expect for clothing are so low, workers couldn’t possibly be paid a decent wage. With the majority of labour outsourced to lower-income countries it is easy to distance ourselves from the people who make our clothing. We can easily put our wants before their needs. Placing next to no value on the workers skills, time or even lives, they become as interchangeable as the clothing they make.
We as consumers, have the power to change the textile industry for the better, not just by purchasing from ethical clothing brands but also through activism. If consumers withdraw their money, while at the same time forcing the large clothing companies to take account for their actions, they could seize the power back and shift the textile industry into the direction of immense change. As Eric Stoner wrote:
Power ultimately rests not in the grip of presidents, generals and billionaires, but in the hands of millions of ordinary people who keep society running smoothly on a day-to-day basis, and who can shut it down should they so choose (Stoner, E., 2012, p249).
“Exploitation is deeply woven into the clothing worn by each of us everyday. The outsourcing of labour to lower-income countries has created distance and barriers between us and the people who make our clothing. My work reflects on this and examines the language used by clothing companies to reinforce these divisions. I am looking at the idea of weaving words, or that there is a story woven into each piece of fabric. My work also draws from Naomi Klein’s theory that companies no longer produce products, now simply creating brands. This reinforces the barriers between us and the people who make our clothing, establishing a distinct lack of transparency in the industry.”
Stoner, E. (2012) ‘Pillars of support’ in Boyd, A. (ed.), Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox For Revolution, New York and London: OR Books, pp.248-249.