Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ethical Fashion at the Victoria and Albert Museum

A short slideshow about this event on 9 November 2008
Formats available: Quicktime (.mov)

Sunday was Ethical Fashion Day at the Victoria & Albert Museum and, since this is something completely different from my usual interests, I thought I'd go along. One thing on the programme really appealed to me: it was called Swishing (exchanging your good but hardly worn items of clothing with someone else's). Since there are always mistakes hanging in my wardrobe and I hate being reminded of them, it seemed an opportunity to do something more fun than taking them to my local charity shop (though I'll keep on doing that anyway). So I packed up several striped tops, a long striped skirt, a hideous print wrap-around dress and a lovely pair of lace-up shoes (bought in Paris and worn once; they take half an hour to lace up) and schlepped the lot to South Kensington.

When the time came to allow us to enter the small room where swappable clothes were displayed, a horde of women swooshed in like a swarm of locusts and in what seemed like about five minutes, had gobbled up everything of any interest. It wasn't so much an exchange of goods as a demonstration of survival of the fittest. I noticed my stuff being tried on and taken and I was quite pleased to have got rid of my bad-judgement purchases within the hallowed premises of the Victoria and Albert Museum. But all I found to my liking was a pair of red trousers and a yellow belt.

The rest of the day was definitely worth making the trip for. Some fun activities, eg: drawing on small squares of organic cotton which were then pinned to a dressmaker's dummy to make an Eco Dress, a talk on how to restyle/recycle your wardrobe, etc. Best of all was the fashion show and presentation, setting out the principles behind the term 'ethical' as applied to the fashion industry, whether you're a consumer or producer, and there were lots of interesting web-links to firms I knew nothing about. I managed to get a few photos during the very brief catwalk and the slideshow is above.

My one objection is a familiar one: why can't designers ever use models who look like normal women? ie: women who have breasts and hips and buttocks and thighs which are not necessarily slim, whose legs and necks are not necessarily long, whose faces do not necessarily have razor-sharp cheekbones and who are not necessarily, always, absolutely young, tall and skinny? The majority of women do not look like fashion models and do not have the bodies of boys, so why do designers - even worthy ethical, ecological, sustainable, organic fashion designers - still insist on showing their clothes on only one type of body? Yes, these model creatures are gorgeous and fabrics do hang well on them but come on, get real!


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