We are nearly to the end of our 6-week ‘6 items challenge.’ As eight undergraduates and one lecturer at the University of Sussex, we have committed to living in just 6 items of clothing for 6 weeks to raise money for the labour rights charity, Labour Behind the Label. Read about the first, second, third, and fourth weeks of our ‘fashion fast.’
**Please contribute to our fundraising by clicking here**
Closing Statement on the Fashion Fast
by Phoebe Marsh
These five weeks have shown me that it is physically possible to live on six items of clothing, in fact many people across the world live on that and less. However, the social constraints of British society that require certain kinds of dress code for work, socialising and other formal events, could make it difficult to obtain social capital if restricted from attending these events by bouncers or peer disapproval.
From attending job interviews during this period, I realise the difficulty people without access to expendable income must face when confronted with job opportunities. In today’s world of cheap, and easily accessible clothing, it can be difficult for bosses to accept that one might be to poor to buy a uniform or office wear.
In some ways I find places like Primark and H&M tolerable, in the fact although not accessible to everyone, they provide the majority of the working class with affordable source of clothing which is socially acceptable in the mainstream culture of the UK. Is it wasteful? Yes. Is it still using factories which don’t uphold to our standards of human rights? Most probably. However, when compared to the high-end designer and couture shops that use international garment factories where the working conditions are deplorable and then sell the items for a 700% profit, hopefully it becomes clear why I regard the lower status brands more morally acceptable.
It’s difficult to get a working-class mother of 3 to see the importance in £12 reusable bottles and organic cotton clothing made in Britain. However, the designer class buying £250 pairs of shoes and a weekly outfit with a triple figure price tag, and notable designer name, have the access to capital, information and the ability to make better buying choices but choose not to. Not because they can’t afford to, or because their not aware of the Bangladeshi factory workers, but because they deem their social status and accessibility to high fashion as more important than the physical and social needs of others.
This desire and expectation of new clothing has trickled through society and expects a frequent wardrobe change of even the poorest members of our society. I feel that unless this discourse is addressed, we may never improve the payment and conditions of the garment industry.
Phoebe Marsh is a first-year student pursuing a BA in Anthropology and International Development at the University of Sussex.