Fighting Fire With Fire: Uncovering The Unglamorous Underbelly Of Fashion Week
By Ashok Kumar and Chetan Ahimsa
Friday, February 15, 2013
‘NY Fashion Week’—a celebration of what catches the eye, styles the skin, and teases the mind. But underneath global apparel’s glitzy makeup lies an unglamorous underbelly—one of violent working conditions and structural faux pas.
This week thousands of workers– from Guatemala to Indonesia– have sowed the seeds for a modern-day “brand agreement.” Tearing a page out of the ILGWU playbook of the 1920s, workers have gone straight to the top of the supply chain and demanded ‘brand responsibility’ and improved wages and conditions. Brands like Adidas or Nike could be the Wiesen, Cohen, & Smith of 2013.
Trend cycles, like spools of yarn, are a fait accompli. When fashions wane, we reach back a generation; when fires rage, it’s a century past. The Brand Agreements that began in 1922 stand out as more than smoke after a fire: they ignited a culture of direct, worker-brand reciprocity and made safeguards the bottom-line. Today amidst global apparel’s factory fire epidemic, a resurgence of such agreements isn’t just fashionable—it’s imperative.