The Human Thread

Tag Archives: Fast Fashion


Art exposes garment industry injustice

April 04, 2017

Author: editor

Category: Advocate

"Machimon," a work of art depicting the harms of Fast Fashion by Rose Flores

“Machimon,” a work of art depicting the harms of Fast Fashion by Rose Flores

Art changes our perception. Occasionally, art speaks where words fail. Rose Flores uses her art to promote understanding and action in the garment industry on critical issues facing our communities and the world.

Rose encountered The Human Thread from a presentation at Divine Mercy Parish in South Milwaukee. Troubled by the content of the presentation, both the harm to the garment worker as well as the harm to creation, Rose said that she could not sleep. She said, “I wanted to tell people about the issue, but how do you explain it?” So, she decide to make something visual.

The lower left arm is weighted by chains, signifying low wages.

The lower left arm is weighted by chains, signifying low wages.

Rose and her husband dubbed the figure “Machimon.” On a mission trip to Guatemala, they encountered a Mayan deity, a god of excess and injustice by the name of Machimon. In a way, as we purchase garments to such excess and as the garment industry perpetuates tremendous injustice, the name seems fitting.

A few notable elements in the art:

  • The raised right arm has a gold papier-mâché figure representing the excessive profit from some garments. Hanging from the papier-mâché figure is a price tag that notes the average cost of a gown worn to the Oscars is $75,000.
  • The lower left arm is weighted by chains, signifying low wages, that have tags indicating the hourly wage in certain garment-making countries.
  • The face of the figure is a globe. Rose said that, for a while, she was uncertain what face to place on the figure, but a globe seems most appropriate as “I wanted to tell people it’s a world problem.”
  • At the feet of the figure are signs of the environmental harmed caused by the garment industry.

Rose insists that she does not have an art background, but that she enjoys it and has taken some classes. She adds, “It surprises me that I did this.”

At the feet of the figure are signs of the environmental harmed caused by the garment industry.

At the feet of the figure are signs of the environmental harmed caused by the garment industry.

All of the material for the art came from her home, all recycled. The main garment in the work of art is a shirt from her husband that was in their box to donate to Goodwill. The papier-mâché figure in the right hand is a project that a granddaughter made visiting an art museum.

The raised right arm has a gold papier-mâché figure

The raised right arm has a gold papier-mâché figure and a price tag noting the average cost of a gown worn to the Oscars .

Does Rose sleep any better after making this work of art? [The garment industry] “still bothers me a great deal,” she said. “When I try to talk to people, I get a glazed look sometimes. I can’t find the words to tell people how serious this is.”

Often, as injustice becomes routinized, we fall into what Pope Francis terms the “globalization of indifference.” Before such an enormous issue of injustice, what can a person do?

For Rose, “Machimon” was something she had to do. “Machimon” is a creative expression of art that exposes that injustice and hints at a way forward based on solidarity and receiving the other person as a gift. Art, indeed, can be an instrument for social change.

Since 1972, Rose and her husband Jose have lived in South Milwaukee participating in the parish that now comprise Divine Mercy Parish.

Fast Fashion and the Chase to the Bottom

October 10, 2016

Author: Frank Sherman

Category: Learn

fast_fashion

As I read a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Fast-Fashion Tricks Are on Display at Department-Store Chains, I became more concerned – not for Macy’s, Kohl’s and the Gap as they try to respond to fast-fashion rivals like Inditex SA’s Zara and Hennes & Mauritz AB’s H&M, but rather for their garment workers in China, Bangladesh and other developing countries. These brothers and sisters are already working 60-80 hours a week to earn a fraction of a living wage. How will this trend impact them?

Department-store chains are speeding up its supply chain to better catch popular fashion trends. The traditional model requires 15 months from design conception until goods arrive in stores, and nine months to reorder items that sell out. Fast fashion brands have dropped this turnaround time to as little as 3 months.

“The current model of loading up on inventory, and marking it down when it doesn’t sell is broken,” says Robert D’Loren, Xcel’s chief executive. “It’s a race to the bottom on pricing.”

How can H&M sell a dress for $15? A suit for $75? One way is volume. The per capita demand for clothing in the U.S. has increased by 400% since 1980! Where are all these clothes going after we move to the next fashion? Although many of us try to give them to charities, 85% end up in landfills. But there is also a human cost of this race to the bottom.

There is some pressure to improve wages. In June, Cambodia agreed to increase monthly wages from $128 to $140. Vietnam is discussing an increase of its minimum wage by 7.3% in 2017. South African cotton workers have seen an 8.25% increase in their wages. There are talks that the ASEAN region may try to introduce a regional minimum wage. But the workers’ voice is weak….and the fast fashion trend is much louder.

On the rare occasions that I go clothes shopping, I find it difficult to get the voice of HBO’s host John Oliver of Last Week Tonight out of my head: “You know why they are so cheap. You can no longer plead ignorance.”

Frank Sherman, Associate Director
Seventh Generation Interfaith Coalition for Responsible Investment