If there was ever a headline to shatter childhood dreams, surely this is it. Simon Murphy revealed that the Spice Girls’ ‘Girl Power’ ethos goes no further than a catchy chorus or two when the Guardian published this article on January 20th.
The news of the exploitation and maltreatment of garment workers in this instance is shocking but unfortunately, to many of us it hasn’t come as a surprise. Just this morning MPs have announced that big fast fashion brands’ inaction on ethics is “shocking.” But as Livia Firth said on the Today programme, this didn’t particularly come as news to anyone who’s part of a sustainablity-minded and ethically-conscious community.
After sharing Murphy’s article on Instagram we had a lot of responses from members of the Nu. community voicing their opinions on the story. Alice of @TheLifestyleRemedy commented “This is just crazy! When high profile celebrity figures commit to releasing lines or collaborating with stores they are responsible for the choice of supply chains.” I agree - there are questions to ask and issues to be raised that currently can be too easily swept over in a merchandising meeting.
Orla said “More naming and shaming might get people to think more about where their clothes come from. It’s sad but it’s true.” Do you get loads of sponsored fashion ads pop up on your social media feeds? I’ve had a lot in the last month - and when I see something I like, I message the account to ask where the clothes are made. I’m yet to get positive responses - and I’m yet to buy any clothes from them either. One of the great things about social media is the power it gives us to openly question and hold brands and public figures to account - you can do so politely and quietly but just by asking the question you put it out there for the online community to see and to have to acknowledge.
And Jessica at Slae Mag said “That is so annoying and infuriating seriously...” - which I just like to read with a real head-in-hands type exasperation like, ‘really!? COME ON.’
It was also interesting to see how people working in different sectors of the fashion industry responded. Karen at Rock the Frock Bridal commented “We try really hard to ensure our complete supplier chain is ethical - choose ONLY designers who produce their dresses locally with high working standards. The wedding industry is one place that definitely needs attention!”
One person probably said it best by commenting just “#idontwannabeaspicegirl.” Let’s get THAT trending, shall we?
Activist and writer Gina Martin (who should already be named woman of the year, in my opinion…) also shared our post so we just had to ask her opinion on the story. Gina told us she wasn’t surprised that the band were so far removed from their production line: “I am, however, surprised that their team didn’t see ethics as a priority given their entire brand is built on empowerment.” Amen.
“I think we’re just starting to ask questions about production lines and how something’s made,” said Gina, “but there’s not nearly enough pressure to hold big brands accountable all the way along the supply chain. The independent industry is showing a big effort towards ethics but as always big brands need to do better without the public having to force their hand.”
What’s so frustrating about the Spice Girls story is, in some way, the fact that this case did make the headlines - because it’s also a reminder that there are hundreds and thousands of others that haven’t and won’t. Why… Because as consumers in an industry increasingly reliant on the exploitation of workers we’re all complicit? Because we don’t want to admit that the part we play in the system is really ours? It seems so. This is the reality of how the majority of clothes that are bought and worn in the UK - and globally - are made. There just isn’t a hashtag and a girl band to make the front page with it every day.*
Back to 7.20 this morning when Livia Firth struck a chord before I’d finished my first coffee of the day. It’s as simple as she says: we wear the stories of the people who make our clothes - and we owe more than the occasional headline, hashtag and Instagram post.
* This actually didn’t make the front page. I think it was about page 12. Which also seems significant…