Fashion

Fashionable women by Runa Ray


Marine Serre Fall Winter 2022.23 Presentation, Photo Courtesy of DSCENE

The fashion industry has mostly been associated with women. And despite making up more than half of the fashion industry’s total workforce, women hold fewer leadership positions in major fashion companies.

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As a fashion environmentalist and woman, my body of work lies in mainstreaming environmental and social justice within the fashion industry. This led me to work with several ready-to-wear and couture houses to understand the implications of the profession, its requirements and the role of women.

My involvement with the The United Nations and the Council of Fashion Designers of America works to keep the Sustainable Development Goals alive and help companies meet them. To understand the fashion industry, one must understand the difference between fashion and clothing and how they tend to be related within the industry.

Fashion design deals more with the generation of ideas, while the clothing industry produces the clothes generated from design ideas.

The primary function of clothing is to protect, and fashion has a deeper emotional purpose.

Fashion has gone through its cycles in history and is of the utmost importance when it comes to self-expression, since that of the rebellion, the birth of the cool and several movements that occurred at the turn of the century. Fashion can convey information about the culture we live in or mark assimilation within that society.

Fashion differs from clothes, where it is the main tool to express someone’s identity and categorize who we are. Fashion and clothing make up the fashion industry, which has two major schools, the couture school and the ready-to-wear school. Depending on your career choice, you could decide which school would be best for you.

Women are desirable in the garment industry because employers take advantage of cultural stereotypes that women are often forced to adhere to and present women as passive and flexible. Gender discrimination runs deep in every country where clothing is currently produced. Women are frequently victims of verbal and physical violence and sexual harassment.

Both industries are based on an invisible, deep and opaque structure. While the designers strive to create beautiful pieces, the hidden team of forced labor, children and women, work producing fabrics, dyeing clothes and hand-sanding denim in small enclosures without ventilation, many of whom die from occupational diseases.

Most workers in the ready-to-wear sector are women. The industry tends to rely on low-paid female labor to compete and maximize profits in a highly competitive global marketplace. It is estimated that around 80% of garment workers are women, although women are still employed with lower pay than their male counterparts.

Women are desirable in the garment industry because employers take advantage of cultural stereotypes that women are often forced to adhere to and present women as passive and flexible. Gender discrimination runs deep in every country where clothing is currently produced. Women are frequently victims of verbal and physical violence and sexual harassment.

It is the seed that nourishes and clothes us; fashion waste also counts as food waste. While food waste is one of the greatest global challenges facing us today, it must be realized how fashion is inextricably linked to food, with perfectly arable land being used for cash crops to sustain the industry. fashion industry.

Most of the time, we are oblivious to the hidden costs of fashion and how women are directly affected by fast fashion and the food insecurity that comes with it.

Marine Serre Fall Winter 2022.23 Presentation, Photo Courtesy of DSCENE

The Rana Plaza tragedy

With the arrival of Zara in New York in the early 1990s, it was the first time people heard the term “fast fashion”. It was coined by The New York Times to describe Zara’s mission to take only 15 days for a garment to go from design stage to sale in store. This “fast fashion” has led to a multitude of disasters, and it only took us three decades to realize it and take action.

Fast fashion is at the origin of the Rana Plaza tragedy, which occurred on April 24, 2013, which left 1,134 dead and approximately 2,500 injured.

The workers were threatened with having their wages withheld if they did not show up for work, despite the warning signs of cracks that had appeared on the building the day before. More than half of garment workers were women and their children left at day care

women and industry

Women’s rights in the fashion industry are questionable. Hundreds of millions of women work informally without any protection, especially in the fashion industry, where no formal contracts exist.

People working informally often have no voice in demanding better working conditions or pay. This is especially true for women who also face sexual harassment, violence and restrictions on their reproductive rights.

Women are underrepresented in leadership positions in the industry. Also, compared to male-owned businesses, female-owned businesses are smaller, employ fewer people, and are more concentrated in industries where opportunities for profit and growth are limited. In the global fashion industry, when women are paid, their jobs tend to reflect gender stereotypes and offer relatively low earnings, poor working conditions and limited opportunities for career advancement. On average, women are paid less than men, even when they work in jobs of the same or equal value.

Companies that are able to retain and motivate female workers and have more women in leadership positions reap financial returns as women are able to understand and respond to complex issues by incorporating more friendly and diverse solutions

Fashion is like an onion. All layers are industries supporting its core, while it is strategically bound by the skin of glamour. Fashion is expected to grow 60% by 2030. Yet we don’t stop to think about the vicious layers of gender inequality and women’s rights.

Women bring life to this planet and fashion has an important role to play in women’s health. Fortunately, sustainability in fashion is helping to drive change in fashion products and the fashion system towards greater ecological integrity and social justice. It combats the large carbon footprint created by the fashion industry and fast fashion. It does this by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, water pollution and global climate change that could potentially prevent millions of premature deaths over the next century.

As natural nurturers, women impact the management of natural resources through their various roles in households, the economy and society. Women are not only more affected by these problems, but also possess ideas and leadership to solve them.

Companies that are able to retain and motivate female workers and have more women in leadership positions reap financial returns as women are able to understand and respond to complex issues by incorporating more friendly and diverse solutions

Marine Serre Fall Winter 2022.23 Presentation, Photo Courtesy of DSCENE

The Fashion Impact Fund

The Fashion Impact Fund helps amplify the voices of women who are changemakers and disruptors, women in the fashion industry who are taking a stand and working to make this planet a better place. They do this by ensuring that everyone’s needs are met and that the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are met in all respects. The fund is also responsible for providing relief to women entrepreneurs and providing them with a platform where they can be heard, supported and monitored.

I am absolutely delighted to host fashion stories, powered by the Fashion Impact Fund. Fashion Stories is a weekly interview show exploring conscious fashion with changemakers, disruptors and innovators who are uplifting and championing the global South Asian community. [Hosted by fashion designer and environmentalist Runa Ray, Fashion Stories is available on Rukus Avenue Radio—Dash Radio’s exclusive South Asian Radio Station, entertaining 5.8 million listeners per month.]

This unique show story is powered by Fashion Impact Fund, an NGO dedicated to helping women entrepreneurs transform fashion for people and the planet. The charitable fund is committed to advancing women-led programs that harness education as a transformative tool to evolve an equitable, inclusive and regenerative fashion ecosystem.

Through the journey of fashion stories, I can showcase the stories of incredible women who are making a difference in their respective fields of fashion and sustainability. I can shed light on the critical role they play in impacting change for the future of fashion and women entrepreneurs, echoing the ethos of social and environmental justice.

Some of my interviews exclusively for Radio Avenue Rukus feature notable and progressive female fashionistas and environmentalists from South Asian countries including Nepal, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Some of the personalities include:

  • Afsana Ferdousi, fashion designer and founder, Afsana Ferdousi
  • Anuje Farhung, designer, creator, educator and founder, House of Farhung
  • Bandana Tewari, fashion journalist and sustainability activist
  • Huma Adnan, Creative Director, FNK Asia
  • Josie Mackenzie, Founding Director, AMMA Natural Textiles
  • Lonali Rodrigo, Founder and Designer, House of Lonali
  • Madhu Vaishnav, Founder and Director, Institute for Philanthropy and Humanitarian Development and Sahelian Women
  • Mingma Sherpa, Founder, Paila Shoes
  • Nawshin Kahir, Creative Director, Aranya Crafts
  • Sajna Jirel, Executive Director, Hatti Hatti

Yes, fashion has always been tied to women, and now is the time for women to seize the moment, take the lead, and help fuel the industry.

References: ILO, McKinsey
Originally published in the anniversary issue of DSCENE magazine
Follow Runa Ray on Instagram – @runaray

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