Rag trade is fraying at the edges

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The pandemic has driven the fashion industry into in a deep crisis, leading to an in-depth questioning not only of the incredible waste involved, but its actual role in society

While the effects of the global pandemic become apparent, restrictions on daily living have caused an existential crisis for the fashion industry.

“This is the largest crisis that the modern industry has ever faced,” declared Imran Amed, founding editor of

“We’re going to see a wave of insolvencies and bankruptcies as the year continues.” With shops and factories shuttered, the BBC reported that from generating an annual £2.02 trillion in global revenues, the industry saw sales plummet by 34 percent in March.

Dressing for the revolution

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From the gilets jaunes to the sans-culottes, clothing might not be the central question when considering radical movements, but there is more to it than you might expect, writes Rena Niamh Smith.

When I titled a recent talk on the politics of fashion “What will you Wear to the Revolution?”, some queried if a consideration of what we wear may be beneath the serious politics of the Marxist tradition.

Yet if the revolution were to happen tomorrow, we know exactly what we would wear. The once anonymous hi-vis vest has proved such an electrifying feature of the French anti-establishment protests, that their sale was banned in Egypt, site of serious revolution in recent memory.

A whiff of change in the air

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Rena Niamh Smith continues her series of columns with a hopeful look at how the desire for a better world is feeding into the fashion world — but a more fundamental shift will be required for lasting change.

Flick through any fashion magazine and you get a taste for the current mood of change in fashion. Features on gender fluidity, the renaissance of slogan tee shirts, models of size and colour, shopping guides to the growing sustainable market suggest a brighter future led by Gen Z. Even the trend for baby pink has been linked to renewed interest in feminism.

Donald Trump’s model agency, founded in 1999, quickly went out of business following his election as the industry dropped connections to the odious mogul-turned-president.

Eco-fashioning a toxic trade

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Recent trends for “sustainable fashion” will not be sufficient to transform an industry inherently tied up with polluting practices and wasteful mass production from its inception, writes Rena Niamh Smith.

Fashion is a product industry, and as such, requires enormous amounts of resources to produce, distribute and dispose of what is sold. Typically, textiles and garments are mass-produced in the Global South, shipped to Western countries for consumption, and vast quantities of those which are not dumped in landfill are shipped to Africa and beyond to the vast second-hand market.

The world’s second most polluting industry after oil, fashion’s specific crimes against the planet are too numerous to list here, but cotton production provides a snapshot.

When hypocrisy’s in fashion

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A handful of significant appointments of black designers and cover stars marks something of a change for the fashion industry, but racism is rooted in much deeper structural problems.

This year is being hailed as a breakthrough year for black figures in the fashion industry.

Virgil Abloh was appointed creative director for menswear at Louis Vuitton. Ghanaian-born Edward Enninful, who took over as editor-in-chief of British Vogue in late 2017, made Rihanna the first black woman to star on the all-important September issue. A record number of other major magazines had black September cover stars, from Beyoncé for American Vogue to Slick Woods for Elle UK.

Behind the cloak of glamour

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In a new series of columns Rena Niamh Smith will look at aspects of the fashion industry, from ideology to racism, sexism and the environment. She begins with Fashion Week and how it conceals the system beneath.

This month, Spring/Summer 2019 Fashion Week swaggers into New York, followed by London, Milan and Paris. The carnival of shows is one of the most visible elements of an industry which cloaks itself in mystery. It is a multimillion-pound charade masking practices typical of capitalism: worker exploitation and artificially high consumption of the world’s resources.

Fashion: capitalism's favourite child

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From Theresa May’s choice of trousers to the horror of sweatshop labour, fashion is intimately entwined with capitalist relations of production and always has been, writes Anthony Sullivan.

Controversy is never far away from fashion, as Tory prime minister Theresa May discovered just before Christmas when former education secretary Nicky Morgan attacked her choice of £995 Amanda Wakeley leather trousers. Predictably, despite Morgan’s claims to the contrary it transpired that she had spent a similar sum on a Mulberry designer bag.

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