by Laura Gildner
Tomorrow (April 24) is the one-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza Factory collapse in Bangladesh, where 1,127 people died and over 2500 were injured (most of them women). I’m a Canadian feminist artist who’s made a sculpture referencing the injustices our globalized textile industry creates.
I’ve made a body bag solely out of used Joe Fresh clothing, suggesting to Joe Fresh that they use this design as a more realistic representation of what their business practices represent. Stitched within the bag are 1,127 stitches in orange, Joe Fresh’s signature colour, to represent each life lost on April 24, 2013.
The photos of the body bag are taken against a suburban landscape to highlight the privilege of the Western consumer (as the final stop in the lifecycle of a Joe Fresh garment before the dumpster) in relation to the poor working conditions those who make the garments must endure.
Here is my Artist Statement:
On April 24 2013, the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh where Canadian company Joe Fresh, among other globalized textile companies, outsourced their clothing to be manufactured and assembled collapsed. This devastation killed 1,129 factory workers and injured approximately 2500 others. Most of the workers in the factory were young women, and despite protests over growing cracks in the walls that had become noticeable the day before, workers were ordered into the building on the day of the collapse.
In October of 2013, less than six months after the Rana Plaza factory collapse, Joe Fresh debuted their new line of clothing (their first since the tragedy) at Toronto International Fashion Week. Cited by the company as “Asian-inspired,” Joe Fresh unabashedly paraded this fashion collection into the public eye, despite at the time having yet to initiate concrete plans to rectify their direct involvement with the deplorable working conditions that led to the Rana Plaza collapse or follow through with financial compensation to the families of the workers killed or injured in the devastation.
My goals in exhibiting this project are to single out Joe Fresh specifically and challenge the company to review their ethics, morals, and promises. Despite admitting to their involvement in adhering to the poor working conditions that led to Rana Plaza’s collapse, I feel Joe Fresh can do much more. While other globalized textile companies also had their clothing manufactured at the Rana Plaza factory and in my opinion are equally culpable in complying to and promoting the inhumane working conditions that led to the collapse, I am specifically targeting Joe Fresh as a Canadian citizen asking the only Canadian company directly involved in the devastation to set a better example for the globalized textile industry.
This body bag was made solely from used and disposed of Joe Fresh clothing sourced from thrift stores and friends closets. Many stitches on the body bag are visible to show that I cannot sew, because in being Canadian, it is much more cost-effective for me to purchase clothing made in overseas garment factories than to learn make clothing myself. This noticeable discrepancy between the factory workers skills and my own make visible the privilege of the Canadian consumer. I have sewn 1,129 stitches to this body bag in orange, Joe Fresh’s “signature colour” to represent each life lost in the Rana Plaza factory collapse.