RMIT explores fashion’s dark side

The speed at which fashion is consumed is ever increasing. Runway turns to wardrobe so quickly that traditional fashion seasons are now obsolete, making way for low-cost production that sees two-week turnovers. ‘Fast’ fashion, the industry’s buzzword, in all its convenient rapidity, appears to ignore the start of the line. But when the start of the supply chain is made up of over four million garment factory workers in Bangladesh alone, it appears the cost is far greater than what’s printed on the swing tag.

The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology’s latest exhibition, ‘Fast Fashion: The Dark Side of Fashion’, explores the social, economic and environmental impact of fast fashion. RMIT Gallery’s partnership with the Goethe-Institut brings together an exhibition of photographs, garments and stories of the unseen processes in garment production. Coupled with the untold stories of the all too often exploited garment workers of Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, India, Turkey and Vietnam, the exhibition breaks fashion’s glossy veneer.

The dialogue surrounding fast fashion climaxed following the Rana Plaza collapse; the 2013 collapse of a garment factory building in Bangladesh’s Dhaka District which killed 1,134 factory workers, and injured thousands of others. The accident influenced the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, an independent and legally binding agreement between brands and trade unions ensuring safe working conditions for factory employees. But the impact of fast fashion is far from solved. A boiler explosion at a garment factory in Bangladesh on 3 July killed 11 workers and injured over 50.

Top designed by artist Manu Washaus for the ‘STUDY OF THE POSSIBLE II’, 2013. The garment was produced in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China and features images from the Rana Plaza factory collapse.

Third-year RMIT Bachelor of Fashion Design (Honours) student Marley said she was “shocked” by the exhibition’s facts and visuals, even after having studied the effects of fast fashion as part of her course.

“What I’ve learnt is to think about the way I can influence this as a designer,” Marley said.

“Every piece of clothing I buy now, I will think about where it’s come from, who’s made it and the whole process to produce it to now, and whether it’s worth buying- just a bit more understanding and value of clothing.”

The exhibition is on until 9 September at the RMIT Gallery, located in Building 16.


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Anastasia McInerney