Craftivists, assemble!

Are you crafty? Would you like to try turning your hand to some craftivism? Have you done so before? If you answered yes, or no, or maybe, to any of those questions, then WE NEED YOU! It really doesn’t matter if you can or can’t sew, or if you shun the activist limelight (suggested reading: Why craftivism is good for introverts) – read on, and then get in touch about joining in, or even popping along to a local stitch-in.

Image: Craftivist Collective
Image: Craftivist Collective

This summer the Craftivist Collective is teaming up with War On Want to add their crafty shoulders to the “Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops” campaign. I’m joining in too, and together we’re asking people to take up craftivism to help change the world for garment workers across the globe – stitching in support of the stitchers, as it were. How? By stitching mini protest banners, and hanging them where people will see them. Mini whuh? How? Well OK, I’ll let Sarah (founder of Craftivist Collective) explain how:

“Our small, provocative Mini Protest Banners can help us reflect on this issue of sweatshops and what we can do as an individual (consumer, voter etc) to keep the spotlight on this ugly side of fashion we CAN change. Also by hanging your banner in public you can engage others in fighting for a world without sweatshops & supporting War on Want‘s www.lovefashionhatesweatshops.org campaign in a provocative but thoughtful way without people feeling threatened or preached at.”

I’ve been reading around the sticky subject of sweatshops, and where our clothes are made, and stuff like that, and did you know the legal minimum wage for garment workers in Bangladesh is just 11p per item? And that’s only in the places that respect the minimum wage laws, and the organisations who keep an eye on this stuff say that’s still only about half of what people need to live on.

I won’t go into the issues here, but if you want to find out more, there are plenty of articles out there about the nasty realities of sweatshops. About the poor safety (remember the recent factory collapse, in which over a thousand people died preventable deaths?), the sexual harassment, child exploitation, physical abuse, and of course the complete pittance of a wage. Hunt some out.

I’m not exactly a fashionista, but I do like good clothes. Well made, fabulous clothes, that make me walk tall and say ‘yeah, I look awesome today.’ But the idea that fellow human beings were treated like expendable commodities to make those clothes, well, that I don’t like. I can’t think of anyone who would, really. But what do we do to change it? We can’t wander about butt-naked all the time (well I can’t, not in Yorkshire – brrr), we need clothes!

No, these things won’t change by themselves. And we won’t change them by feeling cross about them. Not by reading a Guardian article and leaving a sad face in the comments thread, not by discussing it on Facebook (a place recently described by folk singer Gavin Davenport as “the new opiate of the masses”), and not, you may be surprised to hear, by boycotting sweat-shop produced clothing. As this 2009 article points out: “sweatshops are only a symptom of poverty, not a cause, and banning them closes off one route out of poverty”. We need to improve the factories, not close them.

Don’t be downhearted, here’s where you come in: we need as many people as possible to stitch a little protest banner (you can get a funky kit, or make your own), like this one:

Image: Craftivist Collective
Image: Craftivist Collective

Hang it somewhere it will be seen, take a photo, and send it to us. Your photo will be put with all the others from across the globe, and made into a giant collage to be displayed during London Fashion Week. A time where fashion lovers come together to display and admire creations designed by the Haves, and (most often) made by the Have-Nots. As Craftivist Collective founder Sarah Corbett says: “Wouldn’t it be brilliant if LFW 2014 was a show of only exploitation-free clothes? Let’s fight together for that reality one stitch at a time!”

Image: Craftivist Collective
Image: Craftivist Collective

I’m stitching my mini-banner right now. I got a kit from the Craftivist Collective which has everything you need (even a needle! They think of everything), but you can make your own too. I would recommend the kit though, because you can start straight away, proceeds go to help fund projects like this one, AND YOU GET A BADGE. I mean, come on! Choose your message (all we ask is that you keep it factual, and polite – this is a creative, not an aggressive, campaign), and get stitching! Send your pictures and the location details to me via this site. This protest started in the UK, but you do not have to be in the UK to take part. This is a global issue!

AND AND AND! I will be running at least one drop-in craftivism session in Sheffield over the summer, where you can join in, drink tea, and discuss more about this campaign, and craftivism in general, so do let me know if you’d be interested in, well, dropping in. And/or you have a suggestion for a stitch-in venue (my original choice is closed for a summer refurb – typical!). Seriously folks, who’s in? Watch this space… 🙂