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15 April, 2015

Creators of Peace Oxford host Fashion Revolution – March 2015

Photo group 1As part of Oxford Women’s International Festival 2015, Oxford Creators of Peace hosted an afternoon event entitled ‘Fashion Revolution’, including speakers, an informal workshop and discussion over international finger food made by local Peace Circle women.

Why fashion and peace? Clothing is a global multi-million dollar industry reaching all the way from cotton farmers to retail outlets. An estimated 80% of the people who work in the apparel sector in developing countries are women.

In the UK we rarely get to hear the real life stories behind the clothes we wear – stories that affect thousands of women around the globe who have to wrestle with exploitation as they struggle to provide for their families. There are both horror stories and positive stories. The event gave us a chance to hear the voices of women across the globe.

Rachel WilshawOur first speaker was Rachel Wilshaw, the Ethical Trade Manager for Oxfam GB and a board member of the Ethical Trading Initiative. She is involved in advocacy and gives advice to companies on best practice in relation to labour rights. Her most recent report Steps towards a living wage in a global supply chains was published in December 2014. Rachel shared stories from the Bangladeshi apparel sector and urged the need for a living wage (rather than a minimum wage) for women across the globe.

Judith Condor-VidalShe was followed by Judith Condor-Vidal, an associate of the Word Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) and director of Trading for Development which works with over 40 fairtrade producer groups. These producers are based in some of the most economically disadvantaged areas of the world but are able to support themselves, their families and their communities through using traditional craft skills and natural resources.

Amina Dikedi-AjakaiyeThe last speaker, Amina Dikedi-Ajakaiye, started a fashion business in Lagos, Nigeria, and today works to promote reconciliation and ethical leadership in Africa with Initiatives of Change. Amina shared the challenges she faced within her own family when she went into the clothing business, and showed how her success impacted her family and relationships. She then described how the influx of second-hand clothes from Europe and North America is slowly extinguishing indigenous fashion and design in Africa.

The audience was left thoughtful and inspired by how our consumer choices impact women around the world.

Su Riddell and Miranda Shaw closed the afternoon by inviting the audience to creatively record any new pledges made after hearing the talks. These included decisions such as:

  • I will update my knowledge of the ethics of difference high street clothes shops
  • To use all my things for longer
  • I will organise a swishing event for the community in Oxford in 2015
  • A selection of international finger food made by Creators of Peace OxfordI would like to stop shopping for clothes so much, lose weight and get in to my old, smaller, clothes again
  • I will try to re-fashion items I already own, to new pieces or for a new function!
  • I pledge to do more research before I buy clothes

The chatter continued over nibbles and elderflower cordial.

Elizabeth Laskar


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