A bonfire of the vanities, one step at a time
On the 7th February 1497 in Florence, Italy, a bonfire of the vanities occurred where according to Francesco Guicciardini the destruction of objects took place that might tempt one to sin. Fast forward to 2020 where many major brands including Nike, which is worth 34.8 billion dollars and increasing are looking to lobby Congress in America to weaken a bill that would ban imported goods made with forced labour in China’s Xinjiang region.
Over the last couple of years I have been researching clothing that isn’t made in sweatshops by forced labour. Although I, and many others in this age of information where there is no justifiable reason for us not to be aware of how our clothes are produced, still dress head to toe in clothes and foot wear that is made by forced labour. We are seduced by the swoosh it seems. I remember when I was a teenager, I was hypnotised by the tick. I was a perfect citizen monthly purchasing Nike and other clothing brands from the heavy influence of their marketing, the music scene I was part of, how they made me feel that false sense of importance, the ineluctable grip of fashion and of course because partly they were aesthetically pleasing. I admit as I grow older there is a certain nostalgia when I hold a pair in my hands, but it doesn’t last for long and it isn’t a place I would like to return to.
I recall the last time I was in New York I went into a shop which if I remember correctly was called ‘Flight Club’ named I imagine, with some wordplay, in reference to Chuck Palahniuk’s most famous novel. I wasn’t interested in purchasing a pair, but I was in New York and thought what the hell… It was essentially a shop for Nike nerds with a glass case in the middle with limited edition and rare old Nike trainers for huge amounts of cash. People lifted trainers off the surrounding walls and held them in their hands like treasure. It’s no secret people have killed others for them. The first rule of Flight Club was to leave your consciousness at the door, it matters little about the unseen millions that work unreasonable hours in poor working conditions for unfair wages, just purchase the trainers and be ‘cool’. But is it cool? Or are we tricked as consumers to buy yet more stuff, in a moment of weak ephemeral gratification, to find the following moment we feel empty because as a society we lack something to make us feel whole? Is it cool to fund slave labour? I bet if you asked anyone if they believed in equality they would say ‘yes, of course’, we all would. But then if we start to actually examine our lives and the effects globally it would quickly unravel and embarrass each one of us. Perhaps this is a reason why we choose to purchase blindly? Or maybe, some of us simply, just don’t care. So as I stated at the beginning, on the 7th February 1497 in Florence, Italy, a bonfire of the vanities occurred where according to Francesco Guicciardini the destruction of objects took place that might tempt one to sin.
To buy sweatshop products through intense marketing could be considered ‘objects that might tempt one to sin’. I have for some time researched and worked hard to find clothing that is sweatshop free and sustainable. There are undoubtably plenty of other products around me, in my home, that I use, that are produced in sweatshops, but the switching over can’t be achieved overnight and so with the burning of my only Nike trainers, ‘the objects that might tempt one to sin’, I am doing this: one step at a time. My wardrobe now is almost sweatshop, forced and child labour free. This was my bonfire of the vanities, and never again will I put a pair of Nikes on my feet.
Sustainable and ethical clothing: