ABOUT A WORKER is a design studio giving Workers from around the World the possibility to speak out loud by becoming Designers, while valuing their crafts and creative talents. ABOUT A WORKER gives Workers, Craftsmen, Students, Consumers and Influential Industries,
a platform to meet and build inclusive systems for a brighter future.
The dark underbelly of the fashion industry becomes most apparent when one surveys the atrocities experienced by garment workers across the supply chain. The hands which make and weave clothing are known to be the most underpaid and undervalued members within the industry. One only has to look at the Raina Plaza tragedy that happened in Bangladesh in 2014, to see the immense disregard placed on these crucial fashion professionals. Socially reimagining fashion systems is as — if not more — critical than reshaping the environmental impact of the industry, as the socio-ecological implications are a direct result of colonialism and white supremacy. With a lack of regard for all people across the highly competitive narrative of traditional fashion — the industry has incurred a great sense of shame and reputation for perpetuating human rights violations, upholding oppression and fuelling problematic heteronormative western ideals of beauty.
In interrogating fashion and “shame” as a hindrance towards sustainability, Dr Mathilda Tam writes that ‘’we are still only at the beginning of a fundamental journey of change, where perhaps the biggest challenge — so far mainly untackled — concerns the very culture, mindset or paradigm of fashion. So, yes, there is still reason to feel ashamed”. I very much agree and with the clout driven ideals of social media, it sometimes feels like the vapid vacuum of fashion is only expanding. If there is to be any substantial or authentic change within the fashion system; it has to start with the human beings whose labour make the industry into what it truly is, their hands, minds and dedication. These are the driving forces behind my own deeply ingrained love for fashion — and perhaps somewhat naively — I still believe change is occurring, albeit far too slowly.
In reimagining fashion systems, I perhaps have struck gold in coming across the ingenious creative agency ABOUT A WORKER. A research lab and hub in which the garment worker is centred and encouraged to pursue their path as designers, innovators, and way showers of a new renaissance in sartorial ethics. By beginning with a “self expression design initiation”, people are lead on a journey to analyse their own realities, manufacturing experiences and perceptions around design in order to instigate their own unique relationship to their chosen practice. By instilling a sense of autonomy and creative expression in workers, a vast distance is carved out between Ford’esque production lines, and a step made towards something far more interesting, innovative and inspiring. “Work” is transmuted into “craft abilities”; skills and perspectives become valued and freedom within the work environment is offered not only to the creative director of a label, but to each individual who makes a collection happen.
This notion feels like one of those things that was sitting under our noses the whole time, and to see it occurring in Paris — which is perhaps still the epicentre of traditional fashion ideals — is truly intriguing. This somehow seems to demonstrate a capability of leopards to (actually) change their spots. Although this movement in no way negates the atrocities of the fashion industry, it can perhaps help reshape the future. “ABOUT A WORKER runs long term researches to helps Brands, Factories, Cultural Institutions and Schools to find out adapted innovations to their own method, while studying their problematics, advantages and traditions”. Succinctly described on their website relaying the work of their research lab; a space designed to investigate and integrate healthier and more robust methodologies for fashion systems. In tandem with centring workers, the research lab promotes the system restructuring necessary to protect any long-term, sustainable movements. Incubators, workshops, immersive projects and even an in-house, trés chic workwear line, all encompass ABOUT A WORKER — an agency that has deepened my hope, and sparked my curiosity.