Slave to Fashion by Safia Minney and Five Other Books to Inspire Change

We spoke to Safia Minney, Managing Director of brand to trust Po-Zu, to find out more about her latest book, Slave to Fashion – an investigation into modern slavery within the fashion industry.

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Where did the idea for Slave to Fashion come from? 

Slave to Fashion came to me in a dream. Smiles of the women that I have worked with at People Tree and hands calling me into the slum homes where conventional factory workers live.

I have worked with vulnerable, exploited women who show incredible courage and resilience. They keep going to protect their children and the other women in their lives.  I had worked with these women silenced by fear. I wanted to tell their stories and what is working to help them improve their lives. 

I feel the Modern Slavery Act, passed at the end of 2015, is a unique opportunity to help liberate people caught in slavery. We need action now.

Laws that can be implemented. Corporations need to be responsible for their supply chains and know how shared urgently throughout the industry. Transparency tech is beginning to provide answers but this needs to be owned by the workers, not just the brands. 

The British government needs to give the public a quick and easy way to understand what brands are doing to improve working conditions throughout their supply chains. We can all blame a poor environment for poor human rights, but it is clear that we all have a part to play in eradicating slavery. 

 

How would you define modern slavery within the fashion industry? 

There are more people trapped in modern slavery today than at any other time in history. Today there are 21 million people who are victims of forced labour in the supply chains that make the products that we consume. 

During my research for Slave to Fashion I met with people caught in modern slavery who had lived as bonded labourers, children as young as 12 and 13 who work in the garment factories that don’t care about the age of the children they employ and people who had been trafficked.   

This is before we look at the excessive over time and the trap of sexual exploitation that garment workers face daily. Bonded labour, child labour, human trafficking and excessive overtime are all defined today as modern slavery.  

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What shocked you most during your research? 

What shocked me most is how people caught up in slavery, and their families, feel powerlessness. They are often ground down into accepting that they will never be free and never repay their debt to their master or see their child again. 

If money has exchanged hands for someone to take their daughter on the understanding that they will get a decent job, but that it turns out to be unpaid or very poorly paid, or that she disappears, or ends up in prostitution they blame themselves and are unable to go to local police in fear of repercussions as the police may well be on the payroll of local criminal gangs.

The fear and inhumanity of poverty and powerlessness is shocking.

 

What can consumers do to fight against Modern Slavery? 

As consumers we have a voice and should use it on behalf of the voiceless. Through shopping for ethical brands, asking questions of the high street and online brands and in our professional and personal roles.

Whether we are fashion editors, buyers, teachers, nurses, taxi drivers, investors and shareholders, or as parents or grandparents, we all have a powerful role to play in raising awareness of and helping to eradicate modern slavery.

 

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In celebration of the launch of Slave to Fashion, we’ve compiled a list of five other books that are inspiring people to change their own lives and the world;

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This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

An international bestseller that exposes the myths surrounding climate change and proposes an optimistic future that could define our world.

 

 

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The Path by Prof. Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh

The Path explores how the wisdom of ancient Chinese philosophers can transform your life, inspiring small changes to your everyday.

 

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We: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere by Gillian Anderson & Jennifer Nadel

Written by friend of Positive Luxury Gillian Anderson and her journalist best friend, We is a manifesto for change. It defines new ways of bringing more happiness and meaning to your life, away from the have-it-all pressures of modern society.

 

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The Curated Closet: Discover Your Personal Style and Build Your Dream Wardrobe by Anuschka Rees

The Curated Closet puts forth a pared-back approach to fashion and shopping. It focusses on helping you define your style, encouraging you to buy fewer yet better items to build a curated wardrobe that works for you.

 

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Better by John Grant

Based on the concept of Wellbeeing – a trend that combines socialness and naturalness with wellness – Better defines a new era where business is a thriving living system based on better purpose, leadership and culture.

 

If you enjoyed this, you might like to read our interview with Navaz Batliwala, author of The New Garconne. 

Sophie Corfan