Because the fashion industry pollutes the earth and violates human rights more than almost any other industry, it is important to come up with business models that embody an ethical approach.
In seminar I will be examining how fashion and business should incorporate activism to create a better world. My imaginary business, Radical Empathy, enhances and works WITH local economies rather than exploiting or ignoring them.
For my final project in Studio I will be releasing a line of corsets and possibly other garments. This concept is inspired by two projects I did last semester. One was launching an imaginary company called Radical Empathy, a brand dedicated to helping the refugee crisis. This line will be a part of this company.
The other project that inspired this was a corset that doubles a political commentary on the Syrian proxy war.
For this project, I’ll make at least two corsets using metals and plastics that we’re dumping into the ocean. I will collect plastic bags from beaches and streets, fuse them together to make fabric, and make corsets out of the material.
I will also collect soda cans, cut them into scales, and sew them onto one of the corsets to imitate the look of fish scales to show the poignant reality of what we have done to nature. The other corset will be more simple, focusing on the logos on the plastic bags, what they tell us about our society, and the concept of using plastic bags as a fabric.
Here is the criteria for each garment I make:
•sparks conversation/raises awareness about an important issue
•sustainable manufacturing/small footprint
•has a way to contribute money to the cause it speaks about in a truly useful way
The idea for this comes from my time living in Senegal, where I saw artisans making toys out of cut-up metal from the street. It is also a technique similar to that of El-Anatsui, a Ghanaian artist who makes beautiful tapestries out of bottle caps and other metal waste wired together. These methods are a way of taking something unwanted and unsustainable, and reversing that.
I envision customers wearing my garments to parties and events—places for conversations. I want people to see my work and ask what is is and what it means, sparking discussions about the cause and thus raising awareness and building empathy.
Ultimately, empathy is about traveling to another person. We live in separate worlds, and I’ve been lucky enough to travel between them. Radical Empathy gives others the opportunity to do the same. Profits from each piece go to the topic they’re each about.