Humans and their garments reveal interesting perspectives about who and what we are in the world and to each other, and what we have allowed and accepted to be. From the perspective of the 21st century we often look back onto dated clothing styles and compare ourselves to where we are today – the ever so liberated Jeans & T-shirt “life” style. We can now chose to wear loose fitting clothes that no longer constrict the movements of our bodies.
With Jeans & T-shirt we believe to be modern and progressive, no longer confined by obsolete dress codes – instead we simply ‘hang out’, léger and cool, embracing wrinkled silhouettes and drooping belts. In the recent years, this trend has been even more exploited by the fashion industry promoting the “run down” look where Jeans are made to look as if they have been worn for years, ripped and faded. The better this effect is achieved the steeper the price label.
Though the abuse has not gone away, it is in fact more hidden then when the standard attire was corsets and top hats. The part of the population who produces the garments that cater to large spectrum of images we may chose to project into the world, as the liberated idea of ourselves, are the ones who suffer the most and are exploited as cheap labour. From sweatshops to child labour, a long list of “money for blood” could fill this page. Here, I just want to focus on one item- Jeans. Specifically Jeans that are made to look faded through sand blasting.
Big corporations send out their ready made Jeans to small factories in East Turkey where the Jeans are hand sand-blasted by factory workers to achieve this understated Bohemian look. The workers are mostly young men from the nearby poor villages, often even young children, who can handle the physical demand of this type of job. The process entails the blasting of silicium, a chemical element and common metalloid, onto the Jeans which reacts with oxygen and forms tiny pieces of quartz that roughen the surface of the fabric
These men work on average 12 hour shifts and some even work night shifts on top of it. It is a well known fact that the breathing of silicium is deadly and requires extreme measures of protection. In these factories however, workers are not given protection, or if measures are taken they are ineffective for the level of danger these workers are exposed to. A whimsical dust mask is the maximum of protection that some factories will provide, but then the masks are not changed frequently which renders them useless, and they have to be taken off. The result of such an unprotected operation in the work place is that hundreds of men contract silicosis. This is when small pieces of quartz are lodged in the lungs and cause the tissue to scar. There is no medication that can be taken, and eventually the person dies a slow and painful death of suffocation.
The estimated number of workers who have contracted silicosis in this way add up to approximately 5-6 000 workers in Turkey alone. Not only are workers exploited by slaving for a minimum of 12 hours a day earning a pittance, they are literally killed by wearable weapons of mass destruction to cater to our “liberated” Jeans & T-shirt life style.
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