There are only a few things out there that really make us mad (misogyny, racism, bad sushi), but last autumn, an op-ed about how women and fashion are the root cause of the problems in developing countries was ridiculous enough to warrant a rebuttal.

Prada-store-Sloane-Street-London

Story by Kiran Dhaliwal

After settling in from our post-New Year’s hangovers and crazy resolutions, we start to reflect on the past year, what we did, read and saw, and what we want to do a differently. News of the factory collapses and fires in Bangladesh in 2013 forced us to take notice and think about where our clothes come from and the real price of our cheap $6 t-shirts from H&M and Joe Fresh.

The fallout from Bangladesh also lead to the creation of a series of agreements that some international brands signed, increasing their responsibility in maintaining safe and healthy work conditions for workers in other countries, but there’s still a lot of work to be done (as the protests by Cambodian workers show us).

But there was one commentator in the UK who thought the blame for poor working conditions in developing nations should be placed not on all consumers or large corporations, but solely on women.

A few months ago, I got into work one morning and opened up The Times (part of my job in a press team is to monitor the media daily), and when I read the first line of the article, my mouth dropped.

“Well, thank God London Fashion Week is over for another season. Ye Gods, what a procession of vain lunacy and simpering dimness. What a mockery of all that is modest and decent. What a hideous picture of female priorities and preoccupations. What a nuclear explosion of vomitous superficiality, custom-made and hand-finished to blast the public perception of women back to the Stone Age.”

This is one of the few times I have become livid after reading a piece about London Fashion Week (not because there are negative comments about my favourite designer or because an annoying celeb of the moment is stealing the limelight over the amazing designs). No, I was livid because Giles Coren, a columnist with The Times, had the audacity to belittle fashion and women in his story, “What a week of rotten, simpering awfulness.” His simplistic analysis would have us believe that women (yes, every single one of us) are responsible for the ongoing safety issues in Bangladesh factories.

I thought the writer was going to moan about women’s obsession with fashion and perhaps complain about how his partner drags him into the shops on the weekend. I did not expect him to blame the world’s major problems on fashion – wait not even fashion – WOMEN!

“London Fashion Week is the grease on the cogs of the global machine that ensures that rich foreign money gets spent on pointless things and Third World paupers keep on dying. This is the fault of women.” – Giles Coren in The Times

Well this is ridiculous. I could give him a history lesson about how these countries became “Third World” (…due to colonial men, but that would be a very long lesson).

Giles Coren remarks about the tragedies that happened in Bangladesh, which everyone can agree has been absolutely devastating. But to blame “Third World” problems and tragedies on just women is completely ridiculous. This issue is obviously very complex and involves economics, trade agreements, tariffs, politics and corporate greed, and blaming women and fashion for this crisis is overly simplistic and shows Coren’s lack of knowledge and research about the issue.

And just where does this gentleman shop? Because let’s face it, if the majority of his clothes are from the high street then he is personally supporting the abuse of these same “Third World” workers.

One of Coren’s weaker arguments is that he blames these so-called problems brought on by fashion on women…but hang on, maybe he should stop being sexist for two seconds and realise that both women and men love and consume fashion. In fact, some of the biggest fashion labels in the world are headed by men, but hey, lets just blame this all on women.

We could sit here and rant about how the current economic climate is the fault of men who have led the banking crisis, or think of all the wars started by male leaders or blame all of the world’s problems on men. But that would be ridiculous (but perhaps a more accurate argument than what Giles Coren made).

There are of course many issues inside the fashion industry in terms of race, gender and body image. But instead of launching ridiculous accusations at women and the fashion industry, a proactive thing to do would be to think of ways to combat these issues. Naomi Campbell has started her campaign to acknowledge the race issue in the fashion industry – she is acting and trying to make a difference.

I am sure this article brought him a bit of pleasure and made him feel so powerful and self-righteous for writing this ‘forward’ thinking piece, but in fact, all he has done is highlight his ignorance and his hypocrisy.

 

Story By: Kiran Dhaliwal