Apparently GMTV run an annual high street fashion award recognising different types of fashion labels and giving the viewing public a chance to vote for the winner. The particular feature I happened to catch was ‘best budget fashion’ category which included Primark and George at ASDA as nominees as well as a few other well known names. This was enough to stop me in my tracks, I couldn’t believe this TV show was actually going to reward fashion labels which have been linked to such negative reports about sweatshops and manufacturing practices. I was even more horrified to hear the TV presenter Lorraine Kelly, pop star Rachel Stevens and Paula Reed (style director of celebrity gossip and trashy fashion magazine Grazia) sing the praises of these cheap shops. Lorraine Kelly even said something to the effect of “It’s great that you can pop into the supermarket and buy a toilet duck and a dress for just a few pounds” (this isn’t exactly what she said but very similar). What?!!!
Just to clarify, I don’t have anything against bargains per se. I love them just as much as any girl who likes to shop but there are a few things here that really make my blood boil:
1) Anyone who knows anything about fashion and clothes shopping must have come across the high profile, negative press on such budget shops as Primark. Additionally there are many reports about the dangers of conventional cotton farming for lower and lower prices (if you’re wondering what I’m talking about see the references at the end of this article). I would be very surprised to find that the researchers at GMTV, Lorraine, Rachel and Paula are unaware of these things, yet not only do they ignore the issues but they actively promote these shops anyway.
2) How opportunistic and irresponsible, in a time of economic instability and money worries, to tell a mass audience that this is the way to enjoy fashion cheaply; Not to mention patronising coming from a group of women who earn salaries most of us could only dream of. If they wanted to promote fashion that doesn’t cost a lot of money why not talk about charity shops, vintage shops, customising clothes and even the high street shops with more positive ethical credentials? Traditional values of designer fashion were to create beautiful, well made and stylish garments that would last for years, not some throw-away item to be bought for one night out.
3) Where was the ‘most ethical fashion label’ category? Why don’t GMTV and these celebrities use their far reaching voice to tell consumers about the fashion labels working hard to use green practices and create a safe and fair environment for workers?
I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. All fired up I decided to write to GMTV and Rachel Stevens to let them know my disappointment, ask them if they were aware of the issues around such cheap, throw away fashion and ask them for any comments that I could share on Green Girls Global. About two weeks later I received an e-mail from GMTV saying that my message had been passed to Lorraine and her team. I’ve heard nothing since and nothing at all from Rachel Stevens.
There’s no doubt that celebrity endorsement can help a product. When Madonna announced that she loved Timothy Taylor’s Landlord beer (and so do I) the brewery were delighted, knowing the new markets it could open and exposure it would bring.
I guess what I’m wondering is am I justified to be so annoyed by celebrities endorsing infamous products and companies (I also despair at Davina McCall’s Loreal campaign)? Of course anyone has the right to promote whatever they want and with the wonderful world of the internet anyone can. But if a popular personality says a product is great I can guarantee that would have a lot more clout than if I did.
Should those with a louder voice be using it more responsibly? Should those with more opportunities help those with less?
In stark contrast to the above is Vivienne Westwood who appeared on Jonathan Ross’ talk show last week. She had specifically requested to visit the show to talk about climate change because she knew it was the way to reach a lot of people. She tapped into the mainstream media to spread an impirtant message. It’s best said directly from Vivienne so do take a few minutes to watch the videos below. All I can say is “good on ya Vivienne” I wish there were more celebs as smart as you!
Expect Primark protests this Saturday over 7p worker rates (30/04/2009)
Why Conventional Cotton is Such a Killer
Pesticide suicides. The cotton farmers’ tragedy
International Labour Rights Forum
UK supermarkets’ ethical clothing standards ‘a sham’