Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Musing in fashion's working world

Musing in fashion’s working world..

As I began to embark upon my Indian expedition, I was filled with worry and anxiety for I knew that throughout the entirety of my time I had to uphold a cool and collected persona. At any given time my cover could be blown and all that I had strived to achieve could come to a grinding halt. All those helpless civilians that surrounded would be in jeopardy and there would be nothing that I could do. So armed with conviction I slowly edged closer to one of Kolkata’s most deprived working environments.  I had arranged previously to meet with Phoolendu Vagish, the founder of Kolkata’s largest ‘sweatshop’. On first impressions Phoolendu appeared warm and welcoming, but it soon become apparent that this charming exterior was part of his tactics to lure me in. Eventually I was to become subjected to the catastrophic experiences that his already existing workers were undergoing.  Lost and helpless I found myself lost in my thoughts, wondering how I could possibly survive the rest of the afternoon let alone the rest of the week under his orders. Conscious that I set out to complete my task, to reveal this man as exploiting his employee’s my mind had to stay focused.

This new life that been bestowed upon me seems to be forever expanding, and I revel in the rewards. An overwhelming sense of gladness for all the persecution that I had once become accustomed to has now been taken away from me. All the tears that I once cried, running down my withered face has now been wiped away. Sadness has merged into happiness. Yet I still feel confused; why me? Why have I become the one to experience a world of happiness when my loved ones are still battling in a brutal world?

Although I knew what I was doing for was for the good of others, I still had a feeling of despondency about me. Why had I willingly let myself become part of this industry? As I stood there, feet bare on the cold hard cobbles, I witnessed for myself just how much suffering actually went into the production of the garments that we call fashion. What I noticed is that what I could see around me was also ‘fashionable’, a form of survival, the only way of existence.  As I peered into the midnight blackness, I knew the time had come. The time to seize all the lifeless bodies, that were hurled together acting as their only measure of warmth. I was about to take them into a whole new world.

As these thoughts race through my mind, I am gripped with a sudden sense of euphoria.  Momentarily I delve deep into my old existence and I can see that the feelings I am experiencing is slowly being passed onto my loved ones. They too are filled with light, and finally my sorrow starts to lift. I can now venture on into my new life, content that there is an element of righteousness in the world. I am incredibly grateful to that one night where a fellow person could see beyond the world of poverty and see us as the individuals that we are. Provide us with the life that we have longed to live.

As to be expected, my presence initially ignited the room with fear. But on closer inspection they soon realised that I had in fact become on of them.  I wasn’t after them for their labour, nor was I there to abuse them of their rights.  Instead, I was going to use them to regenerate the fashion industry; provide them with a new beginning. I was to take them out of their mundane life, and show them that they could provide for their families without fear of being whipped for missing deadlines. Deep within the depths of India it was settled, I was going to remove them from this harsh world they were currently occupying and show them a snapshot of what life outside could be. Show them a different kind of culture and regenerate their working world. A culture filled with equality and fairness: a moment.

Words by Danielle Baskerville

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