Businesses within the fashion industry face many ethical decisions over the importance of profit vs. social responsibility. Exploitation is rife in developing countries where cheap, unregulated labour is readily available. Illegal environmental damage caused by clothing production can often have catastrophic effects on local communities. Recent research in the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education explores teaching methods to educate fashion undergraduates on socially responsible practices in the fashion industry.
Yurchisin et al set out to discover fashion students' ability to comprehend, respond and take action to counter the negative social and environmental effects of the fashion industry. They observed a group of 75 US fashion undergraduates reading Timmerman's book 'Where am I Wearing: A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories and People that Make Our Clothes' which documents his world-wide travels to factories manufacturing his favourite apparel. His first-hand accounts enabled the students to critically assess issues of social responsibility in the fashion industry. The students conducted 'journaling'; written accounts of their thoughts and ideas about the issues at stake in the book. This focused on 5 key areas; economics, women and children, environment, standards of living and future action. They discussed the pros and cons of cheap labour in developing countries, child labour and cases of environmental damage. Most importantly students were motivated to propose future actions and ideas to improve working and living conditions for fashion industry labourers. Many pledged to be more responsible as consumers and to implement clear labelling on garments they produce.
This study has shown written reflection to be an effective teaching method to enable students to build on thought process and gain deep and insightful understanding of social responsibility. Students interpreted issues and developed cultural knowledge, skills and considerate values to be applied when making decisions in their future professional careers. The authors conclude "In this case, journaling may be an effective method to teach students about social responsibility, where educators can also gain insight on students' progression and development."
Cite This Page: