Human Rights in Global Fashion

Fashion has long been home to some of the most glaring inequalities and injustices on an increasingly globalized scale, linking consumers and workers in distant places. Since the 19th century, the clothing sector has also been a site of social contestation that has been marked by struggles for worker rights, the rise of social movements, the exercise of corporate power, and the fallibility of national governments. It has also been a source of innovation in public policy, corporate accountability, monitoring — processes that have led to new 21st century designs of the industry itself.

This spring, Mary Watson, Executive Dean of the Schools of Public Engagement and Milano professor, and Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, Director of the Julien J. Studley Graduate Programs in International Affairs, co-taught Human Rights in Global Fashion: Value Chains, Workers, Corporate Accountability and Systems Design. The course provided an introductory overview of the key obstacles and opportunities, actors, rules, and methods for crafting innovative solutions in social mobilization, legal intervention, and design with the aim of creating a more socially sustainable and economically inclusive fashion — a fashion that fulfills the human rights of workers in the supply chain. Joleen Ong ’12, social responsibility lead for Columbia Sportswear’s Licensing Corporate Responsibility program, was a guest speaker in the class that ends this week. 

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