SLAC Fashion Show Takes Political Bentby Elizabeth Heron and Julie Sabatier (10/29/99)
If you heard the distant sounds of "I'm....too sexy for my shirt" on your way to lunch Thursday, what you missed was the Student Labor Action Coalition holding a 'Sweatshop Fashion Show' in Wilder Bowl. Although audience turnout was low, energy was high among the participants.
The fashion show was the first action in SLAC's campaign to make Oberlin a sweat-free campus. Students dressed in clothes made in sweatshops strutted down the steps of Wilder to pounding music while an announcer described the conditions under which the clothes were made. "Here's Katherine sporting her Limited casual wear, which was produced by women in China who work twelve hour days in indentured servitude!" said the announcer.
Mixing parody with serious subjects made for a humorous and affecting spectacle that impressed many of the students in the crowd. "They've finally got it right," junior Matt Van Winkle commented after the show. "So many of these protesters seem to be angry at who they're trying to reach. But they were completely non-aggressive towards the audience."
Sophomore Katherine Blauvelt organized the event along with other members of SLAC. Over 50 people attended the show. Blauvelt said, "We did it for two reasons: to have fun and to raise awareness on campus."
Five companies, The Limited, Gap, Levis, Nike, JC Penney, and Tommy Hilfiger were targeted because of their well-documented use of sweatshops. As each model pranced around in the popular fashions, facts were relayed to the audience about the manufacturer's exploitation of workers. The Gap, Limited, and Levis were all associated with breaking child labor laws and paying wages too low to live on. Nike was exposed as making their laborers work 12 hours a day in forced overtime. As the sporty Nike model danced, the announcer mocked, "Imagine her having to stay on her Stairmaster for that long." Announcers told the audience that Tommy Hilfiger is currently facing a lawsuit for breaking international human rights laws by forcing indentured servitude on their workers. Tommy Hilfiger was also accused of falsely advertising their clothes as being made in the U.S.
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