The Morality of Fashion


BBC radio 4 - fashion mortality - mi apparelLive debate examining the moral issues of behind one of the week's news stories FASHION

Some of the stars of this year’s Glastonbury festival have joined the chorus of campaigners denouncing ‘throwaway fashion’. They’ve given some of their own clothing to Oxfam and are encouraging their fans to buy their outfits second-hand (or ‘pre-cherished’). These days you can buy a dress for a fiver and wear it once before chucking it away. Is that proof that capitalism has gone too far? Critics of the industry cite the appalling conditions and rates of pay in the third-world factories churning out garments that will end up as non-biodegradable landfill quicker than you can say “sustainability”.

There are those, on the other hand, who prefer not to be lectured by celebs famous for their multiple costume changes and who point out that the minimum wage doesn’t run to a wardrobe of high-quality clobber. Beyond the social and environmental implications of fast fashion, what about the moral value of clothes themselves? We humans have covered our nakedness ever since Adam and Eve embarrassed themselves in the Garden of Eden. Fashion lovers say that our clothes matter because they are expressions of an aesthetic sensibility, intrinsic to both self-esteem and dignity.

Others believe the fuss about this season’s ‘look’ is a cynical manipulation of insecurity and a celebration of vanity and superficiality. The morality of fashion: fashionably moral.

Producer: Dan Tierney

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