Slaves of Fashion

Joanna Long from Ethical Consumer on her recent talk at the latest Singh Twins exhibition

Ethical Consumer recently had the privilege of participating at an event with internationally renowned artists the Singh Twins.

The Wirral-based artist are currently exhibiting a series of new works at Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery. These explore the histories of Indian textiles and their role in the global story of Empire, conflict, enslavement and luxury lifestyles. In the process, the artworks uncover hidden details of Europe’s colonial past and its legacies in modern consumerism.

The Twins drew inspiration for some of the artworks from Ethical Consumer’s research, including ‘Because you’re worth it’ which focuses on palm oil, and ‘The King is Dead: Long Live the King’ which focuses on the cotton industry.

We are delighted to see our work being used in this way and we were really pleased to have the opportunity to attend a day-long public event to explain in more detail some of the stories presented in the artworks.

As well as naming companies and exposing their dirty laundry, we also highlighted the invaluable campaigning work being done by the likes of Rainforest Action Network and Fashion Revolution to address the dangers and damage wreaked by contemporary palm oil and cotton supply chains, and how ordinary people can make a difference through our consumer choices. See our presentation here

More about the exhibition

There was much for us to discuss at the symposium. The scope of the Twins artworks is vast, taking in commodities and fashions from ancient Egypt to modern Britain, and the story-telling is unflinching.

In one artwork an impoverished child mill-worker stands next to a lavishly dressed woman. Elsewhere the tortured body of an enslaved man hangs from an impossible tree of spices central to Dutch colonial trade.

The exhibition is incredibly vibrant. The rich reds, indigos and greens inject colour into normally sepia-toned colonial memory and revivify the material Indian histories of what we think of as ‘American’ blue jeans or muslin seemingly woven by angels.

image: the king is dead singh twins slaves of fashion exhibition
The King is Dead

The artworks are displayed alongside some of the objects that inspired them and are pictured in them, including jewellery, ceramics, books, paintings, Indian textiles and embroidery from the National Museums Liverpool collection.

The results powerfully dramatise the destruction, violence and exploitation that make our consumer world go round.

It is a spectacular, thought-provoking exhibition and we highly recommend you visit.

Slaves of Fashion: New Works by the Singh Twins is on at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool until 20 May. 

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