Activists don’t want attention straying from fashion’s human rights infringements — especially not on the global stage that is New York Fashion Week.
On Thursday morning, organizers from industry groups and corporate watchdogs like SumOfUs, Freedom United and Campaign for Uyghurs will stage a protest outside show venue Spring Studios. Along with speeches from human rights activists, the rally will feature a standing demonstration with models dressed in all-black wearing oversize clothing labels around their necks to draw attention to Uyghur forced labor within fashion.
Since March 2020, consumers and corporations have been even more aware of the labor behind their labels. With researchers piling up evidence of hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs (the Muslim Turkic ethnic group predominantly living in Xinjiang) performing forced labor in the Xinjiang region of China, everything from cotton and clothing to tomato products has been under sharp scrutiny.
Amid the U.S.’ tightened sanctions on such products, brands including Nike, Zara, Uniqlo and Hugo Boss have been called out for ties with forced labor or tainted cotton in their supply chains. The protest aims to spotlight the brands in question and fashion labor issues more broadly.
“For many of us, fashion represents freedom — to create and be ourselves. But we have to confront the reality that our industry is heavily complicit in forced labor of the Uyghur people in China,” commented Sara Ziff, founding director of the Model Alliance, a group in solidarity with organizers. “What is happening in China to the Uyghur people is a crime against humanity, and it’s on us as faces of the industry to refuse to be a part of it.”
In addition to the protest, Uyghur advocates and fashion models will be putting together a digital runway show featuring clothes from the Uyghur Collective, a cultural project dedicated to uplifting Uyghur culture.