This Garment Worker Fashion Show Shines A Light On The Ugly Reality Behind Beautiful Clothing

The Ugly Reality Behind Beautiful Clothing

This past January saw violent crackdowns on garment worker protests in Cambodia. Police shot into a crowd near Phnom Penh, killing three and injuring others, according to the BBC.

It was a brutal response to what, by the standards of a country that buys the products of those garment worker's labor, is a relatively paltry request: An increase in the minimum wage to $160 monthly.

A performance art reenactment of the police response.

Much of the coverage in the months since has focused solely on the actions of the police, without taking a moment to recognize the garment workers who led the protests.

"What's missing are the stories of how so many women are so often finding the bravery and the ingenuity to stand up to this oppression," photographer Heather Stilwell, who documented a garment worker protest that took the form of a fashion show, wrote on her blog.

"They decided on a fashion show where workers would model the brand-name clothes they make every day in the factories, but they'd do it with a very clear message to brands -- stop the violence, stop the exploitation, and pay a decent wage," Stilwell wrote.

Their resolve is made even more significant by the fact that it is discouraged in traditional Cambodian culture for women to challenge authority, putting female garment workers at a significant disadvantage in labor disputes.

Watch the video above to see the fashion show and performance art protest.

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