An evening of advocacy and ethical fashion

CNU’s chapter of IJM puts on fair trade fashion show “Freely Made”

The DSU Ballroom was aglow with the strings of Christmas lights that lined the edges of the stage, and the high-ceilinged room was filled with the excited chatter of students. The “Freely Made” fashion show drew all kinds of different crowds from the CNU community as excited attendees cheered their classmates and friends on as they strutted down the runway.

Christopher Newport’s chapter of the International Justice Mission (IJM) held their annual “Freely Made” fashion show and advocacy event in the DSU Ballroom on the evening of Friday, Nov. 8.

The event continued in several different sections that all contributed to the overall goal of the night, which was to raise awareness for the plight of unfair labor practices around the world that many fashion companies in the industry rely on to support their companies.

IJM’s objective is to advocate against modern-day slavery in all of its forms, including human trafficking and child labor. The goal of the “Freely Made” fashion show was to raise awareness for those who are trapped in unfair labor practices such as the fast fashion industry, while also encouraging the community to support fair trade companies that engage in practices that ensure workers are paid a wage they can live off of.

Kenzie Wolfe, the vice president of IJM at CNU, emphasized that the intention of the night was to be fun as well as educational, as the focus was on raising awareness for unethical practices but also how students could do their part to help eradicate them and “[be] more ethically-minded consumers.”

Before the fashion show began, Kelly Hazzard, IJM’s treasurer at CNU, gave an educational presentation for the audience on ethical living as a college student and the dangers of fast fashion.

She said, “Fast fashion is our cheap, trendy clothing that samples ideas from the catalogs and celebrity culture and turns them into garments and high-street stores at breakneck speed… Over 40 million people are slaves today. This includes labor trafficking and sex trafficking. There are 20.1 million trapped in the labor trafficking industry alone and that happens in the U.S. as well as abroad.”

She presented the audience with a list of popular stores and companies that rely on fast fashion to supply their clothing or other unethical and unsustainable practices, such as Forever 21 and H&M.

After Hazzard’s presentation, a second speech was given by Valentina Ferreira, the Campaign and Communications Specialist at the International Justice Mission headquarters in Washington, D.C.

She discussed the issue of different kinds of slavery around the world, and she told the true story of a man named Ron, a Cambodian farmer who was tricked into becoming enslaved on a shrimp fishing boat. Ferrerira explained that although he was not enslaved in the name of fashion, the concept of slavery was still the same.

“Today, you hear the word ‘fish,’ but if you change the word ‘fish’ to ‘fashion,’ it’s the same thing,” she said. “Someone somewhere is being exploited, and violence is caused upon them for the sake of consumerism. Four billion people live outside of the protection of the law,” she said.

“We at IJM are here to protect the poor from violence. Not by busting down doors and rescuing people, but instead by working with local government to equip and train those in their local countries that are afflicted by violence.”

When Ferriera’s presentation was over and the students in attendance had gained a better understanding of what human exploitation looked like in terms of the fashion industry, the fashion show finally began.

About 30 different models from different organizations within the CNU community took to the runway, modeling a variety of different looks, such as business attire, seasonal outfits and loungewear.

Each of their outfits were comprised of items that were ethically made, meaning they come from companies that engaged in fair trade. This communicated to their audience that they do not have to compromise their morality for the sake of fashion. Students in the audience cheered as they saw their friends and members from their organizations take turns strutting across the stage. At the end, all the models came out and walked the runway one last time together.

When the fashion show was over, members of the audience were invited to shop around at the different tables lining the edges of the ballroom where different vendors from fair trade companies were ready to sell their wares.

Vendors included the Noonday Collection, Trades of Hope, Women At Risk International and the Threads pop-up shop, where attendees could purchase thrifted and donated clothing to benefit some of IJM’s many rescue missions. Each of the vendors shared the collective mission of fair trade and ethical fashion, with many of the items they sold coming from individual artisans all over the world.

The “Freely Made” fashion show presented by IJM at CNU was a night of “fair trade celebration.” Students may have come to the event not knowing the first thing about ethical fashion and consumerism, but left with full hearts and minds, and maybe a full shopping bag full of fair trade products as well.

~Anna Dorl, Lifestyle Editor~

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