In what was already planned to be a hiatus season for him in terms of making clothes (he has fresh plans afoot) Osman Yousefzada has used this digital London Fashion Week to focus instead on others who make clothes: the garment workers of Bangladesh. Originally presented at Whitechapel Gallery and made with the support of Livia Firth’s Eco-Age, “Her Dreams Are Bigger” is a short film in which a group of garment workers are asked for their impressions of the women who will buy and wear the clothes they make. Their answers are both poignant and proud, and illustrate the enormous distance and inequality in the human experience that global fast fashion’s chain of supply to demand spans.
“I’ve always talked about the alienation of labor and thought we needed more cross cultural conversation about how something is made in one place, taken to another, and becomes something different,” said Yousefzada. The idea began in London, where Osman purchased some Bangladesh-made garments in the thrift stores operated by the charity Oxfam. With budget and contacts from Eco Age he traveled to Bangladesh (this was pre-COVID-19), and through union representatives on the ground met a group of workers. “I had a suitcase with the clothes, which I opened. They started going through them, putting them on, and commenting. I remember one of them said that they worked to make clothes but they never bought clothes in a meaningful way, which is that alienation of labor. They had this strong sense of pride because they imagine they are making clothes for top-level people.”
In a cut of what Osman calles his “dreamscape interviews” the workers imagine the woman for whom they make clothes. Their comments include; “They are tall,” “they look beautiful,” “their hair color is red,” “they wear different types of dresses which makes them look more beautiful,” “they eat different kinds of food, they only eat fruit, they eat frog, they eat different kinds of snake,” “they’re not black like me, they’re much fairer and very pretty,” “beautiful faces, their lips, they are like dolls”.
As Osman observes: “The women who make clothes don’t really know who they are making them for. They don’t wear those kinds of clothes, clothes that are put on ships and then off-loaded halfway around the world to wind up in high street stores. That’s fast fashion.”
This powerful short film is featured on the londonfashionweek.co.uk site and will be followed by a conversation between Osman and Livia Firth.