CUSLAR will host 'Sweatshop Fashion Show' to highlight workers' plight

Cornell's Committee on U.S.--Latin American Relations (CUSLAR) will host a "Sweatshop Fashion Show" on Friday, March 28, to highlight the treacherous working conditions of garment industry workers in the United States and Latin America. The show will be held at 7:30 p.m. in Anabel Taylor Hall Auditorium; suggested donation is $2 to $5.

"High school and college students are the biggest market for the major brand names in the fashion industry," said CUSLAR spokesperson Patricia Campos. "By raising awareness about the practices of fashion producers, we hope to help students become educated consumers and in that manner pressure the fashion industry to clean up its act."

In the fashion show, which CUSLAR describes as "political theater" and "educational comedy," Cornell students will walk along a catwalk, modeling clothing from companies known to employ sweatshop workers, Campos said. The show also will include skits, with students playing the roles of corporate executives, workers, politicians and activists such as Kathy Lee Gifford and Ralph Nader.

The show was inspired by the GUESS ยช "Stop Sweatshops" campaign launched last year by another organization, UNITE, and by a mock mail-order catalog recently distributed by CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador). In the catalog, a fictitious company called "Sweat International" touts its "SweatGear" fashion line of "designer attire from old-fashioned sweatshops in El Salvador."

"We chose to do a fashion show to highlight the differences between those who wear the stylish brand-name clothes and those who make them," Campos said. "Fashion is equated with glamour and good taste, and not in any manner with exploitation and abuse. By juxtaposing this reality, we hope that the next time consumers go to the mall to look for the latest in fashion from the most famous designers, they will think of the conditions under which those clothes were produced and of the people who produce them."

Proceeds from the fashion show will benefit CUSLAR and the Melida Anaya Montes Women's Education Project in El Salvador, which is attempting to organize female workers who make clothes for many U.S. clothing manufacturers. The show is cosponsored by the Latino Labor Education Coalition, Committee on Labor Action and Latinas Promoviendo Comunidad/Lambda Pi Chi Sorority.

CUSLAR was founded at Cornell in 1965 and works to promote mutual understanding between the peoples of the United States and of Latin American and Caribbean nations.

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