Making a political statement against modern slave labor is a bold move for anyone in the fashion industry, an industry which has so oft been portrayed as being a major offender in global labor practices. It's a huge risk, and it almost invites critics to call "hypocrite" on the design team, and demand transparency of the brand's own production practices. In other words it is not a move for the faint of heart.
But clearly, Private Policy designers, Siying Qu and Haoran Li, are not faint of heart. Their Spring 2017 collection, which featured an array of sportswear meets streetwear pieces in relaxed silhouettes including silk bombers, cropped pants, and plaid tops, was described as being inspired by the recent Associated Press expose on slave labor in the food industry titled "Are Slaves Catching the Fish You Buy"
From the official show press release:
“Are Slaves catching the fish you buy?”, a news article by Associated Press in 2015 sparked the topic on slave labor in the South Asia fishing industry- where fishers are forced to work restlessly on the ocean with fear created through violent punishment and even murder. Rarely able to escape, some even stay on a boat for 4 to 5 years at sea. Touched by the tragic stories of the Asian fisherman, Private Policy's SS2017 collection explores the horror of modern slavery through artistic interpretations. Using symbols of imprisonment, restriction, and pain, the collection becomes emotional with striped pieces to resemble imprisonment, harnesses for constriction, and unique fits. With a garment vocabulary of color, texture, pattern, and silhouette, Private Policy continues to push the boundaries between high-end luxury and youth wear.
A surprising inspiration, definitely, and one that at times was hard to see in the final product as many touches were so subtle, an uneducated eye would be unlikely to know their meaning. But that subtlety was essential. Anything else would have tipped the idea into a comical Zoolander-esque realm that would have been in itself exploitive. And that is the true skill of this team, a deep understanding that in fashion less is in fact often more, and that one can make a statement without hitting the viewer over the head with it.
Full run of show looks below. Click on any image to launch lightbox mode for best viewing.
All images: S. Whittle for Style Wylde.