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Fashion artivist repurposes magazines to speak up for garment workers

Paper trash to make beautiful fashion pieces in support of the Clean Clothes Campaign

Libby Newell takes the pages from fashion magazines and makes them into works of art that suggest; we should buy less, buy better and remember the people who make our clothes.

In the media, we are bombarded with images of the most recent trends. These images and accompanying messages imply that we are not enough as we are and that we do not own enough. There is always a new style and an updated shopping list to keep us “relevant,” “attractive,” and “desirable.”

By transforming fashion and beauty magazine pages into objects that question the need to add products to our faces and our closets, this work affirms the inherent value and dignity of the people that these products are marketed to. Fast fashion devalues not only the consumer, however, but also the people whose hands assemble these garments and products, the overwhelming majority of whom are women. The inhumane working conditions these factory workers experience are driven by an insatiable demand for cheap labor to fuel low-cost fast fashion which quickly becomes yesterday’s news and today’s trash.

Talk of the Town Hat

Your new clothes make you the talk of the town but do the person who made these clothes have a voice to speak up for her own rights? Is it safe for her to talk about unsafe conditions in the factory?

Fashion artactivist repurposes magazines to speak up for garment workers
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Photo credit and art piece by Libby Newell

Hand-me-down quilt

You want to clean out your closet to make room for the newest hottest styles but do you think about the one who made those out of fashion clothes? Did she sweat all day in an under-ventilated, hot, factory with no fresh air so you can look at that pile of clothes and decide that they just don’t make you feel “hot” anymore and you need to “freshen up” your wardrobe?

Fashion artactivist repurposes magazines to speak up for garment workers
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Photo credit and art piece by Libby Newell

Lady Skin Boots

You are so excited about the excellent bargain you got on those new boots because when you wear them with your hot pink miniskirt, that look is fire! But do you think about the factory where they were made? Did you know that it burned down killing sixteen people? Did you know that the fire exit was blocked to prevent workers from taking breaks?

Fashion artactivist repurposes magazines to speak up for garment workers
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Photo credit and art piece by Libby Newell

Millefleur a la Mode Tapestry

It’s so fun to check your favorite stores for new stock every week. You feel like a daffodil in the sassy yellow number, you look like a rose in the red, but the lavender is so cute, tough decision, but at these prices you can just buy them all. But have you considered the hands that sewed the zippers on, attached the buttons or embroidered those adorable tiny flowers around the neckline? Did you know that sometimes needles break off and get stuck in their bones?

Fashion artactivist repurposes magazines to speak up for garment workers
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Photo credit and art piece by Libby Newell
Fashion artactivist repurposes magazines to speak up for garment workers
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Photo credit and art piece by Libby Newell
Fashion artactivist repurposes magazines to speak up for garment workers
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Photo credit and art piece by Libby Newell

Face It Bonnet

A new sun hat is the perfect accessory for that “much needed” trip to the beach but is the woman who made it ever able to take a break? Or is she scared to stop long enough to drink water or go to the bathroom because she is worried about meeting her daily quota? Does she have jaundice and kidney problems because she is unable to take care of herself?

Fashion artactivist repurposes magazines to speak up for garment workers
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Photo credit and art piece by Libby Newell

Bags under my eyes Tapestry

As you throw your eye-makeup in your designer imposter handbag do you think about the mother with bags under her eyes, the ones she got from working nine hours-a-day six-days-a-week but still can’t afford the $20 per month to send her son to school so that he will not have to work at the same factory for nine hours-a-day six-days-a-week making designer imposter handbags?

Fashion artactivist repurposes magazines to speak up for garment workers
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Photo credit and art piece by Libby Newell

Face Lace Collar

You want to add a little something extra to everything you wear because you are a free spirit; you want to express your individuality. Have you thought about the women who work day after day doing the same repetitive motion up to 1200 times during a single shift? Do they have freedom to express themselves? Do they get to embrace the ancient traditions of their homeland and pass down a beautiful craft to their children?

Fashion artactivist repurposes magazines to speak up for garment workers
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Photo credit and art piece by Libby Newell
Fashion artactivist repurposes magazines to speak up for garment workers
  • Save
Photo credit and art piece by Libby Newell
Fashion artactivist repurposes magazines to speak up for garment workers
  • Save
Photo credit and art piece by Libby Newell
Fashion artactivist repurposes magazines to speak up for garment workers
  • Save
Photo credit and art piece by Libby Newell

Here’s Looking at You Hat

You want some fun new accessories for a big date but do you think about the eyes of the one who sewed on those sequins? Are they permanently damaged from working 12 hour days in a dangerous, poorly lit factory.

Fashion artactivist repurposes magazines to speak up for garment workers
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Photo credit and art piece by Libby Newell
Fashion artactivist repurposes magazines to speak up for garment workers
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Photo credit and art piece by Libby Newell

Hand Bag

Who needs to spend designer prices when you can get the same, well almost the same, leather bag for a fraction of the price, who cares is it says “Couch” instead of “Coach”? But the next time you throw snacks and your eco-friendly glass water-bottle in and head off to the park with your kids just remember that the kids who made your bag would much rather be playing outside too.

Fashion artactivist repurposes magazines to speak up for garment workers
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Photo credit and art piece by Libby Newell

All work is made using the pages of fashion and beauty magazines.

During the Covid crisis garment workers all over the world are facing unsafe working conditions, not being paid for completed work, joblessness, and hunger. These workers are victims of fast fashion, they are fighting for their rights and fair wages but they need us to come alongside them and fight as allies. Ask brands, “who made your clothes?”; support smaller companies that are making efforts to treat everyone in the supply chain fairly. Be willing to pay more for your clothes and buy less. Repair your clothes and make them last. Don’t be a parasite living off of the lives of underpaid, underappreciated, mistreated garment workers.

Follow me on Instagram @libby_newell. I have a few Items available that are pay what you can and directly benefits garment workers. The money from these sales goes to the Clean Clothes Campaign: “The CCC is a global network dedicated to improving working conditions and empowering workers in the global garment and sportswear industries.”

A portion of all of my other sales will go to help garment workers through the CCC and other organizations working for the rights of Garment workers around the world. 

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Libby Newell

Libby is a collage artist, homeschooling Mom of 3 living and working on Lookout Mountain in North Georgia, USA. She uses slow, thoughtful, sometimes painful processes to make works of art in the hope that viewers will slow down enough to consider rather than consume. Follow along to see new work focusing on the idolatry of fashion and beauty on Instagram @libby_newell

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