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Fashion Without Conscience: A Story of Modern Slavery

A sewing factory in downtown Los Angeles

Before dawn six days a week, Norma Ulloa left the two-bedroom apartment she shared with four family members and boarded a bus that took her to a stifling factory on the outskirts of downtown Los Angeles. She spent 11 hours a day there, pinning Forever 21 tags on trendy little shirts and snipping away their loose threads in the one-room workshop. On a good day, the 44-year-old could get through 700 shirts.

That work earned Ulloa about $6 an hour, well below minimum wage in Los Angeles, according to a wage claim she filed with the state.

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How Textiles Repeatedly Revolutionised Human Technology

textiles thread

In February 1939, Vogue ran a major feature on the fashions of the future. Inspired by the soon-to-open New York World’s Fair, the magazine asked nine industrial designers to imagine what the people of ‘a far Tomorrow’ might wear and why. (The editors deemed fashion designers too of-the-moment for such speculations.) A mock‑up of each outfit was manufactured and photographed for a lavish nine-page colour spread.

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