Glass Clothing, an ethical clothing company, was founded in 2017 by Honi Pein, aged 16. She set it up in order to solve a very disturbing problem that she had come across in the clothing industry.
It all started when, for a school competition, she had to research and give a short speech on a subject that interested her. After thinking about it for a while, she decided to look into the topic of sweatshops and child labour. She had expected to find one or two brands which used slave labour. However, this was not what she found. She said,
I was deeply disturbed to discover that it was nearly impossible to find any information about who made the clothes, and how they were treated. This meant that the workers are essentially invisible, as are the crimes of the institutions. Discovering this scared me and broke my heart.
She had not heard anything about this ethical problem before deciding to go out and research it. As a result of this, Honi assumed that no one cared about ethical fashion. But, having reached the final round of the competition, and seeing the reactions of the audience when she delivered the speech detailing her findings, she began to realise that she was not the only person who was shocked and moved by the lack of ethical fashion brands. In fact, the real problem was simply that people didn’t know about it.
Expression through Art
For a long time, this played on her mind. She was plagued by the idea that, as she bought clothes from the same mainstream brands as most, she was most likely wearing the products of slaves or children. Tormented by this, Honi expressed herself through art.
The caption next to the piece reads:
This piece criticises Western ignorance. We would all give to a collection box on the street, thinking that we are kind and good, yet on our bodies we bear the labour of children and grossly underpaid workers in sweatshops in the third world. We wear the problem, as we flippantly throw money at charities, under the thinly veiled illusion that we are having an overall positive effect. This system is so ingrained in our capitalist society that it is difficult to see a way out of it. Awareness is the first step towards revolution.
The aim of the piece was simple: to expose people to themselves. Honi knew that everyone who would see the piece would be guilty of being the person on the right.
But she wanted to do more. She didn’t want to be the person on the right. The only solution was to start her own ethical clothing company, one based on principles of fairness and transparency. It was to be as transparent as glass. She said,
The idea is that I will have a direct relationship with the tailors, making sure that they are treated well. But crucially, everyone will be able to know who makes their clothes, and where they come from.
From this, Glass Clothing was born.