Repealing DACA Will Have Big Consequences for Fashion (Racked)
From garment workers to designers, immigrants drive the apparel industry.
By Nadra Nittle, KCET, September 21, 2017
On Valentine’s Day, the WhiteBox art gallery in New York City hosted a runway show with a political twist. The diverse group of models featured in “Illegal Fashion” wore dresses made of canvas, linen, burlap, and recycled paper. Painted with splotches of bold colors, the garments bore provocative phrases like “I am illegal,” “deport me,” and “ICE me.”
Artist Maria de Los Angeles curated the show with WhiteBox founder Juan Puntes. de Los Angeles also designed the dresses modeled. The 29-year-old has a personal connection to the garments, as well as to the messages painted on them.
“I’m undocumented,” she says. “So a lot of the show was about my identity. There is a large range of immigrant experiences. There are a lot of stereotypes, both negative and positive.”
“Illegal Fashion” not only aimed to shine a spotlight on the immigrant experience, but also to draw attention to the fact that the work of immigrants drives the fashion business. The Pew Research Center has found that the textile, apparel, and leather manufacturing industry is second only to private households in employing the greatest share of immigrants, with a 22 percent share of authorized and a 14 percent share of unauthorized immigrants. Accordingly, the nation’s immigration policies directly affect the apparel industry.