I was inspired this week by artist Cai Guo-Qiang whose highly anticipated exhibition Falling Back to Earth has opened at GoMA.


Cai Guo-Qiang’s Head On, one of the works featured in Falling Back to Earth at GoMA until 11 May 2014

Visually spectacular, the exhibition also raises some questions about our relationship with our global environment, as well as that with each other.

One of two works created for the exhibition on inspiration from Queensland’s landscapes including Stradbroke Island and Lamington National Park, Heritage features 99 replicas of animals from 6 continents of the world. Far from the cares and conflicts of society, the animals come together to enjoy the same space.

Even more dramatic is the above-pictured Head On, a scene with 99 wolves leaping, brave and united, into the unknown before hitting a wall they didn’t foresee, only to loop back around and do it all over again. The resilience of the wolves hints at our hesitance sometimes to learn from our mistakes.

So how does this relate back to fashion? Well, aside from seeing someone who’s made a life’s work from his passion, for me Falling Back to Earth relates so well to issues of the global fashion economy as well. 

At the current crossroads of awareness of unethical fashion production methods and a time when these issues are still struggling to gain mainstream attention as they come to the fore, it will be interesting to see whether as consumers we’ll learn to care enough about ethical and fair trade practice to want to pay more.

Ragtrader recently published statistics stating “81 per cent of people said they believe Australian clothing companies have a responsibility to ensure overseas workers are paid enough to cover basic needs (such as food, clothing, housing) and almost 70 per cent of Australians said they would pay more for their clothes if they knew overseas workers were paid a decent wage and that garment factories had safe working conditions”.

It’s a nice gesture to check that box on the survey form, but the lure of a $4 t-shirt still wins out the vast majority of the time. There are plenty of challenges for clothing labels to produce ethically and still compete commercially, but this is becoming more common.

For a list of ethical clothing production-accredited Australian labels, visit www.ethicalclothingaustralia.org.au