Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go

Why The Pop Duo Wham! Is Eco-Fabulous Today

by Cheri Sundra

Way back in 1984, when MTV was experiencing its adolescence and so was I, Wham! released a music video for their song Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, featuring a positive disposition and colorful clothing.  The video still stands as a sartorial image for the 1980s as a decade, showing George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley sporting oversized, block-letter CHOOSE LIFE T-shirts, a slogan targeted at drug abuse and suicide,  by designer Katharine Hamnett.    Her political T’s quickly became the “new black” of 1984, making her the inventor of the slogan T-shirt which has become a part of our fashion lexicon.  Hamnett’s   initial protest T-shirt line, which she unveiled in 1983, included  the  slogans WORLDWIDE NUCLEAR BAN NOW, PRESERVE THE RAINFORESTS, SAVE THE WORLD, SAVE THE WHALES and EDUCATION NOT MISSILES along with CHOOSE LIFE. Each slogan is now part of our pop culture vernacular.

 In 1983, Hamnett initiated research into the impact of the clothing and textile industry on the environment, and revealed an untenable situation.  In 1989, she began lobbying the textiles industry because research showed that cotton-growing regions were experiencing catastrophic damage because of pesticide poisoning. 

Becoming more and more frustrated because of the textile industry’s continued refusal to even attempt to do things ethically or environmentally, Hamnett canceled many of her licenses and went into manufacturing herself in 2004.  She produced a new line, KATHARINE E HAMNETT, the E stands for being manufactured ETHICALLY and ENVIRONMENTALLY.  

Despite growing awareness among designers, manufacturers, retailers and consumers, we still have a long way to go to make significant changes in the way in which our clothing is produced.  Today, according to the Pesticide Action Network (PAN), cotton makes up 10% of world agriculture yet accounts for 25% of world pesticide use.  These pesticides, which are direct derivatives of World War 2 nerve gases, cause 20,000 deaths PER YEAR from accidental poisonings in the developing world according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Cotton is one of the most important exports for many developing countries.  It should be an excellent cash crop for 10 to 11 million farmers in these countries, providing enough money for food, education and healthcare.  Unfortunately, this is not currently happening. 

Farmers in developing countries need a contract with brokers to buy their cotton after it is harvested.  In order to obtain the contract, the farmer has to agree to buy both seeds plus pesticides from their broker. By growing cotton  organically, farmers get a 50% increase in their income , because of the reduction in costs due to the lack of having to purchase chemical pesticides, and the 20% premium the farmer will  receive for farming organically and doing away with the risks that these chemicals pose to the environment and human health. 

For organic cotton production to continue growing, consumers have to start buying more products manufactured with organic cotton.   In developing countries like Mali, cotton farmers experience devastating poverty despite the fact that cotton is their second largest export after gold.

According to the Environmental Justice Foundation, “Over two thirds of the world’s cotton is grown in developing countries and the former Soviet Union. Valued at over $32 billion every year, global cotton production should be improving lives. But this “white gold” too often brings misery”.

According to Katharine Hamnett, you can start to change the world by just buying one organic garment every season.  Undoubtedly, she hopes that one of those garments will be from Katharine E  Hamnett Clothier.  The original CHOOSE LIFE  T-shirt, her biggest seller in the 80’s is back again, but this time it is available in 100% organic cotton.  For more information, visit http://www.katharinehamnett.com/ . 

Pick up a re-issued CHOOSE LIFE shirt and you can Jitterbug in 80’s chic,  eco-fabulous style–you’ll “make the sun shine brighter than Doris Day”. 

 I know the song is now running thru your head.  You can thank me later.  😉     Cheri Sundra © 2010  All Rights Reserved