Culture jamming group The Yes Men strike again! This time, they've created a spoof fashion line called "adidas RealityWear," which they launched recently during Berlin Fashion Week. According to Philip Oltermann, writing for The Guardian:
A spoof press release, written by culture jamming activist duo The Yes Men and sent to fashion bloggers from a fake Adidas email address, announced a "revolutionary plan" for the German sportswear company, designed to "own the reality" of working conditions in the south-east Asian factories where many of its clothes are made.
Cambodian former garment worker and trade union leader Vay Ya Nak Phoan was announced as a future co-CEO alongside Bjørn Gulden, the former Puma executive who took over as head of Adidas at the start of this year.
The new direction for the company was to be underlined by a new "realitywear" product range, supposedly curated by rapper Pharrell Williams, consisting of "carefully distressed" garments "upcycled from clothing worn non-stop for six months by Cambodian workers who are owed wages withheld during the pandemic".
At a spoof launch event in central Berlin, bruised and bloodied models stumbled across the catwalk in "realitywear" garments in front of an audience that seemed to accept the collection as genuine.
A pair of Adidas slippers with spikes pushing through the soles was presented in a glass cage, as an example of the company's new ethos.
The same day of the launch, adidas learned about the campaign and denied the company had anything to do with it. They also denied that they had appointed a former Cambodian union leader as its new co-CEO.
To accompany the spoof launch at Berlin Fashion Week, The Yes Men have also created a website featuring items from their fake line. The website exposes labor rights violations committed by Adidas as well as the destructive environmental impact of its production process. The website states:
For the last century, adidas has OWNED THE GAME by making the best sportwear in the world. But the world changes, and consumers do too. For the next hundred years, adidas will OWN THE REALITY—giving consumers what they crave by not only doing well, but also by doing good—REALITYWEAR expresses the values of the new adidas by reminding the wearer of where their clothes come from. This limited line of high-performance gear is distressed in ways that tell the stories of our workers and the chain of responsibility we all share on this singular and finite planet.
The website describes how workers are treated in the adidas production process:
High-concept streetwear puts the shoe on the other foot and stitches together people from across the world—seamlessly. Making clothes this good is hard—take it from the workers in our supply chain. They face inhumane conditions for low pay, sacrificing their own health and welfare so we can enjoy low prices. That's why we are honoring their efforts with a line of worker-forward fashion that brings their daily reality to your doorstep every time you step out the door.
Finally, the website contains a "Real Talk" section, which describes how adidas could start to create a more just, ethical, and humane system of production:
In reality, agreements still need compliance. That's why adidas is turning our entire management structure on its head. To truly OWN THE REALITY, we have appointed Cambodian garment worker and labour rights advocate Vay Ya Nak Phoan to be co-CEO alongside Bjorn Gulden. Phoan will be tasked with enforcing the company's ethical bottom line, and will have veto power over anything that compromises those goals. adidas will now commit to: (1) End wage theft; (2) Protect workers rights; (3) Pay into a severance guarantee fund; and (4) Pay a living wage.
Check out the rest of the campaign here, and an accompanying video, here.