The Italian fashion giant Versace is the latest brand to support the movement to end sandblasting – a process that is used to give clothes like denim a fashionable, ‘worn’ look, but which campaigners say destroy workers’ lungs.
The process was prohibited in Britain in 1950, yet some of the world’s poorest textile workers are still performing the technique manually, which critics blame for the irreversible lung disease Silicosis. ‘Sandblasting’shoots a high-powered jet of silica at denim, which may make the fabric look shabby-chic but which can also have a damaging effect on the workers’ health as they breathe in air-born particles. According to US government scientists, victims' lungs can become inflamed and filled with fluid, which causes breathing problems and low oxygen levels in the blood.
This month, Versace issued a statement that encouraged the elimination of sandblasting as an industry practice. Other big names such as H&M and Karen Millen have also pledged to stop selling sandblasted products.
Versace’s new position is brilliant news in this campaign for workers’ safety standards. However, since many countries fail to properly enforce legislation to protect their workers, complete prevention of this health-damaging technique is near impossible without a global boycott on sandblasted products.