#sextrafficking | ‘It’s a deep, dark situation’: Fashion show shines light on human trafficking

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MADISON, Wis. – Area fashion designers are putting their work on the runway to put human trafficking on display, as well.

Human trafficking is considered the fastest growing crime industry in the world. It can encompass forms including sex trafficking and forced labor.

A 2018 Global Slavery Index report suggests the United States imports about $47 billion worth of clothing products at risk of using modern slavery in their production. The clothing and apparel industry comes second to only the technology industry in that respect, according to the report.

At the Brink Lounge in Madison on Sunday evening, fashion retailers tried on a new way to make change worldwide.

Most attending, including Nikki Anderson and daughter Hope Cullin, can be considered fashion forward, in more ways than one.

“(Hope) actually designed and made the dress she’s wearing, so she’s a budding fashionista, as well as an advocate for social justice,” Anderson said.

They know where you spend your money makes a difference.

“Most of the clothing that we wear and is sold in malls is produced in sweat shop environments and people there are treated like commodities. They can be bought and sold,” Anderson said. “Human trafficking is a big part of the problem, which there are many that are inherent to the fast fashion industry.”

As owner of Change, a fair-trade boutique in Madison, Anderson said being part of Fair Indigo’s Revive fundraiser was a natural fit.

“One of our slogans is ‘Style with a Conscience,’ and that’s true,” Fair Indigo President Tanya Thorson said. The Madison brand focuses on sustainable, ethically made clothing.

Through the event, Thorson hopes to combat human trafficking worldwide.

“I was surprised and I think a little naive with how big of an issue it is, and just bringing that awareness out there and seeing that it’s not just women, it’s all ages and genders being affected by this,” she said. “It’s a deep, dark situation, but we are really trying to bring light to helping.”

Fair Indigo is partnered with the national nonprofit Dressember, which supports anti-human trafficking initiatives. Fifteen dresses repurposed from discarded clothing will be auctioned off to raise money for those efforts.

Retailers including Anderson and her daughter are donating proceeds from what they sell to Dressember, as well, hoping this serves as a model for the industry moving forward

“This shines a lot on something that doesn’t often get exposure,” Anderson said.

“It feels good to be able to help people who need help,” Hope said.

Human trafficking isn’t something that just happens in developing countries. There were 134 cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2018 referencing Wisconsin.

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