A video by YouTube influencer Jacques Slade – unveiling a pair of ‘slave-made’ trainers-has reached a huge new audience in a campaign aimed at bringing the issue of modern slavery to younger consumers.
Under the tagline ‘Unboxing the real price of sneakers’ the campaign by the Thomson Reuters Foundation sees Jacques Slade – whose YouTube videos regularly reach more than 1.5 million people – opening a custom-made pair of trainers on camera for the first time.
At first glance, the shoes – created in collaboration with The Shoe Surgeon, a prominent LA shoe designer – are modern, off-white mid-tops, combining leather, suede and mesh, woven together, featuring zig-zag stitching. But a closer look reveals hidden facts about slavery and forced labour. The price tag on the shoe, for example, doesn’t display the price, but the price of a slave today ($90). The tongue tag has ‘40M’ designed to look like a logo. But on the back of the tongue, there is an explanation that there are 40 million slaves today. The insoles include pictures of sweatshop conditions, a subtle placement that is easy to miss.
The initiative aims to raise awareness of the ‘hidden human price’ of products amongst young people at a time when the issue of ethical fashion is increasingly informing consumer choices.
“This is a very exciting initiative for the Foundation, to shed light on this monstrous crime,” said Monique Villa, CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “The video is brilliant. Jacques Slade has spread a critical message at a pace and scale that is breathtaking. How many people today are questioning the human price of the shoes they wear? We hope this film will encourage hundreds of thousands more to do so. We are hugely grateful to TBWA,who worked entirely pro bono on this, and to Jacques.”
About modern slavery
There are currently 40.3 million people trapped in conditions of slavery, equivalent to the population of Australia, Finland and Greece combined. In fact, there are more slaves today than in all of recorded human history combined, fuelling a global criminal enterprise worth an estimated $150 billion per year.
According to the U.S. Federal government, over 134 products from 73 countries are directly tainted with slavery, from coconuts hand-picked in the Philippines to diamonds mined in Angola. Evidence collected by anti-slavery NGOs around the world points to a much wider product range which extends significantly to cosmetics, fish and tea and many other categories. Almost nothing is untainted.
The Thomson Reuters Foundation plays a leading role in the fight against slavery. We raise awareness of this global scourge through news; we train journalists around the world to do the same; we provide free legal assistance and powerful research to anti-slavery organisations on the frontlines, and we bring together all the key players in the global fight against modern-day slavery at our annual Trust Conference. At the event, we recognise companies taking bold measures to clean their supply chains from forced labour with the Stop Slavery Award. Previous winners of the Award include: Adidas, the Co-operative Group, C&A, Intel, NXP Semiconductors, HPE.
The Foundation worked on the Unboxing the Real Price of Sneakers campaign with agency partner TBWA\Chiat\Day New York, who donated their time pro bono. The campaign taps into unboxing – a practice which impacts on shoe trends and influences buyer habits.
A spokesperson at the Thomson Reuters Foundation told us:
“The idea behind the campaign was to reach a whole new audience of people who may have never really stopped to think about how modern slavery connects to them and the things they buy. A shoe unboxing made a lot of sense because fashion supply chains – and sneakers specifically – are known to be tainted by slavery. Shoes are also something that every single consumer owns.”
“Our goal with the campaign is not to point out specific cases or companies, rather highlight a global issue to a new, younger audience through a relevant and relatable product.”