The Devil Wears Prada

Kelly Choy

© Copyright 2022 by Kelly Choy

Photo by Esteban Chinchilla at Unsplash.
Photo by Esteban Chinchilla at Unsplash.
I have simply adored fashion ever since I was a toddler. I remember tirelessly switching out the clothes of my Barbie dolls to create new clothing combinations and sketching out outfits I had envisioned at the corner of my workbooks. I picked up sewing as a hobby when I was seven and could often be found crafting miniature outfits for my dolls out of scrap fabric.

As I grew older, I began to experiment on myself instead of on my dolls. My parents described me as eccentric due to my inability to find a fashion style I really resonated with, and I embraced my quirkiness despite their constant teasing. I could be dressed femininely one day and gothic in the next, and I oscillated between dressing conservatively and flaunting my skin. I loved to mix and match pieces, and I knew that fashion was my passion.

I pursued a career in the fashion industry as soon as I graduated from university. I decided to apply for a position at my favorite global fashion chain brand, and surprisingly, I was accepted as a fashion consultant! I would get to work with designers and dress store mannequins—it seemed like a dream.

Is this it?” I had asked my new manager when we arrived at the factory. The factory was a large, unassuming gray building that could almost be described as an enormous slab of concrete.

Yeah,” she replied with a small chuckle, “what were you expecting? Barbie’s dreamhouse?”

I laughed at her joke but could not shrug off the funny feeling in my stomach as I followed her into the building.

My childhood fantasies were shattered as soon as I stepped into the factory. I expected its interior to resemble the ones depicted on television—shiny walls with bustling employees who looked ready to walk down a runway—but the building I had just stepped into looked like it belonged in an episode of Gordon Ramsey’s Hotel Hell. Paint was peeling off the walls, the premises reeked of the foul odor of chemicals, and countless pieces of garments were strewn on the ground. I expected the factory to be decent, at least, but the scene in front of me looked like something straight out of my nightmares.

My spirits dropped even further when I was given a tour of the factory. Heaps of excess fabric from completed garments were simply being discarded into landfills. What a waste of good resources! Fumes from the chemicals used to soften or dye garments were being excreted out of the factory through dozens of pipes connected to the machineries. The black fog being spewed out of the pipes could rival that feom a volcano! The workers did not seem to care, but their listless and unmotivated postures spoke for themselves.

After a few more twists and turns, my manager ushered me into a room cramped with short workers. Why did they place all these short workers in this room? I had thought. The realization hit me like a truck. The workers were all children. Approximately five dozen children had been cramped into the small windowless room. They had dark bags under their eyes, and their hands had calluses from all the stitching and sewing.

Wrong room!” my manager chirped as she quickly stirred me away from the horrifying sight.

You employ children here?” I asked in an effort to be inquisitive without sounding suspicious.

They’re related to the workers here. Don’t worry, we don’t overwork them.”

I nodded, but I knew that what she said was a lie. Anyone could clearly see from the state of those children that they were not being treated properly. They were obviously malnourished and mistreated. None of them looked like they were enjoying what they were doing, and the room reeked of sweat and misery. Were these children even getting paid? How did they get roped into working at a garment factory in the first place? I thought.

I wanted to quit my job right then and there, but my conscience refused to let me live in peace without helping the children. I decided to brave it out and observe the situation I was in before making any rash decisions. I soon noticed that my co-workers seemed high-strung and wary around me. Did my manager tell them that I had seen the state the children were in? Were they nervous that I was going to report them to the authorities?

While I did want to bring light to the illegal happenings in the factory, I knew that the blame would immediately fall on me if the authorities are tipped off. Ultimately, I decided to keep my head down for a bit, bide my time, and earn their trust.

After a few weeks, when everyone seemed to finally relax around me, I officially put my plan into action. I had decided to document all the illegal activities in the factory and expose everything on social media—not only did I want to expose the factory, but I also wanted to raise awareness that such work environments still exist in this day and age. I secretly filmed their careless wastage of the excess garments, the pipes belching out toxic fumes into the atmosphere, the children being forced to work endlessly in the factory, and the work environment in the factory. I discreetly documented all of these for about a week until I believed that I had sufficient evidence to incriminate the company.

I posted everything to an anonymous TikTok account, where my posts all blew up and I received tons of support from the public. The effect was immediate, and within the next day, the factory was suddenly raided by the authorities and the accusations in my post were confirmed to be true. The excess materials in the dump site were disposed of properly, the pipes and machinery were shut down to prevent the toxic fumes from further polluting the atmosphere, and the children were sent off for proper schooling.

I retired from my job along with hundreds of employees from other companies who had been working in such devastating conditions. However, instead of finding work in another industry, I decided to advocate for ethical fashion and human rights. I offered my services to the police and now work as an undercover agent specializing in infiltrating unsafe workplaces.
I dusted my Prada blazer as I take my new manager’s hand.

You’re hired! I’m sure you’ll do great things for this industry!

Kelly Choy is currently a junior taking up BFA Creative Writing at the Ateneo de Manila University.  During her spare time she enjoys reading novels and writing about her daydreams.

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