This week is Fashion Revolution Week (23-29 April) and is one in which millions of us are encouraged to ask #whomademyclothes to continue the demand in transparency between us as consumers and the fashion industry. It’s a chance to call for the fashion brands who make our beloved clothes to take precedented notice of their supply chain and the damage it is causing to the environment and the 75 million people working in the industry, both of which are equally important as each other. During April 2017 the hashtag was used 533 million times according to Fashion Revolutions yearly report and this year has already made an impact on social media alongside a weeks worth of events.
But why is this such an important week? Rewind to the 24th April 2013 when the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh collapsed in 90 seconds killing 1,138 people. The factory makes garments for many of the coveted high street labels we shop at everyday and from that moment 250 companies signed two initiatives, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, to refrain from this happening again. But is this really enough? As the terms of these initiatives come to an end this year it’s worrying what the next step is to ensure the safety of workers and controlling the level of damage the fashion industry is having on people and the environment. As Lucy Siegle, journalist and author of To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out The World?, so boldly and brilliantly puts it, “fashion isn’t free, someone somewhere is paying.”
I first discovered the Fashion Revolution during a project for my post graduate course in which I created an issue of Selvedge magazine centred on fashion and textile sustainability. I had never heard about Rana Plaza until I watched The True Cost film (available on Netflix), which jaw-droppingly displays the devastating cost of human life in order to get that must-have dress you’re snapped in once on Instagram before it’s thrown to the back of your wardrobe. Put it this way, no human should ever have to die in protest to earn just a little extra money for food, as one man did in the film. From collapsing factories, polluting rivers and deformities from the chemical treatments of clothing processes, the film shows the journey from raw materials to crowded stores and it’s costly demand. Many of the workers (80% of whom are women) live in poverty, work for less than a minimum wage all the while being subjected to unworkable and dangerous conditions and potentially being subjected to physical or verbal abuse. And as many of us continue to live in a capitalist economy where demanding businesses grow year-on-year the significant impact is resulting in an imbalance of excessive human and environmental costs at rapid speed that is becoming hard to maintain.
Hence why we need the Fashion Revolution, founded in 2013 by Carry Somers and Orsola de Casro as a result of Rana Plaza, to join together over 100 countries around the world to pull back the power and demand to know where our clothes are made and how to positively support changes the fashion industry so desperately needs. In the UK alone we throw away 235 million items of clothing each year with clothing production doubling since 2000 and now a crazy 80 billion garments are made yearly, yet we only use 40% of what we own. And thanks to those 533 million hashtags more than 2000 companies, including Zara, Fat Face and Marks and Spencer, responded with information on their supply chain. But more is still to be done and hopefully by informing yourself on the endless list of statistics and brand sustainability manifestos of those you shop at, all of us as consumers can continue to help bring about more active and positive results. To once again quote Lucy Siegle, “fashion can never and should never be thought of as a disposable product.” It’s all about buying less, buying wisely and making things last but at the same time to keep asking brands #whomademyclothes.
Become involved in Fashion Revolution events here.
Sign the Fashion Revolution manifesto here.