Four years ago on April 24th 2013, the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh killing 1,138 people and injuring over 2,500 more. The disaster acted as a metaphorical call to arms and Fashion Revolution was born. Since then, Fashion Revolution honours April 24th as Fashion Revolution Day and encourages others to join in their global campaign demanding greater transparency and accountability within the fashion industry. By raising awareness regarding the extreme opaqueness, environmental disregard and workforce exploitation of this industry, Fashion Revolution aims to radically transform the the way clothes are sourced, produced and purchased.
Increasing Transparency in the Fashion Industry
According to Fashion Revolution, a survey of 219 brands revealed that 91% did not have full knowledge of where their cotton was grown, 75% did not know where their fabrics were sourced, and only half could trace where their products were cut and sewn. If brands are unable to answer these simple questions, how can they possibly ensure that their clothes are ethically produced? The simple answer is: they can’t.
Because brands are often unaware of where their clothes are produced, when disasters like Rana Plaza occur, they are able to easily distance themselves from any liability or responsibility. Transparency of production is thus one of the most important factors in demanding accountability from brands and subsequently, higher ethical standards of production. Co-founder of Fashion Revolution Orsola de Castro explains that “Transparency encourages scrutiny, vigilance and accountability. It’s like opening one’s front door and allowing others to look inside”.
Changing the Mindset
The Fashion Revolution movement encourages curiosity amongst fashion consumers and demands for better access to information regarding production and provenance. In the #WhoMadeMyClothes campaign people are prompted to take a picture of their clothes label, upload the photo to social media, tag the brand and ask the simple question: Who made my clothes? This campaign has become hugely popular, with over 64 million people using the hashtag on twitter alone. Many brands have responded with #IMadeYourClothes, while others remain silent.
This campaign is putting brands in the spotlight. It encourages interest and scrutiny from the consumer side, while demanding accountability and communication from the brand’s side. As more people demand access to information, brands will have to choose to either join the dialogue, or continue to hide.
How you can become a Fashion Revolutionary
Fashion Revolution advocates that anyone can become a Fashion Revolutionary with three simple steps: be curious, find out, and do something.
Be Curious. Next time you buy something look at the label and start thinking. Was it made in a country like Bangladesh or Cambodia where workers have limited rights and there is little environmental regulation? Do you really love it? Will you wear it over and over again? Is it made from a natural material? Or is it plastic based?
Once you have a few questions in mind, start asking! Reach out to the brand. Send them a letter or even better, join the #WhoMadeMyClothes Campaign by taking a photo of your label and tagging the brand on social media. Join the thousands of Fashion Revolutionaries who are already asking: who made my clothes? What country was it made in? Did the maker earn a living wage? Were the working conditions safe? Who makes sure it is safe? The more questions we ask, the more pressure it puts on brands to start answering.
The final step in becoming a fashion revolutionary is to take action. Did the brand answer? If a brand is unable to answer these questions, then stop supporting them. Only buy things you love and feel positive about. Look for brands that value ethical and transparent supply chains and work to raise awareness on why this is important and valuable.
Fashion Revolution Week runs from 24th– 30th of April. Click here for a list of events, or here for information on how you can organize an event of your own.