This week consumers all over the world will hopefully have experienced posts on social media and events in major cities asking the question: Who made my clothes? Which is one of the questions Fashion Revolution wants consumers to ask their brands in order to demand transparency and decent human rights in an industry they call exploiting, opaque and damaging. During the same week major retail and fashion stores in my home country Denmark launch their Mid-Season sales. What a contrast!
Continue reading to learn more about the Fashion Revolution organization, working conditions of textile workers in Bangladesh and how to become more conscious in your shopping.
About Fashion Revolution
The grass-root organization began after the fashion industry saw the tragic dead of 1138 textile workers 4 years ago. In Bangladesh where a great part of our fast fashion items are produced at a very little cost more than 2000 workers where trapped and injured when a building collapsed at the Rana Plaza site on April 24th. In the following days the number of lost lifes passed 1100 and the Fashion Revolution was born founded by designers, brand owners, producers, writers, fashionista and many more who came together to celebrate and unite fashion, people and environment. Fashion Revolution is pro-fashion but fashion as fair fashion for everyone involved in the supply chain.
Fashion Revolution week
The Fashion Revolution week marks the anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy and runs for a week around the 24th of April. The idea is for us consumers to ask our favorite brand: Who Made My Clothes? By doing so we use one of our most important weapons: our questions. The industry cannot change or will not change if they do not see a demand. Our questions show a demand.
This year it has been 4 years since the Rana Plaza tragedy and despite many major fashion companies signing legally binding agreements to improve the working conditions very little still seem to have happened. According to The Guardian a 2016 study showed that only 7 out of 1,660 factories have completed implementing their corrective action plans, while another 57 factories where on track with the plans. About 1,388 factories where behind schedule, 186 factories had not yet finalized their corrective action plans and 22 had not implemented them at all.
Besides the lack of human working conditions The Guardian described early this year how garment workers in Bangladesh have been demonstrating to tripple their wages. Which sound optimistic and maybe like a high raise but the sad truth is that the current level at 54GBP per month and the triple amount are both short of what is considered a living wage. To make things even worse workers demonstrating have been fired and workers now generally feel bullied by police and employers. They need us to fight their fight and make their voices heard. Asking questions demanding to know who makes our clothing and how these people are treated can make a difference.
5 tips to a join the Mid Season sale in a More Conscious manor
Another powerful weapon we consumers can use is our money. You have probably heard “Money talks” before. With money we can show the industry we care about how fellow human beings are treated when producing the clothes we wear.
The Mid-Season sale, Black Friday, Rivegilde, Super Bazar or what ever shopping events around the world are called they are not created for the sake of consumers nor the textile workers. It is created to make us swipe our credit cards to buy a little (or a lot) more than we need to in the end fill the bank accounts of shareholders behind the retailers and brand owners.
I fully acknowledge that every now and then we all need something new and though second hand shopping is best for the environment I also want new stuff every now and then. Buying the right new clothing sends a signal to the fashion industry. Which is why I have put together a few tips to buy right and avoid over consumption and maybe even over spending if you can’t resist the mid-season sales.
- Take a honest look at your wardrobe and consider what you really need
- Make a list of the things you need and stick to it
- Shop ethical and sustainable brands that are GOTS certified (guarantees you ethically and sustainably produced textiles). If not possible go for organic cotton and ask the shop personel about how the brand in question treats their supply chain. The Øko or OEKO tex label does not stand for organic production as you might think. Instead it guarantees that the products are tested for and free from harmful chemicals. See pictures of the two certificates below.
- Allow yourself 1 or 2 unplanned items at a maximum price depending on your financial situation. Try to think rather 1 good quality item that will last for years in stead of several items that don’t last long. A recent study from Greenpeace and Fashion Revolution show that the average consumer buys 60% more clothing today than the average consumer did back in 2000 and keep each item half the time. No wonder the clothing production has doubled since 2000. Last but not least as much as 40% of clothes are rarely or never worn and on average each piece of clothing is only used 4 times.
- Bring your own bag from home. Your textile shoppers are only good for the environment if you use them.
More conscious shopping is all about knowing more, buying better and making each clothing last longer. Make your choices send a signal to brands and retailers that you don’t accept inhuman working conditions.
If you feel inspired to learn more the documentary The True Cost gives a really good picture of how the fashion industry is run and at which cost for humans and for our planet. The film also shows how things can be done and are being done differently by some brands. The film should be available on Netflix, Amazons, iTunes etc.
This post is mainly about the working conditions which is the main focus of the Fashion Revolution. Another big issue with the fashion and textile industry is however the fact that it is ranked as the second most polluting industry in the world. Your fashion choices and habits matters also in terms of environmental impact. Read more in my previous post Make each clothing live longer.