The catastrophic collapse of the Rana Plaza Factory (24th April, 2013) in Bangladesh that killed over 1130 garment workers manufacturing clothing for several major fashion brands has revealed the vast complexities that have prevailed in the fashion system for over half a century, and has become a caveat for the fashion industry in the last few years to take measures towards the betterment of the working conditions of its people and within their factories. The industry’s complex value chain and systemic inequalities compel us all to be(come) vitally involved now in reforming its structural practices and building awareness about sustainable and ethical fashion – both as producers and consumers.
As the industry is starting to change slowly, this Fashion Revolution Week, a time where brands and producers are urged to give consumers an insight into their production processes – what goes on behind the scenes at their brand – we’d like to share with you how you can be part of the revolution with us.
1. Do research on the brands you (want to) shop from and asking them questions
In order for us to be able to make conscious choices when shopping, it’s important to understand the processes of production and supply chain through which our garments or products are being made. Asking the brand questions about how the products were designed (whether they were handcrafted or mass produced), what kind of materials were used in their make (were they organic or include chemicals, vegan or utilized animal products/ residues), where they were manufactured (locally or globally), what kind of techniques their design processes included, the amount of waste generated, minimized and reutilized in their creation, the number of hours it takes to produce one product, the working conditions of their artisans and fair pay are some of the most direct and immediate ways in which we can inquire about what went into the making of their goods and services, and prevent us from being influenced by greenwashing. It’s okay if you may have previously purchased from a brand that you love without knowing about their methods of production, learning about them today is still valuable, as, in the long run it will help to make more informed decisions.
2. Use the #whomademyclothes hashtag on social media
The #whomademyclothes hashtag has come about as a way to encourage people to ask brands where their clothes come from, who makes them, under what kind of working conditions and pay. One way you can partake in this is by taking a photo of your brand’s label during Fashion Revolution Week, and asking the brand #whomademyclothes? by sharing it and tagging the brand in your post on Instagram or Twitter. Many brands may not respond to the question or share only limited information about it, but brands that are genuinely aware and involved with the people who work with them are likely to show transparency of their processes. If a brand doesn’t respond, we encourage you to keep asking them and exercising your consumer rights.
3. Learn about the impact of fast fashion
The social, economic and environmental effect of fast fashion is nearly irreversibly damaging for both our environment and people. More than 60% of clothes are made of synthetic materials derived from petrochemicals that do not decompose, but instead break down into smaller and smaller particles called microfibers and microplastics. Discarded clothing made of synthetic fibers now sits in landfills for 200 years. 97% of fast fashion is produced in developing countries with poor labor laws, human rights protections, forced and child labor under dangerous working conditions and abuse and unlivable wages. While knowing about such injustices and labyrinthine difficulties that surround the fashion system can feel discouraging and induce in us feelings of anger, guilt and shame, we hope that knowing the realities of these situations can strengthen your resolution to consume and create differently, and shift consciousness by learning about the workings of fast fashion more frequently.
4. Understand the scope of slow fashion and climate consciousness
It can be difficult for brands to start out 100% sustainable in all their practices. But a label’s openness to evolve with time is a characteristic that is bringing on a lot of innovation and advancement in sustainable practices. Learning about how certain slow fashion brands are innovating and challenging themselves to do better with each collection can inspire our curiosity and build trust in participating and supporting a fashion revolution at the micro, everyday level. For example, our sustainable brand ‘Doodlage’ wields scrap waste and recycled materials, ‘SUI’ uses organic fabrics made from hemp, and ‘Mishe’ employs orange peel fabric to create novel designs – all of which are taking them – and us – a step further in understanding sustainable production and studying the influences of diverse materials on the natural world. At the same time, following the work of world leaders, climate activists, organizations and policy makers can educate us on the agency and power we hold at a collective level and how we can initiate action and change, as both individuals and businesses.
5. Cultivate awareness with friends and family
Nothing makes being involved in creating change as fun as having trivia games, movie nights, book clubs and conversations with our loved ones! Coming together and thinking about the ways in which we can create a community around the subject, engage with it meaningfully, build a more conscious wardrobe and allow each other to learn a little more than we knew a day before goes a long way in making a real difference.
Sustainability and fashion revolution as a movement and practice, will always keep building and challenging us to be better – and with it, our methods. In our ideal to make fashion 100% sustainable and slow, together, as a community, we believe it is of key value to keep our eye on progress over perfection, and do as much as we can, when we can. Every step counts. Every decision makes a difference.