“There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness” (Gandhi)
Fashion Revolution Day occurs annually on the anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster, the collapse of a sweatshop complex in Bangladesh that killed over 1100 garment workers on April 24, 2013. Why do we need a revolution? If you look at the lifecycle of a typical piece of clothing, you’ll find (in Gandhi’s words above) “hunger and unhappiness” at every stage:
- Raw materials: Most cotton farming is an environmental nightmare, and the most widely used cotton alternatives are synthetics, a product of the petroleum chemical industry.
- Fabric manufacturing: Textile dyeing and other processing is another major source of pollution.
- Apparel manufacturing: Most of the clothes we wear are made under horrific sweatshop conditions that trap workers in extreme poverty.
- Fast fashion: fashion marketing teaches us that clothing is disposable – “fast fashion.” Retailers push for breath-takingly low prices to accelerate the cycle of buying, wearing, and disposing of garments – regardless of the environmental and human toll incurred. As a result, the average American throws more than 70 pounds of clothing a year into the trash, making room for more disposable “hunger and unhappiness.”
It doesn’t have to be that way. A growing number of brands offer clothes made from organic, sustainably produced fibers, for which farmers were paid a fair price. They use manufacturing methods that reduce or eliminate pollution and waste, and their operations foster ethical and fair trade labor practices.
We Are the Missing Piece
The missing piece in this puzzle is us – consumers who demand sustainably, ethically produced clothing. Where there is demand, industry will create supply. By voting with our wallets for sustainably made products, we contribute directly and tangibly to the creation of a safer, fairer, more beautiful world. Fashion Revolution Day exists to raise consumer awareness and change our buying behavior.
Fashion Revolution: The Event
Fashion Revolution Day was created to raise consumer awareness and change how we buy clothes. Carry Somers, the British fashion entrepreneur who started it all, recently talked with the Huffington Post about how the idea came into being and received a growing level of support. Here are a few excerpts (complete interview here):
“Most of the public is still not aware that human and environmental abuses are endemic across the fashion and textiles industry and that what they’re wearing could have been made in an exploitative way. We don’t want to wear that story anymore….
“We have created a How To Be A Fashion Revolutionary booklet this year, which is full of inspiration and ideas about how we can all use our voices and power to transform the fashion industry as we know it. [Download it free here.]
“Press coverage for our video, ‘The 2 Euro T-shirt: a Social Experiment,’ was also extensive. [Watch this short, very cool video here.] [It] has accumulated over 7 million views to date. In June the video won the Bronze prize at the Cannes Lion Film Festival and this achievement was widely reported by international press. A follow-up video has just been launched – ‘The Child Labour Experiment.’ [Watch this video made by some extraordinary kids here.]
“Behind the Barcode Fashion Report published last year found that … 75% [of fashion brands] didn’t know where their fabrics and other inputs came from and 91% didn’t know where the raw materials came from. Cotton harvested using forced labour in Uzbekistan is routinely labelled ‘Made in Bangladesh,’ and it was recently reported that Islamic State has taken over three-fourths of the cotton fields in Syria. How do we as consumers know that we aren’t supporting ISIS or slave labour with the next cotton garment we buy?
“Together with Ethical Consumer, we are working on a Transparency Index, assessing 40 of the top selling brands in the UK, most of which are well-known global brands. The Index will be published for Fashion Revolution Week.
[For consumers,] “We launched the Haulternative last year, with YouTube vloggers including Noodlerella, CutiePieMarzia, Shameless Maya and Bip Ling. It’s about how you can do a different kind of haul. A way of refreshing your wardrobe without buying new clothes, from upcycling to swaps to finding gems in charity shops. We call it the #haulternative. We had almost 2 million views of the #haulternative videos online last year. This year, we are asking fashion lovers from all over the world to join in and create their own haulternative video. We have 8 different haulternatives to choose from, so pick the one you like best: Love Story, Broken but Beautiful, Fashion Fix, Second Hand, Swap, DIY, Vintage or Hire. We hope that making a #haulternative video will inspire people with new ways of buying and experiencing clothes. Your voice can help us to change the world, one outfit at a time.” [See existing #haulternative videos on Fashion Revolution’s YouTube channel here.]
Follow the events on FashionRevolution.org and the discussion on Twitter and other social media with the hashtag #whomademyclothes. And check out the clothing brands we feature in our Fashion category and our Jeans and Casual Clothes section.
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