Fashion Revolution Week is a tremendously important time of year for the international ethical and sustainable fashion community, everyone who works in fashion, and everyone who wears clothes, really.
The week remembers the Rana Plaza clothing factory building collapse in Bangladesh in 2013, which killed more than 1,100 people died and injured more than another 2,500. Since 2013, Fashion Revolution Week has developed into a movement of changemakers and acts as a moment for us all to pause and use our voices to demand change from the fashion industry.
Why do we need a Fashion Revolution?
Rana Plaza was the fourth largest industrial disaster in history, yet so many people who I talk to still haven’t ever heard a word about it. It seems that no matter how much is revealed about the fashion industry, popular culture remains ignorant to the pain and suffering the fashion industry continues to inflict.
The reality is that it’s been almost a decade since this revolution began and the fashion industry has seen very little change. Sure, H&M might have released a singular ‘conscious’ collection, but brands are still producing an enormous amount of clothing at an unsustainable rate and continuing to place profit above people and the planet.
While I have seen an increasing amount of people become more conscious about what they buy and who they support, and while I’ve seen many small, sustainable, and transparent brands launch and expand in the past few years, as well as many brands become more open about their supply chains, I don’t think I’ll rest until all clothing is produced, consumed and returned to our earth fairly.
Some recent facts:
- The garment industry is the second most predominant sector driving modern slavery (Global Slavery Index, 2018)
- The Baptist World Aid 2019 Ethical Fashion Report found that only 37% of 130 companies assessed have published a complete list of all final stage suppliers, and only 50% of the companies have published information about some suppliers. (Baptist World Aid Ethical Fashion Report, 2019)
- The Baptist World Aid 2019 Ethical Fashion Report found that just 5% of the 130 companies assessed could demonstrate that they were paying a living wage to all workers at their final stage of production. (Baptist World Aid Ethical Fashion Report, 2019)
- Australians dispose of 6,000 kilograms of fashion and textile waste every 10 minutes (ABC’s War on Waste, 2017)
- Between 15% to 31% of marine plastic pollution could be from microplastics. 35% of this microplastic pollution comes from washing synthetic textiles. (Primary microplastics in the oceans, IUCN, 2017).
- 86% of the general population (but 94% of Gen Z) think companies should be addressing social and environmental issues. (Cone Gen Z CSR Study, 2017)
Why Ethical Fashion Matters in 2020
With the world now producing more clothing than ever before, and especially in a time of a global pandemic (COVID-19) and climate breakdown, even the quietest of us are using our voices to demand safety and fairness for garment workers and a complete shift in the way we are treating our planet.
COVID-19 & Worker Safety
Considering that the health and safety of garment workers around the global wasn’t taken into much consideration to begin with, one can only imagine the extra weight COVID-19 is putting on workers who are still producing our clothes during this time.
In their updates on COVID-19’s impact on the fashion industry, Fashion Revolution have noted many troubling and unethical decisions made by fashion retailers and brands globally right now. Many brands and retailers have cancelled orders from factories and stopped payments (even for orders already finished), and billions of workers around the world are now lacking basic labour, social and health protections.
To read more of the details about what’s going on around the globe and for information on how you can help beyond donating, have a look at Fashion Revolution’s page on the pandemic here and Clean Clothes Campaign’s updates here.
“…we hope that our days indoors can bring about revolutions in caring for our clothes better, mending and making clothing, and adopting a mindset of longevity when it comes to our wardrobes.”Fashion Revolution
With the current global pandemic, it’s hard to focus on any other global crisis right now. So, here I am to remind you that:
- We still only have 10 years left to prevent irreversible damage from climate change
- Our planet is still drowning in plastic
- Fresh water sources are still being polluted with toxic chemicals
- The world is still seeing a massive, global degradation of soil
All of which the fashion industry is contributing to tremendously. If we want to re-enter into a healthier world post-pandemic, consumers and brands must continue to advocate for more environmentally responsible production from seed to sale. Brands and manufacturers must continue to monitor, change and improve their production models.
“…a “truly ethical” company not only ensures their supply chain empowers workers and pays them a living wage, it also understands its impact on the environment and manages its footprint to keep waterways, the earth, and the atmosphere healthy.”Baptist World Aid 2019 Ethical Fashion Report
What you can do to change the future of fashion
Above all, I believe that change always starts at the grassroots level and that every single person has the power to start a ripple that can turn into a wave (take Greta, for example!). If you want to make a difference during this Fashion Revolution Week and into the future, here’s what you can do:
- Read Fashion Revolution’s 2019 Transparency Index
- Sign the Fashion Revolution Manifesto
- Sign this petition by Remake.world asking brands to #PayUp
- Ask “#WhoMadeMyClothes?” and demand that the people who make our clothes are visible and their human rights are respected. There are some free downloads to help you spread the message here.
- Send an email to a brand demanding change. Fashion Revolution has a premade email template for you here.
- Work on changing your mindset and stay accountable for your own actions, decisions and purchases so you can begin to practice what you preach.
- Continue to research the fashion industry and stay open to new ideas.
- Educate your friends and family so we all can begin to feel safe and supported in our efforts to make a change (but remember – nudge, don’t judge!)
About Fashion Revolution Week
20th – 26th April 2020
Fashion Revolution Week is Fashion Revolution’s #whomademyclothes campaign, which falls on the anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, which killed 1138 people and injured many more on 24th April 2013. It is the day Fashion Revolution was born. During Fashion Revolution Week, brands and producers are encouraged to respond with the hashtag #imadeyourclothes and to demonstrate transparency in their supply chain.