The 24th of April marks the day a Bangladeshi garment factory outside Dhaka, Rana Plaza, collapsed taking the lives of 1,134 innocent people and injuring over 2,500 others. The victims were mostly young women, people with the whole of their lives ahead of them. Large cracks appeared the day before but went ignored from pressure to meet relentless demand. Is this the kind of system we want to be a part of?
Carry Somers and Orsola de Castro were two people who, following this disaster, knew we needed systemic reform to ensure this never happened again. This is where Fashion Revolution was born. Fashion revolution is a not-for-profit global movement with one question: who made my clothes?
By asking this simple question we encourage greater transparency in the fashion supply chain; forcing corporations to take accountability for working conditions, for garment workers and for the resources that they use in production.
Rana Plaza factory collapse, 24th April 2013. Image: Flickr/Rinajs.
So who makes our clothes?
This is who makes our clothes.
From the very beginning, we have advocated against exploitation by ensuring all our clothing manufacturers are independently audited by the Fair Wear Foundation. We're proud to say our clothing manufacturers, Stanley & Stella and Continental Clothing, have both achieved 'leader' status through independent annual evaluations by the Fair Wear Foundation. This means they are operating at the highest level in terms of employee welfare.
Rest assured, the person that made your clothes works in a place where:
Employment is freely chosen ✓
There is no discrimination in employment ✓
No exploitation of child labour ✓
Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining ✓
Payment of a living wage ✓
No excessive working hours ✓
Safe and healthy working conditions ✓
Legally-binding employment relationship ✓
Since Fashion Revolution started in 2013, we have seen thousands of brands replying to the question, including global brands such as Zara, Fat Face, Pull and Bear, Marks & Spencer and G Star Raw, all responding with real information about their suppliers. More than 1,300 factories have been inspected and 1.8 million garment workers have received factory safety information. Our voices are being heard. Working conditions are improving and some wages are increasing too. Bangladesh has seen a 77% increase in the minimum wage to $68 per month for garment workers. However, there is still a long way to go.
There are many ways you can use your voice and purchasing power to revolutionise the fashion industry. Here are a few ideas:
1. Take a selfie wearing your favourite shirt inside out
Tag the brand and use the hashtag #WhoMadeMyClothes to get transparency trending
Image: Fashion Revolution
2. Find brands you trust and support them
Oeko-Tex, an ecological certification company, conducted a study that found whilst 60% of millennials said they are interested in certified clothing, only 37% had actually purchased any.
Stop buying from companies who don't care about who makes their clothes. It almost always costs more to source from ethical factories, so support businesses that operate ethically to keep them going.
Will your voice be heard? Absolutely.
Retailers need to sell clothes. They need us to buy them, which puts us in a position to say what we will and will not buy. Tell retailers that you will only buy clothes that are made fairly and they will inevitably respond by improving working conditions for factory workers.
3. Host a clothes swap
In the UK, 38 million items of new clothes are bought every week and 11 million go to landfill (Wrap 2017). Something that is old to you and been seen too many times on social media might be treasured by somebody else. This is a great chance to not only get some fresh new garments but also start a conversation on ethical fashion.
4. Sign the fashion manifesto
Written by Fashion Revolution, the fashion manifesto takes a stand against exploitation and stands for cleaner practice in the fashion industry. The more people who sign this Manifesto, the louder we all become and the stronger our shared vision becomes for a better fashion industry.
Image: AFP/Getty Images
5. Tell your friends
Spread the word. It's going to take thousands of revolutionaries to ignite a sustainable future in fashion, so let's get started.
Without going all Snap on you, you've got the power. You have a voice in this and you hold the power in your purchases. So invest in good companies that mirror your ethics and buy clothes you feel proud to wear.
For more information on how to get involved go to www.fashionrevolution.org