April is a pretty good month if you're a green monster, a newbie ecologist or just someone who's happy that winter is finished!
Following World Earth Day on April 22nd, this Monday marks the beginning of Fashion Revolution Week that will last until Sunday the 30th and bring its share of events, activities and awareness raising in the 92 countries that are taking part in the campaign.
In its own words, Fashion Revolution is a global movement calling for a fairer, safer, cleaner, more transparent fashion industry that was created in April 2013 following the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh that killed 1,138 people and injured another 2,500. The two founders of the campaign, Carry Somers founder of the ethical panama brand Pachacuti and Orsrola de Castro, a recycling pioneer and creator of Esthetica were so appalled by the incident that they created Fashion Revolution, a now global campaign that encourages people to ask brands where their clothes comes from and who made them.
But why exactly do we need a Fashion Revolution?
Today, both people and the environment suffer as a result of the way fashion is made, sourced and consumed
And this needs to change. But what does?
Just like the showrunners of the campaign, I'm borrowing the framework of two British researchers Rebecca Earley and Kate Goldsworthy to explain:
1. MODEL — The business of fashion
The way fashion is produced and consumed has been dramatically scaled and sped up in the last 20-30 years and so too we have seen more frequent and deadlier factory disasters. For the past decade, apparel companies have seen rising costs, driven by rising labour, raw material and energy prices. Yet despite the higher cost of making clothes, the price we pay for our clothing is cheaper than ever before. This is system isn’t working.
Fashion Revolution believes that the whole fashion industry needs a radical paradigm shift and that the way that we produce and consume clothes needs to be transformed. This means business models will need to change and a multiplicity of solutions will be required.
2. MATERIAL — People & planet
Human rights abuses and environmental degradation remains rife. The harsh reality is that basic health and safety measures do not exist for many of the people working in fashion’s supply chains. The legal minimum wage in most garment-producing countries is rarely enough for workers to live on.
150 billion items of clothing are delivered out of factories annually yet Americans alone throw away approximately 14 million tonnes of garments each year, that’s over 36 kg per person. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 84% of unwanted clothes in the United States in 2012 went into either a landfill or an incinerator.
Meanwhile, artisanal and heritage craft industries are being eroded, due in large part to mass manufacturing and partly as a result of second-hand clothes flooding local markets. We risk losing ancient techniques that have been passed down through generations in communities around the world.
Our clothes have a devastating environmental impact too. The chemicals used to grow, dye, launder and treat our clothes end up polluting rivers. A huge amount of water is used to produce garments through growing cotton and through wet processing, such as dyeing and laundering. And finally, clothing accounts for around 3% of global production of CO2 emissions, according to The Carbon Trust.
3. MINDSET — Shifting the way we think about fashion
The way we consume clothing has changed a lot over the past 20-30 years too. We buy more clothes than we used to and spend less on them. A century ago, we spent more than half our money on food and clothes, today we spend less than a fifth. As a society we purchase 400% more clothing today than we did just 20 years ago. Every time we buy something that costs less than we think it should, we are implicit in the impacts of that transaction.
We need to break our addiction to the need for speed and volume. We need to realize the true cost of our cheap bargains. Ultimately, we need to buy less, buy better and keep asking questions about the realities behind what we’re purchasing. We need to love the clothes we already own more and work harder to make them last.
So how does Fashion Revolution work?
The main idea behind the campaign is that in order to make the fashion industry accountable and sustainable, the first step is to make it transparent. Hence the hashtag #WhoMadeMyClothes?
Indeed, while some brands won't answer at all, others will respond partially and pioneers will be fully transparent, the goal is that the more people ask the more brands will listen. And by showing brands that people care, Fashion Revolution hopes that systemic change will take place in the industry towards fairer, cleaner safer value chains.
But achieving transparency is only the first step. It helps shine a light on issues that are often otherwise kept in the dark, but it will also eventually lead to greater accountability, which will lead to a change in the way business is done.
How can YOU get involved?
1. ASK a brand
The easiest way to get involved in Fashion Revolution Week and one that gives the movement the most visibility is to take a photo of your clothing label, post it on the social media, tag the concerned brand and ask it #WhoMadeMyClothes?
Below, the example of what I did last year.
2. EDUCATE yourself
This week is the perfect timing to find out about the lifestyle conditions of the garment workers and the environmental impact of the fashion industry. They'll be plenty of resources available through press articles, documentary screening, conversation with designers and producers etc...
Just go out there and find out, it's the best way to realize where our clothes come from and what we can do to change the industry.
The documentary The True Cost is incredibly well done and inspiring and includes personalities such as Safia Minney (People Tree) , Vandana Shiva (indian ecologist and activist) and Livia Firth (founder of 30 wears and creator of the Green Carper Challenge).
3. WRITE a letter to a brand
If you want to do more, you can also write a letter or a postcard to your favorite brand and ask them #WhoMadeMyClothes? Before sending it you can also take a photo of it and share it on social media with tagging the brand and Fashion Revolution to make an even bigger impact!
4. CREATE a love story
Rather than always buying new clothes, Fashion Revolution wants you to fall back in love with your clothes, care for them for longer, and take a stand against fast fashion that ends up in landfill.
Share a story, or write a love letter about a piece of clothing that means a lot to you. This could be a photo on instagram, video for Youtube or a piece of writing for our/your blog.
5. DO a heaulternative
If you're a blogger, a youtuber or just someone interested, you can Create a Fashion Revolution ‘haulternative and inspire your audience with other ways of buying and experiencing clothes.
Instead of the traditional fashion haul, where you go shopping and post a video of what you’ve bought, try a #haulternative ; a way of refreshing your wardrobe without buying new clothes.
YouTube vloggers, including CutiePieMarzia Grav3yardgirl Maddu Noodlerella and Shameless Maya have already done so and are showing their viewers howto shop creatively and meaningfully, from upcycling to swaps to finding gems in charity shops. If you're interested, check out their guide to a #haulternative
6. JOIN an event
One of my personal favorite! Fashion Revolution is truly becoming a global movement with over 800 events taking place in 92 countries. Chances are there's an event in yours that you can attend. To find out who what where, go to the Fashion Revolution website, check out your country and see what's happening in the area. And if there's nothing, don't hesitate to contact them and become a Country Coordinator in order to be able to organize things next year!
To continue being this impactful independent movement, Fashion Revolution needs all the help it can get. Hence, every donation, no matter how small will help them grow !
Here is the link to support them : www.fashionrevolution.org/about/support-us
And more importantly, whether it's to you or because it comes from an ethical brand or has a personal story,