Today I am calling for a Fashion Revolution.
As someone who commonly wears lycra, black fleeces, bamboo t-shirts and can often go for days without putting on a real bra… you may wonder why I am writing about fashion, but hear me out.
In every level of the fashion supply chain, there are a huge number of issues: and a complete lack of transparency between every step:
High street stores >> Factories>>Cloth manufacturers>>Cotton/material growers
So whilst Next or Mango might know the factory that their trousers are produced in, they have no idea where the cloth came from, and they have even less of an idea about how and where that cotton, or any of the other materials were grown.
My last blog post briefly mentioned my frustration at the ‘take, make, throwaway’ culture of our current high street. I spoke about the water footprint involved in the cultivation of cotton, the water pollution created from dying cloth, and the air pollution caused from the transportation of garments around the world. All of these impacts (and more) which go into the manufacture of ‘fast fashion’ are hugely damaging to the environment; however I failed to mention the social costs associated as well.
Today marks the 3rd anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster. On the 24th April 2013, the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing 1134 people and injuring over 2500 more. Almost all of them were women and children.
Nearly as shocking as the dire state of the infrastructure which caused the collapse, was the fact that no-one had any idea as to which brands were linked to the factory. (Later it was revealed to be H&M, Gap, Walmart and Primark)
1 year on, an amazing woman called Orsola de Castro (who I was lucky enough to meet back in 2015) started the Fashion Revolution. And no, it is not some kind of radical form of London fashion week: it is a movement of people who are demanding more transparency and sustainability from high street clothing providers. She used the power of the hashtag: #whomademyclothes, encouraging people to tweet, Facebook and instagram their favourite brands, asking that very question: Who really did make my clothes?
Some stores such as New Look, H&M and Topshop are beginning to respond to pressure from their customers and are attempting to improve the conditions within their supply chains. Despite this surface-level success however, the fight is by no means over. Last week there was a fire at an Indian garment factory, and according to The Guardian, Syrian refugee children are being illegally employed in clothing factories in Turkey. I.e. much more needs to be done.
The Fashion Revolution campaign is doing something amazing. It is connecting us, with the people behind our clothes. It is making us (and all of the retailers!) aware of the value that is captured in the creation of our garments: and hopefully creating awareness of our inability to be sustainable via the current options that we have on our high streets.
Yes okay, its not perfect. The campaign doesn’t address the bigger sustainability picture, and it doesn’t even mention the environment: but, we need to start somewhere right? And this starting point seems pretty justified to me.
If you want to be part of making clothes more sustainable, get involved with the campaign on your social media channel of choice, by using the hashtag #whomademyclothes.