Fashion Revolution says the simple question #WhoMadeMyClothes can improve the conditions of garment workers around the world.
Enter a Fashion Revolution
Seven years ago this week, 1,134 people were killed in a Bangladesh garment factory collapse. Many of those who killed were paid criminally low wages and forced to work in deplorable conditions.
The Rana Plaza building was improperly managed and structurally unsound, but employed thousands of workers for brands like Prada, Gucci, Benetton, and Walmart. Major brands and products the American mass market wears every day.
Later that year, activists Carry Somers, Orsola de Castro, and Sarah Ditty created Fashion Revolution in direct response to the avoidable and tragic event. Its mission is to throw the spotlight on the very prevalent issue that millions of people in the garment industry face every day.
Transparency makes it easy to be a conscious consumer
Quite simply, since the Rana Plaza disaster, the organization has called for a dramatic increase in accountability and transparency across industries.
Fashion Revolution’s mission has yielded remarkable results. According to its website: “Since Fashion Revolution started, people from all over the world have used their voice and their power to demand change from the fashion industry. And it’s working.
The industry is starting to listen and the impact on people has been profound. “We’ve seen brands being open about where their clothes are made and the impact their raw materials are having on the environment.”
Last week, Fashion Revolution released its annual report on transparency within the fashion industry. The report ranks 250 global brands by the amount of information they disclose to the public about their “social and environmental policies, practices and impacts.”
Among the top 10 performers are:
- H&M (73 percent)
- Adidas/Reebok (69 percent)
- Esprit (64 percent)
- Patagonia (60 percent)
- North Face/Timberland/Vans/Wrangler (59 percent)
- Puma (57 percent)
- Converse/Jordan/Nike (55 percent.)
At the bottom of the list, with all scoring, a zero for transparency:
- Jessica Simpson
- Pepe Jeans
- Tom Ford
ASICS, Urban Outfitters/Anthropologie, and Clarks were among those praised for most improving their transparency.
Shop sustainable fashion and garments
Want to shop more responsibly? Fashion Revolution’s website is an excellent place to start. Here are a few quick tips to help you get you going.
Get to know your retailers. What is their sustainability platform? Do you know their stance on sweatshops and slave labor? Essentially, do you know who made your clothes? The fashion supply chain has done a lot of the leg work for you. They’ve drafted an email template that you can complete and send to brands. It addresses workplace ethics and employee treatment.
Also, learning to shop responsibly can mean shopping less. By learning to take better care of the items you buy, you can do your part in eliminating waste and reducing the environmental impact of mass production.
Team up to spread the campaign
Have you come across a relatively unknown or under-the-radar retail brand that goes above and beyond? Collective action empowers a global shopping experience at a local level––it’s always good to support local brands, but it’s even better to support local brands like ABLE that operate sustainably and ethically.
The fashion brand employs women in Ethiopia, Peru, Mexico, and Nashville. ABLE pays employees a living wage and publishes its lowest wages. Therefore, an ethical consumer knows that whoever made their piece of clothing can also find gender equality and dignified livelihoods.
Barrett Ward, the founder of ABLE, calls it “radical transparency.” Ward hopes that, before long, ABLE’s business model will not be a rarity, but interconnected solutions from an accountable fashion industry.
Just 2 percent of garment workers make a wage that meets their basic needs. But, Ward estimates that if brands absorbed the cost of bringing workers to a living wage, it would only cost between 1 and 3 percent of the cost of the garment.
“When you put it that way, it doesn’t feel so insurmountable. We believe that a radical shift can happen in the fashion industry if consumer demand pushes for it.”
Contribute to the revolution
For all the good they do, Fashion Revolution can’t continue to do it all alone. Consider picking up one of their informative and creatively curated fanzines. The publication raises funds to support the Fashion Revolution campaign.
Also, try attending one of their virtual events and make a positive difference toward systemic reform. They live stream workshops, demos, and talks right onto your social media platforms. You can watch in those comfy sweats you (hopefully) purchased from an ethical fashion company.