Fashion Revolution has made it easy to be a conscious consumer
Seven years ago this week, 1,134 people were killed in a Bangladesh garment factory. The Rana Plaza building was improperly managed and structurally unsound. And, worse yet, many of those who were killed were paid criminally low wages and forced to work in deplorable conditions.
The factory employed thousands of workers, who sewed goods for brands like Prada, Gucci, Benetton, and Walmart. Brands many of us wear every day.
Later that year, Fashion Revolution was created in direct response to the avoidable tragedy. Its mission was to throw a spotlight on a very prevalent issue.
Each April since, the organization has put on what it calls Fashion Revolution Week. It’s a chance to commemorate the tragedy of April 24, 2013, and provides a nudge for consumers to ask their favorite brands #WhoMadeMyClothes.
How Fashion Revolution is Changing the Game
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. We’ve seen brands being open about where their clothes are made and the impact their 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), and Converse/Jordan/Nike (55 percent.)
The bottom of the list, with all scoring a zero for transparency, were Bally, Belle, Jessica Simpson, Pepe Jeans ,and Tom Ford. ASICS, Urban Outfitters/Anthropologie, and Clarks were among those praised for most improving their transparency.
See the full Fashion Revolution Transparency Index report here.
How to Shop Better––and Smarter
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.
Do your homework
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?
Fashion Revolution has done a lot of the work for you. They’ve drafted an email template that you can complete and send to brands. It addresses workplace ethics and employee treatment. Checking in now is especially important during the coronavirus outbreak, when global consumption levels are at their lowest.
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.
Spread the word
Have you come across a relatively unknown or under-the-radar retail brand that goes above and beyond? You can do wonders by sharing your shopping experience with others––it’s always good to support local brands, but it’s even better to support local brands that operate sustainably and ethically.
One of our favorites here at Artistic Fuel is ABLE. The fashion company employs women in Ethiopia, Peru, Mexico and Nashville. It pays employees a living wage and publishes its lowest wages on its website. Therefore, consumers can rest in the fact that whoever made their clothes can meet their family’s needs.
Barrett Ward, founder of ABLE, calls it “radical transparency.” Ward hopes that, before long, ABLE’s business model will not be a rarity, but what consumers expect from fashion companies.
Just 2 percent of fashion 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,” he said. “We believe that a radical shift can happen in the fashion industry if consumer demand pushes for it.”
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 during quarantine. They livestream workshops, demos, and talks right into your living room. You can watch in those comfy sweats you (hopefully) purchased from an ethical fashion company.
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Journalist and author Danielle Nadler grew up in South Dakota, where a patient writing teacher fostered in her a love for stories told well. She's worked for newspapers in the Midwest, on the West Coast and the East Coast, and recently launched a storytelling company called Tales and Ales.