Taking place between the 19th and 25th April 2021, Fashion Revolution Week is a call to come together in the name of a better fashion industry. Founded in the wake of the 2013 Rana Plaza Disaster, where the collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh killed 1,100 people and injured another 2,500, it is a time to better consider the humanitarian and environmental impact of our fashion choices. The majority of the victims of the Rana Plaza Disaster were garment workers- young women who had voiced concerns about the building’s infrastructure but were forced back to unsafe conditions regardless.¹
This tragic disaster is representative of a larger pattern surrounding retailers’ lack of accountability and diligence when monitoring their suppliers.
‘It is impossible for companies to make sure human rights are respected, working conditions are adequate and the environment is safeguarded without knowing where their products are being made.’²
Just as ignorance towards garment workers can be disastrous, the industry must also not turn a blind eye to the environmental effects of fashion. The industry is currently the second largest polluter in the world, contributing to water contamination, waste accumulation and 10% of global carbon emissions³. However, Fashion Revolution seeks to remind us that these issues are not separate, but rather intrinsically linked with important intersections. When the majority of labour in the fashion industry is carried out by women, such as in Bangladesh where 85% of garment workers are female⁴, labour rights cannot be divorced from their context in women’s issues. Nor can women’s issues be separated from the rights of nature when environmental degradation disproportionately affects them.⁵
‘This is because women around the world are at greater risk of poverty, face barriers to basic human rights such as free movement, and experience gender-based violence which escalates during periods of instability. Therefore, women’s livelihoods – and the livelihoods of their dependents – are at greater risk from damage by extreme weather events, natural disasters, and zoonotic disease outbreaks like Covid-19.’⁶
When engaging in dialogues about the ethics of fashion, it is important to remember that ‘human rights and the rights of nature are interconnected and interdependent, yet the fashion industry takes too much from nature, and exploits its people’.⁷
Knowing this, how can we ensure the integrity of our garment workers and planet?
One thing we can do as consumers is to make a more conscious effort to ‘slow down’ our fashion. This could mean:
It’s important to remember that these aren’t steadfast rules. You don’t have to only buy vintage or completely cut out fast fashion to make a difference. Ultimately there is only so much that we can do as consumers. Rather, the dialogue around sustainable fashion should focus on holding brands and regulators accountable, not just individuals. This is particularly true when considering the path to ‘slow fashion’ is not equally accessible to everyone. The gentrification of platforms like Depop, causing the rising cost of second-hand clothes and an increasing time commitment needed to find affordable options, all help to make ‘slow fashion’ accessible to only those with the most financial capital.⁸ Fashion Revolution Week therefore seeks to remind us that the biggest change is made by the biggest players.
This Fashion Revolution Week, whilst considering where you might sustainably source your next outfit, also consider calling out the brands already in your wardrobe. Fashion Revolution is running a social media campaign where you use your social media platforms to tag the brands you wear and ask them #WhoMadeMyClothes? For more information, check out The Citizens Toolkit, a great guide for using social media to put pressure on brands to be more transparent.
‘Transparency requires that companies know and share #WhoMadeMyClothes – from who stitched them right through to who dyed the fabric and who farmed the cotton — and under what conditions.’⁹
Remember, ‘if a brand doesn’t respond, keep asking. Our power is in persistence’.¹⁰
Now is the time for a fashion revolution.
By Jessica Travers, Graduate Trainee at Tower Hamlet Homes