Things have changed a lot for Fashion the last few weeks. The big positive has been the amount of talk surrounding using the chaos to help rebuild a more sustainable, ethical framework for how we produce the clothing we wear. But…
Why do we need a Fashion Revolution?
This week marks the seventh year that Fashion Revolution has encouraged us to ask the question “Who Made My Clothes?” It’s been a couple generations since most of us made our own clothing at home, and at least one generation since clothing was regularly manufactured in the US. So you’d be forgiven for not knowing the process of how what you’re wearing got to you... right?
On April 25, 2013, the Rana Plaza building collapsed and took with it over a thousand lives, a tragedy that spurred many to take a closer look at the lives of those making the clothing that they wear. Many are young women, and do not feel safe in their workplace let alone have a way to negotiate a fair wage.
All of these workers have also been negatively affected by the current pandemic and it’s surrounding economic pressures. With stores currently closing doors, many brands have cancelled their orders including ones that are already in production or have already shipped. Elizabeth Cline, author of ‘The Conscious Closet’, reports that as of April 6th, 2020 over $750 million USD are owed to overseas factories for in-production and completed orders. At least one of these brands have outright stated that they will not pay for their completed orders. An additional $200 million USD in orders are from companies that have made promises to fulfill payment at a later date.
In the meantime, how many garment workers are unable to pay their bills and feed their families, in a sector where $80 a month is a good wage? Already in 2013, “the worst possible outcome ...would be for the garment industry to leave Bangladesh altogether.” (NPR’s Project Money Makes a T-Shirt)
And it’s not just Bangladesh that’s in trouble. In the last couple of weeks, the LA Garment Workers Center has raised over $10,000 to help garment workers now unemployed due to Covid-19. And the one’s that are working, are not always being paid the overtime they are due for making fabric masks and personal protective equipment.
So, what do we do about it?
This year, Fashion Revolution has focused not just on the “Who”, but also on “How”... How can we most effectively use our individual actions to create a larger, collective change?
FR breaks it down in 4 Steps:
Consumption - Stop and look at how often you shop. How many pieces of clothing are already in your closet, and how often do you wear them. How long before you get rid of a piece of clothing? Where do your clothes go to die? (Good chance it’s in a landfill, either in the US or in Africa.)
Composition - What are your clothes made of? What percentage of your closet is made of plastics that shed into the water supply each time you do your laundry? What percentage is cotton that uses a lot of water and pesticides to produce? Are there organic and fair trade options you could be investing in?
Conditions - Who made your clothing? Was it someone you know, or could meet? Was it someone half way around the world, who needs the work but is subject to unfair pay, child labor, and harassment? If we don’t make sure they have safe working conditions, and something happens to them, who will be left to make our clothing? Do the brands you buy even really look at how their clothing is made?
Collective Action - It takes many people to produce the clothing in our closets, just like it will take many voices speaking up to make a change. You CAN start at home, taking care of the clothing you have and making purchases mindfully, while reaching out to the brands you buy that you support them in making better choices about how their clothing is produced. And that you’ll be watching to see that they do.
Plus you can join AIBI all this week in our 5x5 Challenge. Check it out HERE.
Don’t forget! Many designers local to you work closely with their producers, or produce in house, so that can be a great way to get to know “Who makes your clothes”!
BE CURIOUS. FIND OUT. DO SOMETHING.