Made for Freedom is proud to participate once more in Fashion Revolution in 2017. To learn more about this incredible movement for ethical and sustainable fashion, that aims to truly change the world, read on. We've highlighted excerpts from Fashion Revolution's Whitepaper. Read more here.
On 24 April 2013, over 1,130 people were killed when the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. 2,500 more were injured. The people crushed under those eight floors were working for familiar fashion brands in one of the many negligent accidents that plague the garment industry.
Fashion Revolution was born on the day that Rana Plaza collapsed. This disaster acted as a metaphorical call to arms. 1,130 is too many people to lose from the planet in one factory, on one terrible day without that standing for something. We believe that the cost of fashion shouldn’t be someone’s life. We mustn’t allow tragedies like Rana Plaza to remain an unfortunate reality of contemporary life. Today, both people and the environment are still suffering as a result of how fashion is made, sourced and purchased. We believe enough is enough.
Though the Rana Plaza disaster is no longer on the front pages of the news or at the forefront of our minds, we believe it has opened up a window for significant change in the industry. Whilst this tragedy is a symptom of industry-wide problems, it gives us an opportunity to set a new agenda to overcome the causes. The public must be part of setting this new agenda for the fashion industry. However, change will need to come from multiple angles — business, consumers, governments, academia, NGOs and others coming together to create a safer, cleaner, more just and fair future for fashion.
Before we set out what changes need to happen, let us first look broadly at the the way in which our clothing is made today, how it came to be made in this manner and what big problems have resulted from the way the fashion industry works.
We wanted to put a wide lens on the issues below, so you have an overview of what we’re talking about when we say we need a fashion revolution. Though, of course, this doesn’t cover everything. There are many organisations that have been working on these issues for years and have made some important in-roads into improving conditions and solving some of the problems that the fashion industry faces. There is also a long list of multistakeholder groups and government interventions that have paved the way for Fashion Revolution’s work, without which it would be impossible to contextualise the Rana Plaza disaster, many of which you will find listed at the end of this paper.
MODEL: The Business of Fashion
Fashion is our chosen skin. On an individual level it represents how we feel about ourselves and what we want to tell the world about who we are. On a community level, it tells a story about our history, culture and social customs.
We have worn clothing pretty much from the beginning of time, but fashion was not always made and consumed the way it is now. Mass-produced clothing has existed since the mid nineteenth century and working conditions have been a problem for well over a hundred years. The term “sweatshop’ was coined as early as the 1850’s. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911 was the deadliest industrial disaster of its time, killing 123 women and 23 men in Manhattan, New York City. Mill fires in the UK were so common that mill owners often had their own steam fire engines.
However, the way fashion is produced and consumed has been dramatically scaled and sped up in the last 20-30 years and so too we have seen more frequent and deadlier factory disasters.
MATERIAL: People and the Planet
Despite a number of international standards, certifications and government legislation to tackle human rights, working conditions are not up to scratch in many of the places where clothing, accessories and footwear is made. Systematic exploitation remains rife. Human rights violations include cross cutting issues such as forced and child labour, repression and discrimination, and unsafe, dirty and unfair working conditions. Producers and garment workers might face excessive hours, forced overtime, lack of job security, denial of trade union rights, poor health, exhaustion, sexual harassment, discrimination and denial of other basic human rights when on the job. These problems exist not just in places like Bangladesh but also in developed countries like the United Kingdom and the United States.
MINDSET: Shifting the Way We Think About Fashion
Public trust in brands is in crisis at the moment. This has been spurred on by major events like the 2008 financial crisis and its subsequent ripple effects, the Rana Plaza factory collapse, the angora fur scandal, the horse meat scandal, FIFA corruption - to name a few.
Havas Media’s Meaningful Brands report (2015) interviewed 300,000 people across 34 countries about their attitudes and behaviours when it comes to over 1,000 brands in 12 countries. The research showed one big thing: for the most part, consumers are now sceptics. People want to know that we’re not getting a bad deal, whether it’s value for money, quality, utility or the ethics of products we buy from brands. Shoppers want a good price and convenience but we also want authenticity and provenance.
What are the goals of Fashion Revolution?
Fashion Revolution is a global movement calling for a fairer, safer, cleaner, more transparent fashion industry.
How can I help?
During the week of April 24-30, 2017, ask the brands you love to wear #whomademyclothes. Press them for details as to where they come from, and who made them. You deserve to know who makes them, and under what conditions. While some brands won't answer at all, some might tell you where your clothes were made, but not who made them. The more people who ask #whomademyclothes, the more people will listen and pressure organizations to make real and meaningful changes to their practices. To quote Fashion Revolution, "If a brand doesn't respond, keep asking. Our power is in persistence."
Share your photo on Instagram during Fashion Revolution Week 24-30th of April and encourage your friends to do the same.
Want to do more? Fashion Revolution has a wealth of downloadable resources available on their website for brands, wholesalers, consumers, farmers, producers and more. Click here to explore how you can utilize them.