On 24 April 2013 the Rana Plaza factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, collapsed. Killing 1,138 people and injuring 2,500 more, it is the country’s worst industrial disaster. Factory fires, unsafe buildings, low wages, child labour, pollution and little to no union representation had been a problem within the fashion and textiles industry for many years. Small independent fashion labels, charities, NGOs and activists around the world were campaigning for ethical and industrial changes where they could but never had a global platform to push the message. The movement was growing, but it would take the collapse of the Rana Plaza to change the face of the global campaign and begin a Fashion Revolution.
A growing number of designers, buyers, researchers, academics and others working within the fashion and textiles sector had been frustrated for years at the lack of significant progress and willing to make ethical improvements throughout the supply chain in the fashion sector.
A supply chain that had manufactured increased output and supported phenomenal growth for the fashion and textiles industry throughout the 90’s, mass producing garments to sell at ever cheaper prices. The shock, anger and sadness that followed the collapse of the Rana Plaza united two London designers and ethical fashion advocators, Orsola de Castro and Carry Somers to begin Fashion Revolution. This would become a movement initiated by industry professionals but driven by citizens, by anyone who buys clothes, to say enough is enough.
The first Fashion Revolution Day was held on the one-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse. The Fashion Revolution call to action was simple: Chose an item of clothing, wear it inside out, take a selfie showing the label and send directly to the brand on social media, along with the hashtag #WhoMadeMyClothes.
However, this question was not easy for many fashion brands to respond to and it forced them to tackle many complex problems head on. It is because of this that the questions need to continue to be asked.
Now in its third year, the campaign has coordinating teams in 100 countries and for the first time extended the campaign from one day to one week, named “the only fashion week worth caring about", by online magazine thedebrief.co.uk. The first Fashion Revolution Week ended on Monday and comprised a series of independently organised international events including open studios, meet the maker workshops, lectures, fashion shows and meetings with governments and politicians to engage them to take action. Highlights closest to home included taking the Fashion Revolution message to the European parliament to negotiate new legislation for a safer, cleaner, fairer and more transparent apparel industry.
Fashion Revolution gives everyone an opportunity through social media platforms to engage in a conversation directly with the fashion brands to push for transparency. As a collective voice, the customers of clothing companies can share how much they care about who made their clothes, and be heard.
“We have the right to know that our money is not supporting exploitation, human rights abuses, and environmental destruction” Fashion Transparency Index 2017.
The first three years of the campaign has driven major changes in the global textile and fashion manufacturing framework. The Fashion Revolution Global Coordination Team work throughout the year to produce resources, research and reports to be shared throughout the campaign and demonstrate the successes and remaining challenges. One of the most important campaign documents is The Fashion Transparency Index “A review of 100 of the biggest global fashion brands and retailers ranked according to how much they disclose about their social and environmental policies, practices and impact. Brands achieved on average 49 out of 250, which is less than 20% of the total possible points. And none of the brands on the list scored above 50% — proving that there is still a long way to go towards transparency.
Fanzine – a creative, informative magazine with examples of calls to action to raise money to support the organisation of the movement.
Publishing Factory Lists - ASOS, Gap, Marks & Spencer, and several others published their factory lists.
Free education resources about ethical fashion and images and information to be used in the press and on social media can be found on the Fashion Revolution website.
What can you do?
The campaign is a platform to support anyone to take action, to engage directly with the retailers to find out who made your clothes. Even by asking the question you make a difference. In the third year of the campaign there are more ways than ever to be part of the Fashion Revolution.
The Fair Trader - http://fairtrader.coop/
OTSO - https://www.otso.clothing/
Aura Que - http://www.auraque.com/
Upcycle Fashion - http://www.upcyclefashion.co.uk/
Please spare 5 minutes to photograph an item of clothing and the label and send to the brand asking Who Made My Clothes? The campaign has a massive social media following, so you can get involved on twitter, facebook and instagram on @Fash_Rev #WhoMadeMyClothes . If that’s not your thing, then an email, a letter or postcard to the retailer’s Head Office will make a difference too. Our collective voice cannot be ignored.
Make a fashion statement that matters.