BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 24 Apr '15

Demand answers from brands this Fashion Revolution Day

Today, 24 April 2015, is Fashion Revolution Day – and people in 68 countries around the world are set to challenge global fashion brands by asking #whomademyclothes?

Clothes companies will be called on to demonstrate commitment to transparency across the length of the value chain, from farmers to factory workers, brands to buyers and consumers.

Transparency is important because it shows a company’s willingness to be held accountable for its supply chain and this builds up public trust.

Fixing broken links

Garment manufacturing, worth some $3 trillion, is the world’s third-largest industry, behind automobiles and electronics.

‘When everything in the fashion industry is only focused on making a profit, human rights, the environment and worker’s workers’ rights get lost. This has got to stop. We plan to mobilise people around the world.

‘Buying is only the last step in a long journey involving hundreds of people; the invisible workforce behind the clothes we wear. We no longer know the people who made our clothes so therefore it is easy to turn a blind eye and as a result, millions of people are suffering, even dying.’

Carry Somers, Fashion Revolution co-founder

Fashion and textiles is one of the most labour dependent industries on the planet, employing hundreds of millions of people from farm to final product. Yet the people who make our clothes are hidden from us – often at their own expense. This is a symptom of the broken links across the fashion industry and its supply chain.

The Rana Plaza disaster

This Fashion Revolution Day marks the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which killed 1,133, and injured over 2,500 people. It serves as a stark reminder of the lack of transparency, accountability and human rights that plague the global fashion industry.

‘Fashion Revolution is about building a future where an accident like this never happens again. We believe knowing who made our clothes is the first step in transforming the fashion industry.

‘Knowing who made our clothes requires transparency, and this implies openness, honesty, communication and accountability. It’s about re-connecting broken links and celebrating the relationship between shoppers and the people who make our clothes, shoes, accessories and jewellery – all the things we call fashion.’

Orsola de Castro, Fashion Revolution co-founder

Led by some of the biggest names in fashion, Fashion Revolution Day will celebrate those who are on a journey to create a more ethical and sustainable future for fashion, and show that change is possible.

Model Lily Cole, blogger Susie Lau, Eco Age Creative Director Livia Firth, vloggers CutiepieMarzia, Bip Ling, Noodlerella and actress and model Amber Valletta are just some of the names expected take part in a mass global action challenging brands to tell their customers #whomademyclothes.

Join the fashion revolution

On 24 April, fashionistas are asked to join the fashion revolution by following four simple steps: four simple steps:

  1. Take a selfie showing your label. You could turn your clothes inside out to make more of a statement
  2. Follow that brand on social media
  3. Upload your photo on social media with this message: ‘I want to thank the people who made my clothes, @brand #whomademyclothes?’
  4. Help make our message louder. Nominate three friends to do the same

The campaign, which deliberately seeks to engage younger audiences, will include a range of activities on social media channels including leading vloggers creating #haulternative videos that show an alternative to throwaway fashion on the high street. ‘Haulternatives’ include vintage, second-hand, swish/swap, DIY, investment buy and Fairtrade.

UK events

Events to mark the day are being organised around the world by teams in 68 countries.
In the UK they include:

  • Impossible Swishing Party with Lily Cole and Futerra Clerkenwell, 24 April
  • Designer Jumble Marble Arch, 24 April
  • Clotho Fashion Hackathon Google Campus, 24 April

The True Cost

Fashion Revolution Advisory Board Members, Livia Firth and Lucy Siegle, are the executive producers of a new documentary film, The True Cost, which asks us to consider who really pays the price for our clothing.

Funded by the public on crowdsourcing website Kickstarter, the film premieres in London on Fashion Revolution Day, in partnership with Business of Fashion, and will be released worldwide on 29 May 2015.

Initiatives since Rana Plaza

The European Commission has signed the ‘Sustainability Compact for continuous improvements in labour rights and factory safety in the Ready-Made Garment and Knitwear Industry in Bangladesh’, an agreement outlining concrete commitments to improve respect for labour rights – in particular freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, improving structural integrity of buildings and promoting responsible business conduct.

Brands, trade unions and stakeholders have also signed the Accord to improve health and occupational safety in Bangladeshi factories.

These are just two examples of initiatives in the wake of the Rana Plaza tragedy.

Still, these important precedents won’t prevent social and environmental catastrophes in our fashion supply chains from continuing.

The current context

Garment workers in Cambodia work six days a week, earning barely enough to meet their basic living expenses. They risk malnourishment which, in recent years, combined with poor working conditions to cause numerous incidents of mass faintings and collapses in the factories.

An estimated 100 million rural households are involved in the production of cotton in 70 countries around the world, two-thirds of which are in the developing world.

More than 250,000 cotton farmer suicides have been recorded in India over the last 16 years in the largest wave of suicides in history.

The current situation of West African countries shows the drastic injustice of the global trade system, an imbalance that the World Trade Organisation has so far not been able to address properly. Cotton production accounts for the use of $2bn of chemical pesticides each year.

Raising awareness

In addition to more stringent measures to guarantee labour rights and a safe working environment, there is a need to raise awareness of the true cost of fashion and its impact at every stage in the process of production and consumption.

That’s why Fashion Revolution’s policy demands are centred around two crucial points. Firstly, this is an entire value chain problem and broken links need to be reconnected all along the chain.

Secondly, the public needs greater access to information and brands and retailers need to become more transparent so they are able to trace their products and be more accountable for their activities. 

Fashion Revolution will also demonstrate that change is possible by showcasing examples of those who are already creating a better future for fashion.

This is just the start of many years of positive transformation and industry-wide collaboration through Fashion Revolution Day.