It's time to use your voice - we need a Fashion Revolution

It’s time to use your voice and your power to transform the fashion industry into a force for good. On 24 April 2013, 1,134 people were killed and over 2,500 were injured when the Rana Plaza complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. We believe that’s too many people to lose on one day. It’s time for a Fashion Revolution.

On 24 April 2013, 1134 people were killed and 2500 injured when the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. In the aftermath of the Rana Plaza collapse, everywhere I looked, there were newspaper articles calling for a more ethical fashion industry. The Rana Plaza catastrophe was a metaphorical call to arms.
The idea for Fashion Revolution Day literally popped into my head in the bath a few days after the Rana Plaza disaster. It seemed like a good enough idea to act on, so I got out of my bath and immediately emailed the most obvious person I could think of, Orsola de Castro, co-founder of Estethica at London Fashion Week and co-founder of From Somewhere.
The next morning, having received Orsola's enthusiastic response, Lucy Siegle, who writes the Ethical Living column for the Observer, phoned me and she was equally convinced that an annual Fashion Revolution Day was exactly what was needed to channel current concern into a longstanding campaign so that the victims of Rana Plaza and all the other tragedies that have occurred in the name of fashion will never be forgotten. So the Fashion Revolution was born.

We knew that unless we stamped our resolve there and now, Rana Plaza would be dismissed as an unfortunate reality of contemporary life. An annual Fashion Revolution Day, which has now changed into Fashion Revolution Week, is a way to keep the most vulnerable in the supply chain in the public eye. We approached key figures we knew in the fashion industry – journalists, academics, brand leaders, supply chain professionals, influencers – who all wanted to be involved. Initially we thought Fashion Revolution would be a UK organisation, but within a few months, as people started to hear about the initiative, we had requests to set up Fashion Revolution teams in other countries. By the first Fashion Revolution Day, 24 April 2014, we had teams in 62 countries. Now in our third year, we have teams in over 90 countries.
So much is hidden within the fashion supply chain, largely due to its scale and complexity. Almost nobody has a clear picture how it all really works, from fibre through to disposal. Unlike food labelling, the labels on our clothes tell us very little.
We knew from the outset that transparency was the first step to transform the industry as we can’t tackle exploitation until we can see it.
Who Made My Clothes seemed like a simple question. Most people would expect a brand to at least know the final factory where their garments are cut and sewn. But this just isn’t the case. Fashion Revolution’s Fashion Transparency Index, issued at the start of this year’s Fashion Revolution Week, found that only 5 of the brands surveyed published a list of their first tier factories and only H&M and Adidas published second tier suppliers (fabric and yarn mills and/or subcontractors). 25% of brands showed little or no evidence of monitoring labour issues in their supply chains.
Almost half the brands had little or nothing in place to track their raw materials, let alone making this information public. Cotton harvested using forced labour in Uzbekistan is routinely labelled Made in Bangladesh and it was recently reported that Islamic State has taken over ¾ of the cotton fields in Syria. How does the public know that we aren’t supporting terrorism or slave labour with the next cotton garment we buy?
In the first year, we asked people to turn an item of clothing inside-out and ask the brand Who Made My Clothes, and in the subsequent two years we have asked people to show their label and ask Who Made My Clothes. We also have a pledge form on our website which will automatically generate a tweet to the brand if someone enters their name, the item of clothing they are wearing and the brand name.
By asking the question Who Made My Clothes, we are applying pressure in the form of a perfectly reasonable question that brands and retailers should be able to answer. We are asking them to publicly acknowledge the people who make our clothes. Brands’ advertising and PR strategies rarely acknowledge that the clothes they sell have been made by thousands of people working in factories, fields and other hidden places around the world.
The global fashion industry is opaque, exploitative and environmentally damaging and desperately needs revolutionary change. Fashion Revolution wants to ignite a revolution to radically change the way our clothes are sourced, produced and purchased.
This year, Fashion Revolution Day fell on a Sunday, so we created Fashion Revolution Week: a week of activities around the world to demand a fairer, cleaner, more transparent and more beautiful fashion industry.
As consumers ask the question #whomademyclothes, brands and retailers are challenged to take responsibility for the individuals and communities on which their business depends.
We want to see an increasing number of brands make their supply chains more transparent. We want to see the faces and hear the stories of thousands of farmers, makers and producers, answering with the hashtag #imadeyourclothes. This year Fat Face, Boden, American Apparel, Marimekko, Massimo Dutti, Warehouse and Zara were among more than 1,000 fashion brands and retailers that responded to Fashion Revolution’s challenge to demonstrate commitment to transparency across the length of their value chains.
The #imadeyourclothes hashtag on Twitter and Instagram has been a joy to follow. A tweet from @ShareHopeHaiti on 24 April with photographs of their garment workers holding up I Made Your Clothes Posters said simply: Thanks @fash_rev for urging us all to ask #whomademyclothes & for giving workers a chance to say #imadeyourclothes! This has been my proudest achievement. Giving a voice and face to everyone in the fashion supply chain as transparency is the first step towards a better, safer, cleaner fashion industry.One of the ways we did this was look to see who was already following us on social media as they already have an interest and then reach out to them directly or via their agent. We also researched the top bloggers/youtubers/insta stars who are interested in this area. We also worked through an agent to get some of the top haulers like Noodlerella, CutiePieMarzia and Maddu to participate in our #haulternative campaign on Youtube which sees millions of views each year.
Heather Knight, our Head of Communications, created all of our branding and visuals. These are undoubtedly one of the core strengths of the movement and help to build connections visually throughout the supply chain, from the consumer to the makers.
Fashion Revolution launched the Fashion Transparency Index for Fashion Revolution Week because we believe that every stakeholder in the supply chain should be able to answer the question #whomademyclothes. Brands score points for having policies, how they implement them and whether they communicate them to the public. The idea of the index is to enable people to see just how much or how little information brands give about their practices and products.
From the results shown in the Index we can see that, despite their healthy balance sheets, the biggest names in fashion have some work to do to really show their commitment to a transparent supply chain. However, we can see that some companies are starting to take steps in the right direction. By sharing this research and examples of genuinely good work, we hope to encourage other brands to follow suit. The average score for the 40 companies we surveyed is 42% out of 100, with Levi Strauss & Co coming top of the class with 77%. Other high scoring brands included H&M, Adidas, Primark, and Inditex who own Zara, Massimo Dutti and other brands.
There have been many improvements in the fashion supply chain since the dust has settled on the Rana Plaza disaster, although it is unfortunate that it has taken a tragedy of this scale to start to bring about change.
The Bangladesh Accord is a significant milestone towards better working conditions in Bangladesh, and hopefully throughout the industry. However, as we have heard through numerous recent reports in the media, 90% of the structural, electrical and fire-safety improvement plans are behind schedule. 13% of suppliers still haven’t removed locks from doors which could be used as fire exits.
What will really keep factories compliant is when all workers have a voice and they can speak out when something is wrong. Fashion Revolution has been working closely with IndustriALL Global Union and the Solidarity Centre to highlight the role of trade unions in bringing change to the industry. Fashion Revolution is working to re-connect the supply chain, showing the faces and giving a voice to the makers of our clothes, highlighting their stories, and showing where change still needs to happen.
In December we issued a White Paper It’s Time for a Fashion Revolution setting out the reasons why we need more transparency across the fashion industry, from seed to waste
We want people around the world to show their label, post a photograph on social media, tag the brand and ask the question #whomademyclothes. I was told by an industry insider that for every person who took the time to ask a brand #whomademyclothes on social media, the brands took it as representing 10,000 other people who thought the same way, but couldn’t be bothered to do anything about it. We have incredible power as consumers, if we choose to use it.

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