Written by Sarah Magliocco
Among the 5km run challenges, banana bread recipes and loungewear swipe ups littering social media this week amid another stretch of global quarantine, you may have noticed a powerful but quietly confident movement coming to the forefront.
Influencers on the cutting edge of sustainable fashion have been lending their voices (and aesthetics) to the cause of Fashion Revolution Week. The event is an annual endeavour which takes place during the week of the 24th of April.
This date is significant to climate-conscious consumers as it marks the tragic anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse, which took place in Dhaka, Bangladesh.Seven years ago on that date, the building, which operated as a fast fashion garment factory, crumbled at its core, killing 1,138 people and injuring over 2,500 more.
Fashion Revolution Week, the main event of the climate change movement Fashion Revolution, marks a week of campaigns, protests and online information sharing to demand greater transparency in the fashion supply chain. Co-founded by Carry Somers and Orsola de Castr, the movement publishes a Fashion Transparency Index each year, detailing some of brands which are leading the way on transparency, which brands are improving, and where there is more work to be done. This year, the fifth Index will be published, the biggest to date, including details of 250 of the world’s biggest fashion brands and retailers.
Every year, millions of people come together to campaign for this cause - and with the COVID-19 crisis keeping people confined to their homes, much of the action took place across social media. The current pandemic has amplified and exposed the fast fashion system more than ever before, as brands cancel orders for seasonal items which won't sell while consumers are cooped up at home, leading to mass layoffs in vulnerable overseas production lines. Other factories will see increased pressure as other garment types, such as loungewear, become more popular, leading to longer working hours, higher production expectations and overall, more exploitation.
Dana Thomas, the author of Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes, told GQ: “All these brands have canceled their orders, [and] they’re going to have all this leftover inventory because no one’s buying anything. And when they finally run out of the inventory, they’re going to say [to factories], We need clothes fast. So they’re going to make everyone work. And the workers are just desperate for anything, any kind of work. They’ll come running back, and they’ll probably be paid less.”
“And they don’t have unemployment, and they don’t have health insurance, and they don’t have maternity leave, and they don’t have paid vacation.”
The fast fashion industry continues to lack transparency, despite the global interest in climate action. The earth is deeply impacted by the industry via widespread exploitation of people working in the supply chain as well as pollution - and Fashion Revolution aims to expose that exploitation and raise awareness, requesting that companies show consumers who makes their clothes.
The movement asks consumers to contact brands via any social media or email, and ask them who made the garments, using the hashtag #whomademyclothes. Shoppers who are stuck for time can find a statement to copy and paste to brands on the Fashion Revolution website.
Carry Somers, Co-Founder and Global Operations Director of Fashion Revolution said: “In the midst of this global pandemic, the need for citizens to hold brands and retailers to account is more pressing than ever before.”
“Over the past weeks, we have seen the devastating impact of brands’ buying practices on some of the most vulnerable workers overseas. Now, more than ever, we need to keep asking #whomademyclothes and hold these brands, many of whom have made immense profits in recent years, to account for their actions.”
A number of independent and sustainable brands and designers have taken part in the week, showcasing their workshops and creative minds behind their lines.