Today marks the 5 year anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse which brought unethical labour practices in the fashion industry into the global spotlight and sparked the Fashion Revolution campaign.
1,138 people were killed and many more were injured when they were forced to return to work in the factories despite structural cracks appearing the day before. We talk about these numbers a lot, but it’s important to remember the people behind the figures, especially today.
These are the people we campaign for – and the hundreds like them around the world who are still working in unsafe and unfair conditions to make our clothes.
Since Rana Plaza in 2013, people from all over the world have come together to use the power of fashion to change the world under the global Fashion Revolution campaign.
After the factory collapse, brands were under pressure to change their practices and that pressure passed through the supply chain to the factories. With the fear of losing business from the brands many of them improved their health and safety standards. Reports suggest that conditions in garment factories in Bangladesh have improved, and brands are being forced to be more transparent. But there is still a long way to go and a lot of work to be done to ensure that the positive changes last in the long term.
Today as we reflect on the tragic events that happened in Bangladesh 5 years ago, we remember those that lost the lives, lost their loved ones and had their lives altered by the Rana Plaza collapse.
Nobody wants to see this type of disaster happen again, but it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and so small that you wonder if you can actually make any difference when faced with global brands. Conscious consumerism and making more ethical choices is a great place to start – it’s surprising how quickly small changes do add up.
Together, we can be a powerful force for change. You don’t necessarily have to overhaul your entire lifestyle to use your consumer power as a force for good either.
Activism doesn’t always mean holding up signs and marching at protests. We all have the power to be everyday activists. Of course seeing thousands of people march and campaign for a common goal is inspiring, but in our connected world we all have the resources to do more.
Here’s 5 easy ways you can be a #FashionRevolution changemaker this week…
1. Ask brands #WhoMadeMyClothes?
It’s still unclear exactly which major clothing brands were using garment factories in the Rana Plaza. Until there’s more transparency in supply chains we won’t have an ethical fashion industry.
As consumers, it’s easy to get swept up in the ‘fast fashion’ trends. We’ve become disconnected to the fabrics, processes involved and people behind the production of our clothes. We’ve abandoned the ‘make do and mend’ attitude of our grandparents and clothing has become cheap and disposable – at a cost to producers and the planet.
Companies are starting to be more transparent about their policies and commitments around human rights, labour practices and environmental impact – but sadly greenwashing is everywhere and crucial information about practices in the fashion industry remain concealed.
Fashion Revolution have released their Fashion Transparency Index 2018, which reviews and ranks 150 of the biggest global fashion and apparel brands and retailers according to how much information they disclose about suppliers, supply chain policies and practices, as well as social and environmental impact.
Without transparency, there is no guarantee that human rights are respected, working conditions are adequate and the environment is protected. Unless companies know where their products are made and who by, they can’t ensure they are produced in an ethical and sustainable way. When this information isn’t shared publicly, brands can’t be held accountable. That’s why we need transparency.
As a consumer, you have the power to demand transparency from brands. By putting pressure on them and voting with your wallet, you can help improve supply chains around the world.
Use your voice and reconnect with your clothes by asking your favourite brands #WhoMadeMyClothes – you can send them an email or post on social media. Fashion Revolution have some helpful advice and resources on how to do it.
2. Donate to Fashion Revolution
Charities and Not For Profit organisations and campaigns rely on financial donations to carry out their important work. Giving to causes that align to your personal values is a great way to strengthen your social conscience and show your support.
Fashion Revolution is a global, year round campaign that believes in a fashion industry that values people, the environment, creativity and profit in equal measure.
Recent scandals in the charity sector have rocked public trust. Research currently being undertaken by the Charities Commission in the UK suggests that “people now trust charities no more than they trust the average stranger they meet on the street.” Latest figures suggest that trust has fallen to an all time low.
Again, transparency is key to help restore this trust.
Fashion Revolution has both a Community Interest Corporation and Charitable Foundation. They have an Ethical Funding Policy and follow strict and transparent guidelines about the funds they receive. They have information about their funding and publish financial reports on their website.
Donations to Fashion Revolution go to their Foundation and fund their education, research and awareness-raising activities, as well as their public events.
If you want to support them financially and use your wallet as a force for good, you can donate online. I did it this morning!
3. Support smaller ethical brands
Across the #EthicalHour community we are using this week to celebrate transparent, ethical and sustainable supply chains, garments and working practices.
There’s some incredible small fashion brands out there doing transformative work. Many of them can tell you exactly who made their clothes, accessories, jewellery and footwear at every single stage of production. While smaller businesses often have fewer resources and less capacity than global brands, they can have a significant impact on supply chains and lead by positive example.
You can support small ethical brands by purchasing from them or even just sharing their content on social media – a like or comment can go a long way to help them increase their reach.
Together we can show the world and the industry that there is a better way. Meet the fashion revolutionaries we’re working with this week on the blog.
4. Remember that Loved Clothes Last
We can’t talk about ethical fashion without also talking about sustainability. The fashion industry has one of the world’s largest carbon footprints. (Although it’s not the second highest as often quoted).
An estimated £140 million worth (350,000 tonnes) of clothing goes to landfill in the UK alone every year. Extending the average life of clothes by just 3 months would lead to a 5-10% reduction in the carbon, water and waste footprints.
Ditch the fast fashion trends and focus on your own personal style. Remember that loved clothes last.
Honour your clothes and make your wardrobe more sustainable by learning basic repair techniques, planning a clothes swap if you need a wardrobe refresh, buying less and choosing better.
5. Attend an event
On Saturday, we’ll be showcasing some amazing ethical brands and discussing important topics like fabric, transparency and the ‘true cost’ at our live event- Ethical Brands For Fashion Revolution!
We’ve been working with Jo, Founder of Where Does It Come From? to organise this celebration of independent ethical fashion and it’s going to be amazing!
We’ll be at the London Brand Museum all day with plenty of shopping opportunities, 3 expert panels and a fashion show.
Please do come along and take part if you can! Book your free ticket here.
At it’s best, fashion is about our creativity, our individuality, an expression of who we are and also a way of bringing together a community. But none of that should come at the cost of other people or the planet.
This Fashion Revolution Week let’s come together to celebrate the good and campaign for better.