Let's really make this a Fashion Revolution
We’re deep into Fashion Revolution Week and the online chatter about ethical and sustainable fashion is getting loud.
The Fashion Revolution campaign, started in the wake of the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, aims to generate consumer awareness of the inner workings of the global garment industry, motivate people to ask big brands “who made my clothes?” and create a forum for producers to say “we did”.
The campaign is pretty, informed, popular and effective. But, is a one-week-in-a-year campaign enough? Not really. Does that mean we shouldn’t be a part of it? Absolutely not.
Fashion Revolution may just have been the nudge that society required to push human rights issues and environmental atrocities occurring in the global garment industry back onto the radar. Consumer trends towards sustainability are increasing and many large companies are responding. Baptist World Aid released their 2017 Ethical Fashion Report last week and the results are somewhat uplifting. Brand participation in the grading increased (78% of companies being graded were willing to participate - up from 54% from the first report) with the percentages of companies monitoring treatment of workers and tracing their supply chains consistently rising. There is however a long way to go and if the improvements already made are as a result of consumer demand, this gives us all a clear and effective step to take in making change: request transparency.
Big brands are changing (fast enough or not is up for debate), namely every ethical fashionista’s favourite to hiss at, H&M. H&M have publicly committed to make serious change in their recently released sustainability report, with goals such as using 100% recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030 and to become climate positive throughout its entire value chain by 2040. If the fast fashion giant selling in 4,351 stores across 64 markets actually puts its money where its mouth is, that will not just change the impact of its company operations, it might just change climate change. A feat that no small brand can do on its own. Where does that leave all other players who cannot create impact at that scale? With a choice to keep hissing, or, to watch H&M carefully and actively hold them to account.
Documentaries, news articles, ethical fashion bloggers and celebrities (think Pharrell, Emma Watson, Kelly Slater and even John Oliver) are all drumming it into us that the garment manufacturing industry’s social and environmental impact is mind-boggling - the stages of the supply chain alone are often surprising to people; growing & harvesting cotton, dying and knitting fabric, production, shipping - the chain is colossal with some garments potentially having travelled through 8 different countries before reaching our shopping bags.
All of the chatter can be overwhelming and render consumers with a sense of powerlessness. It’s easy to understand that it’s important to seek transparency but one can easily come to the conclusion that their one small change doesn’t make a tiny dent in the global issue, blink and keep scrolling- but that’s not true, each small change in this complex puzzle does gently nudge the next.
Fashion Revolution encourages consumers to be curious, find out and do something.
Ask. Don’t be overwhelmed, harness the power you have. Seeking transparency and asking brands is an easy first step, not just this week, but always. And not just from fast fashion brands, but from all clothing companies, ethical brands included.
Buying better is rapidly becoming more accessible and more affordable. The ethical and sustainable fashion industry is growing and it needs your support. Seeking clothing that has been made fairly doesn’t have to mean sacrificing a love of design or compromising your personal style. Be loyal to ethical brands, follow the bloggers, and find your fit. Be you.
Don’t be a hater. The big brands have enormous power to create systemic change, and they must be held to account. If we can convert the hissing into asking informed questions and persistent demands they will listen. Vote with your dollar while simultaneously asking #whomademyclothes?
Hanna Guy & Kunthear Mov are co-founders of Dorsu, and ethical clothing company based in Cambodia and built on the foundations of ultimate transparency. See here for more information about Dorsu or email through to email@example.com.