Let me start this post by asking a simple question, do you know “Who made your clothes?”. When you look at your wardrobe, do you ever think about who on earth would have made that piece of clothing you are really fond of wearing? Or when you pick up something you really like and feel like you got a great deal right there, do you ever out of curiosity check it’s label? Have you ever thought that someone may have been harmed in the process or may be just not paid fairly? I’m going to take a guess and say that the answer is no, and not too long ago I would have said the exact same thing.
It’s been quite sometime that i have started my journey towards a more conscious and better lifestyle. Not only in terms of fashion, but in general about everything, like the products i use on my skin, the food i eat and most importantly the clothes i wear. The reason behind this change is the the topic of this post and it’s really important to whosoever is reading it, please do read it till the end.
THE RANA PLAZA GARMENT FACTORY MASSACRE
Source: New York Times
On April 24th, 2013 more than 1100 garment workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh were killed in the Rana Plaza Garment Factory collapse, and more than 2200 were wounded, making it the fourth largest industrial disaster in history. The reason behind the tragedy was the fact that the building was constructed using substandard materials and with blatant disregard for safety codes.
Cracks had appeared in the walls and floor days before the building collapsed, prompting some of the commercial businesses and private renters to immediately evacuate the building. The garment workers who had been complaining about the building’s structural issues to the management, however, were instructed to return to the building the following day and continue working or face losing their jobs. The 8 story building then collapsed the next day during morning rush hour taking away many innocent lives.
Well this might be a news to some of you but the brands that were sourcing from these factories in Rana Plaza includes some of your favorite High Fashion Brands like Primark, Zara, Mango and the list goes on.
This incident sparked global interest and for a period of time had consumers questioning all over the world “who made their clothes”, as in under what conditions, if the worker was paid fairly, if child labour was involved and if the materials used were of ethical standards, basically demanding a transparency in the supply chains.
This is when people from all over the world came together demanding for fairer, safer, cleaner and a more transparent fashion industry and Fashion Revolution was born. This day marks 5th anniversary of the horrifying incident that helped people to take a stand and demand change to the not so glamorous side of the Fashion Industry. Asking #whomademyclothes is a simple question and particularly a first step for demanding from brands a much more transparent system, although it won’t change the the process into a more a ethical one but it is definitely a step forward to the goal.
Fashion Revolution is not a new fancy trend, or pop-culture anthem, I’m talking about responsible, ethical fashion, and the role we as consumers or buyers need to play to make it a fair game for all.
WHY DO WE NEED FASHION REVOLUTION?
- 80% of these workers are women between the ages of 18-24 and vast majority of the women working to make our clothing are unable to afford basic necessities for healthy living. They are abused, subjected to unsafe working conditions, incapable of caring for their children, and work for very little pay that traps them in a world of poverty.
- Most of the clothes that we wear are outsourced to third world counties like Bangladesh, China, India, Thailand where labor laws are lax or non-existent. High fashion brands outsourcing their manufacturing process have no knowledge about where and how are these clothes made.
- Not only high fashion brands have exploited ethical human rights but what used to be 4 seasons a year, has now turned into 52 and hence, there is so much more consumption than needed. More consumption leads to more demand, large deliveries and tight schedule leading to extra hours of work with the same low wages.
- The way we consume clothing has changed a lot over the past 20-30 years too. We buy more clothes than we used to and spend less on them. There’s no emotional factor involved with buying clothes these days. We buy anything or everything that looks good to our eyes and not paying attention to the fabric or how or who made it.
- The reason we need fashion revolution goes much more deeper than the facts about following ethical codes. Fast Fashion is also doing a lot of harm to our planet too. The more we buy, consume and discard clothes, the more it results in negative environmental impact, water pollution, the use of toxic chemicals and increasing levels of textile waste. There are more landfills at this very moment than clothes in this world. (I will talk about this in detail in another post.)
Why you should ask WHO MADE YOUR CLOTHES?
The Rana Plaza incident killed over 1100 factory workers of whom most were young women. In fact till date, more than 80% of these workers are women between the ages of 18-24 and vast majority of the women working to make our clothing are unable to afford basic necessities for healthy living. They are abused, subjected to unsafe working conditions, incapable of caring for their children, and work for very little pay that traps them in a world of poverty.
So here’s a question for you, would you wear clothes that have been made by such hands of despair and no hope? Without having no to little knowledge about how there lives are?
Our clothes goes through a long journey before they arrive to us, passing through the hands of cotton farmers, spinners, weavers, dyers, sewers and others, most of them exploited and paid fairly less for all the hours they put in. These clothes are then sold through high fashion brands at a much cheaper price and mass produced at a great level.
#whomademyclothes is a simple questions that we as consumers, buyers or influencers should ask our brands compelling them to be involved more with their manufacturing process, learn about the people to actually make their clothes and take responsibility that they are treated with dignity and paid fairly.
Think beyond just pretty clothes and Brand’s name, what we need is stronger voices that raise questions and fight for basic human rights.
Buy less, choose well and make it last.
It isn’t enough just looking for quality in the products we buy, we must ensure that there is quality in the lives of the people who make them. – Orsola De Castro
SO WHAT CAN YOU DO?
If at this point, if you feel guilty about the choices you made in the past, you have my full support! A year ago or may be a little less, i was there too and honestly i didn’t know where to start at first. I started taking small steps and made small changes in my lifestyle contributing to making better choices. So far, i have changed the way i see my clothes and i am not a victim of fast fashion anymore and do not indulge in consumerism.
We as makers, buyers or consumers and influencers of fashion, we are all accountable for the impact fashion has on people’s lives and on nature.
There are a lot of ways of how you can adopt a much better lifestyle, that will make you feel much more happier inside knowing what hands were involved who made your clothes. I will talk about some steps that i have taken so far in my next post.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED IN #whomademyclothes CAMPAIGN
Fashion Revolution is seeking answers from brands- demanding for fairer, safer, cleaner and a more transparent fashion industry. This is why, during Fashion Revolution Week, we encourage as many people as possible to ask #whomademyclothes?
It starts with you! Ask yourself: “Who made my clothes?” And then most importantly, ask the brands and retailers you buy from.
Send an email to your brand or ask them openly on social channels, it is your right to know what all goes into making the piece of clothing you enjoy wearing so much or that favorite shop you buy most of your clothes from.
Also ask them :
If the workers were they paid fairly?
Were they treated with dignity?
What material are my clothes made of?
Some brands won’t answer at all. Some might tell you where your clothes were made but not who made them. Some will direct you to their Corporate Social responsibility Policy. That’s not good enough. Keeping asking until you get right down to the factory where your garment was made or even the name of the person who made it.
If a brand doesn’t respond, keep asking. Our power is in persistence. The more people who keep asking #whomademyclothes, the more brands will listen.
You can Download and print these posters from to use with your selfie or show your brand labels, when asking brands/retailers #whomademyclothes on social media throughout Fashion revolution week. Also, spare some time and check out few other ways to get involved in Fashion Revolution 2018.
Here’s : How to get involved!
I personally have sent emails to a few brands i bought a few cotton dresses quite recently with tags that scream words like “handmade” or “handwoven” out loud but do they actually know anything about who these people are and in what conditions do they work? Or if the process is as sustainable as they claim to be. (Still waiting for the answers.)
Lastly i would like to say that fashion revolution is about spreading awareness and helping buyers to make less impulsive decisions the next time you shop from a nearby store. It’s not about making buyers feel guilty about the decisions, although i really do feel bad about mine and that’s what made me stand for this cause. I hope it inspires you too in some way.
Concept and styling: Tanvi Mutneja (@theurbanboho)
Photography: Rajvir Sidhu