We can all be activists and help create a better fashion industry. Here’s how.
Eight years on from the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh, the fashion world is trying to heal. Not by forgetting the tragic events that took place that day and moving on, but by ensuring it never, ever happens again. The building collapsed in less than 90 seconds, killing 1,134 garment workers and injuring 2,500 more.
Fashion Revolution was born as a way to commemorate those lives and has become a growing movement to end human and environmental exploitation and demand transparency in the fashion production chain.
We need a fashion revolution because the industry is broken. Because garment workers are working in dangerous conditions and not receiving a living wage. Because we are polluting our air and cutting down forests. Because we’re sending behemoth amounts of barely worn clothes to landfill. And because no one else should ever die from fashion.
If you want to join the movement this year, here are some ways to get involved in Fashion Revolution Week, held 19th - 25th April 2021.
Ask ‘who made my clothes?’ and ‘what’s in my clothes?’
One of Fashion Revolution’s big aims is to pressure brands to be more transparent about their production chain. We need to know not just what country our clothes were made in but also who made them and what conditions they were made in. Were those workers treated fairly? Did they receive a living wage for sewing that pair of jeans?
On the Fashion Revolution website you’ll find posters asking ‘who made my clothes?’ and ‘what’s in my clothes?’ Print one out and snap a picture. Share it on Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok or Twitter, use the hashtag #whomademyclothes and tag the brands, asking them to answer the question. Millions of people have already used the hashtag to spark change in the fashion industry.
Another way to pressure brands is to take a photo of the tag on one of your garments and tag them. The tiny snippet of information provided on these tags simply isn’t enough. Sure your t-shirt might say 100% cotton. But what chemicals went into it? How much water was used?
The Fashion Revolution website also has an email template that you can use to contact brands and ask these same questions. You can find email addresses of the CEOs, sustainability managers and customer service representatives of large fashion brands and hold them to account.
Unsurprisingly, it’s more often the smaller sustainable brands who answer and participate in Fashion Revolution Week, while large fast fashion brands are the ones doing the most harm. But since the movement began, stores such as ASOS, H&M and Levis are now publishing their supplier lists. It doesn’t answer all our questions and exculpate them from their unethical and unsustainable practices but it is a step in the right direction.
If the brands don’t answer at all, keep pushing back and encourage your friends and followers or even influencers to do the same. After all, activism is contagious!
Host an event
Your participation in the revolution doesn’t have to stop at home. Although COVID-19 has severely impacted the events that can be held this year, if you’re in a COVID-safe area, you can host an event (be it in person or virtual) to spread the word about Fashion Revolution Week. Education is the best tool we have and events are an excellent way to inspire action and attract new people to the cause.
So what sort of event could you host to share the messages of the week? Some of the event ideas Fashion Revolution suggest include:
- Host a film screening (check out our list of must-watch eco documentaries)
- Hold a roundtable conversation or panel discussion
- Organise a demonstration march in your city
- Organise a public stunt
- Put on an exhibition
- Hold a creative workshop
- Host a clothes swap
There are some pretty exciting ideas in there, right? We particularly love the idea of a clothes swap, giving someone else a chance to enjoy your old clothes.
If you want to promote your event to a wider audience, you can upload your event to the Fashion Revolution events page so anyone in the world can find it and attend. Don’t forget to check out the Fashion Revolution for a heap of resources including posters you can display at your event and educational resources so you can be informed and answer the questions of your attendees.
Change the way you shop
You don’t have to give up shopping but you do have to buy with more thought and intention.
If the Rana Plaza tragedy led to one good thing, it’s the growing collective awareness that the fashion industry is broken. We aren’t quite as willing to participate in the fast fashion cycle as we were a decade ago. We’re shopping less and we’re asking more of the brands we support.
Your dollar is your vote and your voice, so use it wisely. Before you throw your money at a brand’s latest collection, stop and question it. Ask them who made your clothes. Find out if they were made ethically and sustainably. And when you find a brand that is transparent, treats its garment workers fairly and is environmentally conscious - show them some love and tell the world about it.
Read, read, read! The more you educate yourself on the problems in the fashion industry and the steps being taken to solve them, the more you can help make a change. The Fashion Revolution website has a tonne of resources, including reports, how-to guides, a free online course and garment worker diaries that offer a glimpse into the lives of the people who made your clothes.
Once you’ve gathered the information, go forth and share it with everyone. Make a Tik Tok about it, Instagram it, put a poster in your window and shout it from the rooftops.
You can also make a donation to Fashion Revolution to help continue their life saving work in fashion industry reforms and partnerships with human rights and sustainability organisations.
Will you be participating in Fashion Revolution Week this year?
- About the author -
"Rachel Wagner is a freelance writer and podcast producer currently riding out the storm on the Bellarine Peninsula. She writes about the good things in life - travel, culture, creativity and how to tread lightly on our Earth along the way. Follow her on Instagram @rachelshae or say hello at firstname.lastname@example.org"