Thursday, 24 April 2014

Fashion Revolution

Today, the 24th of April 2014, is the one year anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which killed 1,133 workers. But today is also Fashion Revolution day - if anything good has come out of the Bangladesh building collapse, it's this.
Fashion Revolution day is about remembering the devastation of the factory collapse while asking "Who Made Your Clothes?" and making change. Many people are wearing their clothes inside out, showing the labels and taking "inside out selfies" which are posted to instagram, facebook, twitter and the like, with the #insideout, #whomadeyourclothes & #fashionrevolution hash tags, and contacting the clothing brands, wanting to know who made them. You can show off your ethical labels the same way.

No one is going to know that the dress or the jacket you're wearing is ethically made just by looking at it, which is why I think the idea of wearing your clothes inside out is so brilliant and powerful - it's something that's noticed, that provokes thought and asks questions. Today I'm wearing my clothes inside out, seams on the outside, the buttons of my shirt felt against my skin and the label on the back of my trousers exposed. It's something everyone can join in on, every year on the 24th of April. But it doesn't have to be just today, we should be asking the question of who made our clothes all the time, everyday can be a Fashion Revolution day. "Who made my clothes?" is not the only question to ask either, there are plenty of questions to think about when you're buying something, questions of how long it will last, think about how many wears you can get out of it, can you pass it on to a friend or child? Sell it second hand? And what/who are you supporting when you buy this? There are so many questions to consider, but your basic "who, what, where and why?" questions are always important.

"Fashion is a force to be reckoned with. It celebrates, provokes, and entertains. And, from April 24th 2014, it’s going to do even more. Because we’re turning fashion into a force for good." - quoted from the Fashion Revolution website. 

Today also marks a personal anniversary - one year ago today, I gave up buying clothes new unless they were from an ethical company, taking the pledge to only buy clothes vintage, second hand, handmade or from an ethical label, rather than supporting slave labour and brands that don't care about the people that make their clothes. Even though I sourced most of my clothes from charity shops anyway, it was still difficult. There were a few occasions where I almost broke my oath, trying to justify the purchase I was considering, but once you know the true cost - paid by those who stitched the seams and hemmed the fabrics - you can't really justify something like that. Remembering this, I would put the garments back on the rack.

A very powerful quote that has always stuck with me was this one by Anna Lappe:
"Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want." The world I want is free of companies that view the people making their products as dispensable, rather than human beings. All the people killed, injured and affected had and have their very own lives, thoughts, feelings. We may only see a number, such as the death toll of 1,133 - too many people to name individually in the news reports, articles and shared links, but it was the names and lives of individuals that made up that number. Like anyone, the world didn't revolve around those people, but someone's world probably did. And that's the thing, isn't it? you don't have to change the whole world, but you can change someone's whole world, and that's a pretty big thing. That's part of what Fashion Revolution day is about - wearing your clothes inside out and asking those questions are a seemingly small thing, but all together, a large number of people all over the world asking for change...that's a big thing, a very big thing...that's a revolution. 

Also, I'd like to link you to this excellent post by Rosalind of Clothes, Cameras and Coffee about Fashion Revolution day, which includes links to a whole bunch of wonderful pieces she's written in the past about ethical fashion and why it's important, as well as a very important, goosebump-and-possibly-tear-inducing poem she wrote about the Rana Plaza building collapse.