Most garments are cut and sewn by female factory workers in the developing world, where working conditions are poor and labour rates are low. Can you be a fashion lover and a feminist at the same time?
If you think about the word “fashion” what comes into your mind? – clothes, right? Right!
And the Fashion Revolution Week started with clothes, and rightly so. This revolution was sparked to commemorate the terrible collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where more than 1100 people died and over 2500 were injured – the world’s fourth largest industrial disaster. Who were the victims? As usual, mainly women and girls. Child labour is also rampant in the textile and fashion industry.
What an ugly look!
Fashion Revolution Week is an homage to those lives, and a promise to do something for those who are still pressured to work under unsafe working conditions. We witnessed a bottom-up movement from the consumers who demanded to know #whomademyclothes, demanded more transparency in fashion.
Fast fashion brands are definitely under pressure to start listening, knowing that their reputations are at risk with customers asking more questions than just the price. Yet the fast fashion model remains the same: wear and toss every season, with quick-fix greenwashing additions of an “organic collection”, or “conscious line”.
But what we think is that we cannot stop here: what about accessories? Clothes are an important sector and a very much polluting industry of our planet, but accessories are not any better. Let’s also ask: Who made my bag, my jewellery, my shoes? Who made everything!
Going beyond textiles is important, just take a look at the worldwide market segment of handbags and accessories, estimated to be almost US$ 91m in 2019 and to rise over 10% by 2023. This is a huge market in which big brands still aim to produce and sell more and more each year. How the pieces are made, the enormous quantities, and the human condition behind the products are often forgotten.
It is encouraging to see new and promising brands in the market offering sustainable alternatives alongside greater transparency about production, human working environments and sourcing. Shoes from Piñatex or ‘pineapple-leather’ – a textile woven from the long fibers in the fruit’s discarded leaves; bags from cork; and scarves from upcycled materials and offcuts – you can find them already. These examples exemplify the silver lining to this dark cloud: a symbiotic relationship between consumer consciousness and an inspired creativity of new and upcoming ethical brands.
While the Rana Plaza victims are gone, the conversation remains very much alive. Let’s keep asking more questions, demanding transparency and holding fast fashion accountable until they change practices and pay fair wages.
Let’s give greater value and care to our possessions and make them last longer and let’s not forget that 24th April is the anniversary of the Rana Plaza, that there is a Fashion Revolution and that on this day we must ask the question, “Who made my …. ?”.
Written by Ronja Nielsen