This week is Fashion Revolution Week. On the anniversary of the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh, which killed 1,138 people and injured many more, Fashion Revolution asks millions of people to come together and demand a safer, more ethical and transparent fashion industry.
This week is Fashion Revolution Week. On the anniversary of the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh, a preventable tragedy which killed 1,138 people (80% of whom were women) and injured many more, Fashion Revolution—a global movement which campaigns for systemic change in the fashion industry— asks millions of people to come together and demand safer, more ethical and transparent fashion industry.
Think fashion has nothing to do with you and is a trivial topic? We all wear clothes, everyday. Our consumer choices have an impact on people and the planet. The fashion industry is one of the most polluting and wasteful industries. And it has a big problem with transparency and accountability, with widespread exploitation of people working in the supply chain, forced labour and human slavery. In garment factories across South Asia and India millions of workers—mainly women—work gruelling long hours, for low wages often in unsafe and squalid working conditions, to make your fast fashion (and some high-end brands too). Jeans, tees, summer dresses, bags and shoes which end up in your wardrobe, and inevitably, after a short life, in landfill.
Global free trade agreements have made it easy for brands to make their products where labour is cheaper, and workers have little social protection and are paid impoverishing wages—if anything at all. It has also made it possible for fast fashion to become the global phenomenon that it is. Brands like Century21, Zara and H&M built their businesses around making of-the-moment looks at rock-bottom prices. As a result, “competition for low prices and quick turnaround” has led to “globally complex and opaque supply chains” according to a KnowTheChain report. Not to mention a lack of responsibility and accountability.
There is a massive humanitarian crisis going on right now. As Covid-19 cripples many countries, bringing them to a standstill, and affecting retailers and supply chains worldwide, many companies like ASOS, Gap, JC Penney, Next, Urban Outfitters, Under Armour, Primark, and C&A have decided to not pay for orders completed. Over 72% of buyers refused to pay for raw materials already purchased by the supplier, while 91.3% of buyers refused to pay for production costs according to a recent Global Workers Rights report.
Fashion chains—who have made billions from the labour of underpaid and exploited workers—complain that they are currently losing profits through the temporary closure of their businesses, but workers throughout the supply chain are left unable to put food on the table let alone pay for medical expenses. Factories in Bangladesh and elsewhere are left with no choice but to destroy the unwanted goods and lay off their workers. At least 1.2 million workers in Bangladesh—many already vulnerable and exploited—have been dismissed without pay. This situation is playing out around the world, globally affecting up to 50 million garment workers from Bangladesh, and Myanmar to Los Angeles where many garment workers are paid ‘off the books’ and thus not eligible for unemployment benefits.
A report from UK charity Traidcraft Exchange explains that “This supply chain model has not been compatible with the establishment of deep and wide social protection coverage. Instead [producing] countries have, under pressure from financial institutions, followed a race to the bottom through wage suppression, deregulation and privatisation. Faced with the collapse of orders combined with the effect of the COVID-19 virus, these countries are all ill equipped to provide support to the increasing numbers of sick people, workers at risk of exposure and families without income.”
Now is a good time to start thinking about the impact our clothes have on the world around us. What can you do? For a start, boycott these brands, call them out and demand they pay their supply chain workers what they owe them. Demand transparency and accountability of fashion brands. Founder of Fashion Revolution Carry Somers says, “In the midst of this global pandemic, the need for citizens to hold brands and retailers to account is more pressing than ever before. Over the past weeks, we have seen the devastating impact of brands’ buying practices on some of the most vulnerable workers overseas. Now, more than ever, we need to keep asking #whomademyclothes and hold these brands, many of whom have made immense profits in recent years, to account for their actions.”
Fashion is a workers’ rights issue. It is a human rights issue and an environmental issue. And we all potentially contribute to these problems with every purchase we make. Ethical fashion is about more than changing the way we shop— it's about getting active. So, in this time of crisis make your voice heard and join the Fashion Revolution. Ask brands #WhoMadeMyClothes? Petition brands for change. Get online and join the Fashion Revolution. Write an email to your favourite brands asking who made your clothes. Fashion Revolution has made this easy to do by providing a template as well as a list of brands’ email addresses you can contact.
Fashion Revolution has also planned a fabulous line-up on online events that will be streaming from all around the world so you can get to know more about these issues, and hear from ethical and sustainable fashion brands.
Click here to find out more.