Fashion Revolution Week: Who Made My Clothes?

We’re now in the midst of Fashion Revolution Week and I wanted to take a bit of time to talk about this amazing movement. If you haven’t heard of it, Fashion Revolution is an organisation that is working to change the way that we think about our clothes and the ways in which they are currently produced. Looking for greater transparency from manufacturers, Fashion Revolution encourages all of us to ask ‘Who Made My Clothes?’ by getting in touch with brands for information and becoming more conscious of our purchasing habits.

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With the number of disasters and atrocities occurring across the world, it’s easy to wonder why this issue should matter. But it does. The ways in which our clothing is manufactured – and our disposable approach to our wardrobes – has created a cycle of human rights violations and environmental harm that only grows in scale each year. Many of us can recall the 2013 factory collapse in Bangladesh, in which over 1000 people were killed whilst making clothing for some of the world’s biggest brands. Fashion Revolution estimates that 75 million people are employed across the world to make our clothes, with 80% of these being 18-35 year old women.

This is an issue about which I’m incredibly passionate. My professional and academic background is in human rights and I’ve worked in a variety of contexts that have exposed me to the tremendous violations that occur to support western buying habits. Most of us are in touch with issues like blood diamonds (thanks, in large part, to Leonardo DiCaprio, of course!) but, since diamonds are relatively easy to forgo in our daily lives, changing our diamond-buying habits doesn’t challenge us to adapt in any remarkable way (although buying certified conflict-free diamonds is incredibly important and so valuable towards reducing harm perpetrated in these contexts!) . Our choices have an effect. There’s no getting away from it. But working with this knowledge doesn’t demand perfection. Acknowledging that the labour behind our clothing often promotes the most dangerous working conditions, child labour, and incredibly low wages, does not require that we all start making everything we wear. There are so many ways in which we can work consciously towards promoting fair and safe working conditions for those employed in garment-making industries across the world. We can buy from brands that conduct screening and checks of their global manufacturing facilities. We can check that brands have explicit policies on ensuring their products are free from child labour. Even sending an email to a clothing brand that you purchase from, asking them how they guarantee adequate working conditions from their manufacturers, can make a difference.

It’s unacceptable that anyone must sacrifice their dignity by working in squalid and dangerous conditions, simply so that we can spend £5 on a pair of jeans that we’ll be done with in a matter of months. And this disposability is a problem. Fashion Revolution cites that people in the US throw away 14 million tonnes of clothing a year, around 84% of which goes to landfill. So the planet will also thank you for a more conscious approach to fashion choices!

It’s all too easy to slip into apathy on these issues. After all, the scale of these kinds of problems can very quickly lead to thoughts of ‘what difference can I make, anyway?’ Believe me, I’ve been there. But if many years spent working on issues such as this has taught me anything, it’s that change and accountability truly does begin with our own choices. I spent years working in depth on places that had experienced some of the most unimaginable human rights atrocities – from genocide to child soldier recruitment. As inexplicably horrendous as these events are and were, I maintain that the gravest atrocities facing us are those that are practiced as the most insidious and globally-accepted. This has everything to do with the industries that we support – such as garment making and electronics – and the violence that is practiced daily against both people and planet. It’s not our fault that we’re party to this. A great genius of global industries is their ability to point us away from the problematic and divert our attention through convenient and on-trend products. But, when something sits with us as not quite right, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves and do what we can – whether this is sending emails, making different choices in our buying habits, or spreading our knowledge to those around us.

There’s no getting away from the fact that we are global citizens. We reap so many amazing benefits from this position without even realising it – travel, food, and products. Working with Fashion Revolution and helping to promote their cause is just one way in which we can help to give back on this. So head over to Fashion Revolution’s site or join everyone (including me!) on Instagram, asking major brands ‘Who Made My Clothes?’

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13 thoughts on “Fashion Revolution Week: Who Made My Clothes?

  1. Emily Kitsch says:

    I wish I could “like” this post a million times! ❤ I'm on the Fashion Revolution's site right now sending out emails to brands, since I don't use Twitter or Instagram – I hope it helps at least a little! These companies need to be held accountable and need to change their practices, even simply turning a blind eye to the horrific working conditions people are stuck in in the name of their brand, makes them complicit and we don't have to stand for this – or be complicit by proxy ourselves.

    Thank you for this amazing post! ❤

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    • sewforvictory says:

      Thank you so much for sending out some emails! It will absolutely help. We may only exist as individuals, but the choices we make alongside other compassionately-minded people will always create tidal waves of change. You are absolutely right about accountability and complicity. Companies will always be profit-oriented so they will always seek means to drive up profits by driving down costs. Unfortunately, this usually comes at the price of human dignity and life. Companies just have to hope that consumers will either not see it or not care.

      Fortunately, there are a lot of us out there that make efforts to be knowledgable on these issues and take steps to hold corporations/brands to account. I’m so so happy that you’ve added your voice to this! Fingers crossed that we’ll see a growing number of brands guaranteeing rights for all of the workers involved in their manufacturing processes! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • Emily Kitsch says:

        🙂 I was perhaps a bit overzealous and actually sent out emails to every company on the list! I was surprised because I’ve actually gotten quite a number of responses from companies so far and a number of them were actually very thoughtful and made me feel better about some of these brands. Others I haven’t heard a peep from yet and though I was/am dismayed, I wasn’t surprised by some of the brands who have not replied (as of yet), including Tommy Hilfiger and Walmart. I was thinking about maybe posting some of the responses from the companies on my blog, what do you think?

        Exactly! I hope that soon more and more people will join this incredibly important and necessary movement, and that our voices are loud enough to help effectively change things for the better for those whose voices all too often go unheard. My heart aches for the alarming number of women and girls who work in these horrible factories. I remember first hearing the term “sweat shop” when I was a kid in the early 90’s and being shocked when I heard even the “child friendly” version of what that actually meant, then for quite awhile after it seemed it was something that wasn’t talked about anymore. I’m glad that’s changing, I’m glad there is not only awareness but a movement to try and change the conditions people are working in. When I saw “The True Cost” documentary awhile back, I cried throughout most of it. It really is so heartbreaking and I hope that we can all help change things.

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      • sewforvictory says:

        Oh my gosh, this is amazing! Fantastic job getting in touch with so many brands. I think it’s a really good idea to post responses – it will definitely help people to become more educated on the brands that are responsive and have clear procedures in place for addressing these sorts of concerns. Spreading the information can only help!

        Sadly, the realities you’re describing are still very much present. Even brands that have policies on things like child labour are often caught engaged in it somewhere along the line – mostly because they don’t have adequate oversight of their global manufacturers and, in many cases, are kind of turning a blind eye. So it’s always worth staying up to date on company policies by getting in touch with them, like you did!

        There’s always a push-and-pull effect when it comes to big changes. You just have to look at politics and the whole left/right swing to see that there’s always a pushback against progress. But I really do think the direction of change is overwhelmingly forward – more rights, more equality etc. We just have to keep pushing things forward, even when progress feels like it’s slowing. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      • Emily Kitsch says:

        😀 I’ll definitely have to get to work on a post where I show all the responses I’ve gotten from companies! You’re right, it really is important for people to see where these brands truly stand when it comes to this.

        Ugh. I really hope that this all changes. You know, I even used the lack of response by certain companies as a guide a few days ago. My husband and I were out looking for shoes (I always joke that I should have learned to be a cobbler, since I have impossible to fit feet!) because I really need a new pair, and as we were walking through the shopping centre, my husband would point out a shoe store and if they hadn’t responded to my email, I wouldn’t go in. The ones I wasn’t sure about, I looked at the actual shoes to see where they were made, etc. I ended up not buying shoes, but I felt better for sticking to my guns and not supporting brands who don’t support the people who work for them. As I walked through the shopping centre, I was able to pick out clothing store after clothing store that hadn’t returned my Fashion Revolution emails, and to be honest, I felt a lot of emotions – sadness and anger, mostly. People need to be more aware about the business practices and ethics of the companies they buy from, you’re so right, and I hope that in some small way, I can help in this fight for change. And you’re right as well about progress and change – we just have to keep pushing forward. As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” each step, large or small, will take us in the right direction. We just need to keep taking those steps and encouraging others to do the same. ❤

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      • sewforvictory says:

        It sounds like you’re already making an incredible difference! Even more than sending emails, making conscious choices about our buying habits definitely creates change! I’ve been vegan for a couple of years now and it’s amazing to see how the availability of products has grown as the numbers of vegans have swelled – even just over the past couple of years. That’s all come about because of individuals making choices. I absolutely believe the same will happen with our clothes – as more and more people become educated, demand accountability, and buy from responsible brands, other brands will jump on board. Companies are profit-oriented and change will only happen when their profits are impacted. So writing blog posts and spreading the message is an amazing way to help give even greater momentum to the fashion revolution movement! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      • Emily Kitsch says:

        I finally got all the responses together that I have gotten back from brands so far and they will be posted tomorrow morning! 🙂 I was struck again while putting the post together just how many of the biggest and most well known brands *didn’t* respond. I’ve been trying especially hard in the last few years to be more conscious of the brands and companies I do buy from (though I rarely buy clothes anymore, I apply it to everything I do buy as much as possible, whether it’s clothes, shoes, or any other product). If I can’t get behind a business’ practices and ethics, I won’t support them by giving them my money. I even apply this to movies or television shows – if I don’t agree with the practices or behaviour of a production company, actor, actress, director, etc, I won’t give them my money. I can’t tell you the number of times my husband has woken up to hear, “I’m starting a personal boycott against [insert name here] because of [insert reason].” Since the start of the #metoo movement, the times that he has heard those sorts of statements from me have increased dramatically, but he always stands by me and agrees wholeheartedly. 🙂

        You’re so right, companies are completely profit-oriented and they will be forced to realize, sooner or later, that it’s in their best interest to change their practices, as long as we keep demanding change and putting our money where our mouths are. We have more power than we realize as consumers, if enough of us say “NO MORE.” and refuse to spend our money on these brands, they will have no choice but to change their practices. That’s what I believe, anyway!

        I hope you’re having a wonderful day, Laura, and thank you for your endless capacity for kindness and empathy and your utterly infectious determination. 🙂 You inspire me constantly and I’m so happy and proud to call you my friend. ❤

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  2. designedbydanita says:

    Awesome post! I understand your passion about this issue! I like the options any of us can participate in: refashion our clothes, swap with other people, make our own, shop at thrift stores. I am happy to say I have done all these things! I feel like I try to make a difference. We all can do something! 🙂

    Like

    • sewforvictory says:

      This is amazing! There are so many different options for making conscious and ethical choices when it comes to our clothes, and you’ve listed all of them! Your contributions will absolutely make a difference – even if you can’t see it directly. Thank you for sharing and for taking such compassionate steps! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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