Today is the official start of 2017’s Fashion Revolution Week. This an annual event encourages consumers to ask clothing brands #whomademyclothing?, igniting a global conversation about supply chain transparency. It also inspires people to think differently about what they wear.
The organization behind Fashion Revolution Week was born shortly after the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh that killed 1,138 people and injured another 2,500. Since its birth, Fashion Revolution has done a tremendous amount in terms of increasing transparency within the fashion industry and demanding change among brands.
Today’s post is going to be a bit different in that I will direct your attention towards some noteworthy reports and articles. These publications will shed some light on how important supply-chain transparency is, along with reasoning behind why we need to re-think our relationship with clothing.
The Fashion Revolution goes into great detail in their 2015 report about the conditions in which workers and the environment are subjected to on a daily basis. In addition to working conditions, the report touches on topics such as wages, waste, over-consumption and water/chemical/carbon use. For me personally, one of the points that stood out the most is regarding the loss of culture and skill. Without even thinking about it, we are losing artisanal craft industries because of mass manufacturing. These skills are the livelihoods of many and are passed down through generations in communities around the world. If something doesn’t change, we will lose these amazing skills forever.
Fashion is our chosen skin. On an individual level it represents how we feel about ourselves and what we want to tell the world about who we are. On a community level, it tells a story about our history, culture and social customs.
– Fashion Revolution White Paper, December 2015
For the second year in a row, the Fashion Revolution has published their Fashion Transparency Index. This report scores 40 of the biggest global fashion brands on what information they publicly disclose about social and environmental issues across their supply chains. Last year, 40 brands were rated on their transparency and of those 40, only 5 publish a list of the factories where their garments are sewn. This year, the Fashion Revolution is uping their game by ranking 100 of the biggest global fashion brands. Where does your favorite brand rank?
A year-long research project led by Microfinance Opportunities, in collaboration with Fashion Revolution, gives us the Garment Worker Diaries. This collection of data illustrates the lives of approximately 540 garment workers in Bangladesh, Cambodia and India. The realities many of these workers live is shocking.
Compiling relevant data includes utilizing panel survey methodologies that focus on respondents’ weekly economic activities. Consequently, this data provides insight into what a typical week looks like for garment workers.
A sad reality for many garment workers is the endless cycle of debt collection and repayment. Garment workers often have to obtain cash loans in order to provide the basic necessities for themselves and their families. The income they earn from their jobs at garment factories is so minimal that it often only covers their rent.
In the weeks between monthly paychecks (yes, monthly), women borrow goods from store vendors and take on cash loans. Some vendors will not allow for the purchase of basic goods on credit, in a sense forcing women to obtain cash loans. Often times these loans also pay for the upcoming month’s rent. The debt cycle begins when women must use the loan to pay for rent as well as repay previous month’s outstanding loans. This leaves very little cash for women to get through the upcoming month. Their only option then is to take out another cash loan, starting the debt cycle all over again.
WILL YOU DEMAND CHANGE?
As consumers, we hold the power to change the industry. The more people who ask #whomademyclothes? the more brands will listen. During last year’s campaign, more than 370 mainstream brands responded to this question. Compare this to 2015 and that’s a 448% increase!
Fashion Revolution Week runs from April 24 to April 30, 2017. To do your part, check out Fashion Revolutions Resources page for tons of advice on how you can kick start your own revolution.