Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Questioning


Who 


Made 


Your Clothes? 

Before reading this, you might take a moment to look down at your clothes. What are you wearing today? Of course, many fellow bloggers may be following Bella of Citizen Rosebud in having made a pledge to ‘Shop Secondhand First’, or could be wearing vintage, hand-made, up-cycled or hand-me-down. But what about any ‘new’ items? Where are they from? Does the label state which country they were produced in – let alone who might have stitched the seams? These are the kind of questions currently being encouraged by the ‘Who Made Your Clothes?’ initiative, part of the Fashion Revolution day taking place tomorrow, April 24th – the one year anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse.

This global event is, as far as I know, the biggest push yet towards raising awareness of fashion industry ethics. Coverage already stretches from Vogue to The Guardian, while individuals including Caryn Franklin, VV Brown, Melanie Rickey, Mary Portas and many others have lent their support.

The questions posed by ‘Who Made Your Clothes?’ aren’t new –  ‘Who Made Your Pants?’ (see my post on Becky and her business here) have been asking this question since 2008, and then answering with labels on their gorgeous knickers that detail exactly who pieced and stitched them together. But it’s great to see  “Who Made…?” being taken up as a wider slogan. It neatly captures the difficulty faced by consumers who want to find out anything about the conditions in which their clothes were made, from factory standards to worker treatment. The most one might get from a label is a country – ‘Bangladesh’, quite possibly, or any of the other countries Western mega-brands rely on to give them fast turnarounds and low-cost labour. How to find out more? It’s nigh on impossible with long, tangled strings of supply chains and middle managers and audits that often don’t tell us very much.

This is why the Fashion Revolution team are asking for as many people as possible to contact the brands they love best – to tweet, email, facebook – and to ask ‘who made my clothes?’ Who made those beloved bargain items? Who sewed the beading onto that collar? Whose hands hemmed this skirt? Whose fingers added those buttons? They are also encouraging individuals to wear a favourite item inside out so that the label is on show. Alongside an active social media presence on the day, there are a variety of exciting talks, events, second hand bonanzas and other great things going on.

Let’s hope it proves to be the cue needed to continue and to consolidate a very serious dialogue. Change has to come from both ends, from buyers and brands alike. Consumers have to prove that we care enough to be vocal about how our clothes are made. Labels and brands have a responsibility to listen, and to implement change where they can – change with lasting impact, rather than the introduction of ethics policies with less substance than a polyester crop top.

Sustainable style is something I’ve written and spoken about many times previously. There’s a lot more to say, and plenty of amazing people currently saying it. A lot of very valuable articles and commentaries have come out of the initiative, ranging from Tansy Hoskins' critical analysis to Bethan Holt's piece for The Debrief (in which I'm quoted). 

Below is a brief list of links to various pieces of writing of my own and features from the last few years. 

My Blog:


Articles and Features elsewhere:


On Thurs 24th April I’ll be supporting and cheering on the Fashion Revolution initiatives, while also thinking about the families of all those who lost their lives in Rana Plaza 12 months ago.


This is the poem I wrote last year in the aftermath of the Dhaka tragedy.
                   





Happy Fashion Revolution day. Let’s make it an inquisitive one.


 Well, I certainly know who made my top - this People Tree top came with a little label detailing its manufacture when I bought it last year. I had fun styling the cartoon faces with a vintage silk blouse, second hand (charity shop) trousers and a belt stolen from my mum - who bought it from a charity shop. And I should mention that, although hidden beneath other layers, I was rather appropriately wearing a pair of black lace knickers by Who Made Your Pants. 

15 comments:

Vix said...

Love the print on that top, so quirky and fun.
Did you see Caryn Franklin on The Wright Stuff yesterday? She talks so passionately and with so much sense.
I can count the number of things I bought retail on one hand. xxx

Melanie said...

I love that top, too, such a fun piece - and such a serious issue, a deep issue, that needs as much attention as it can get.

I think free trade and a shrinking middle class are significant factors, with fewer people able to make ends meet with full-time, low-paying jobs. It makes my head spin. Of course people who can afford $100 new dresses should be buying ethically-produced clothing. I also like the concept of items being made locally and consumed locally, not just food. The death of the garment industry in New York, for example, makes me sad.

As for me, I am a thrifter at heart with a love for vintage. Great post!

Helen Le Caplain said...

Like the other ladies- I love that top (looks fab with the rest of the outfit)and great to know where it's come from.

Look forward to seeing what the reaction is from the shops when they get inundated with tweets! ;)

AVY said...

This world will get what it deserves.

/Avy

http://mymotherfuckedmickjagger.blogspot.com

Ivana Split said...

Fabulous initiative! I cannot say with all honesty that I have avoided major brands because I'm against their labor politics but surely it is something that needs to be talked about. Primarily I have avoided all the big names because I don't like to look like everyone else i.e wear the same clothes.

Now, shopping at charity shops has many advantages...one of which is surely being able to create a unique look. Most of the times the clothes I buy is either made in Croatia or from a second hand shop (for what ever reason the second hand shops open and close here in my city at lighting speeds but I try my best to keep up). Again to be honest, I buy Croatian clothes primarily because it is tall people friendly meaning it can actually fit me. There are more sizes available than in most stores.

It is not that I'm against globalization in a fanatical sort of way, but it is usually a good idea to buy clothes from the country you come from....not only to boost your country's economy but it is only in your own country that you can be certain in work conditions and so on. There is something (and to some extent has always been) that just makes me avoid brands and even without ethical dilemmas ( clothes being produces at the expense of human lives in undeveloped countries) I wouldn't buy them anyway.

The work conditions do bother me, as does the standard of living in most countries in the world....It's one of those things that honestly keep me up at night at times. The whole issue of colonization I have been thinking about for years, trying to make sense of it, trying to pin down that moment when it became acceptable to do something that is so morally wrong...and the worst thing to me that nothing has changed...there is still human slavery, there is still the exploration of certain countries...and we must think about those things as depressive as they are. We must ask ourselves not just who has made my clothes and how but what is the system behind it all, behind the economy of this world we live in?

Natalie Suarez said...

oh i just love you!!! miss u babe hope to see u soon! x

natalieoffduty.com

Natalie Off Duty

Willow said...

Great piece, I think Fashion Revolution day is such a fantastic idea and it combines two things I love: clothes and human rights. It really gives me hope for a better world.

You have done some really excellent pieces on ethical fashion and that poem is something special (all of your poems that I've read have given me goose bumps).
I just posted about Fashion Revolution day and have just added a link to your blog and this piece.

Lovely People Tree top, I'm currently considering one of their gorgeous dresses (got some online spending money for my birthday). I love the way you styled it and I'm coveting those trousers. Also, I think we must be wearing identical knickers, mine were made by Samia. I just love Who Made Your Pants (thank you for introducing them to me!)

Happy Fashion Revolution day. xx

Citizen Rosebud said...

Thanks to YOU and my twitter feed, I became aware of this social media moment, and hopefully a powerful tipping point in the way we as consumers, consume our fashion. It's a good question to ask- because knowledge IS power, and we can no longer insist on ignorance on the conditions, wages and quality of life for the people who make our things. I absolutely love the fact that so many amazing people are taking part on making changes in the ways of manufacture, production AND selling. I hope the answer in the future will be more like yours: fun, quality garments, made under conditions that provide healthy livelihood for those who made them. Thank you so much for the mention- it's an honor! You are such an inspiration to me- your keen mind, your ethics, your amazing style, and jaw dropping beauty. The future is bright- because you are in it, Roz. Rock on, bonita amiga.

Citizen Rosebud said...

A very long winded comment just left didn't show-. Ack. I'm too tired to reproduce it.

Thanks for the mention- and for making me aware of this awesome event.

FASHION TALES said...

Wonderful post and initiative. Although, I do shop both secondhand/vintage and charity and retail. I do think it's good to be more aware of actual purchases, that's why I love making my own clothing sometimes. I love People Tree and have bought several pieces from them, great brand. And,lovely trousers on you.

Pull Your Socks Up! said...

"One time order" - yes I remember that disgusting excuse being bandied about in the PR frenzy that followed the Dhaka building collapse. Reading this poem you've penned has re-released the emotions I felt at learning of the disaster - which is a very good thing. It means my conscience is alive and kicking. I WILL NOT buckle under the pressure to wear cheap, mediocre shit. I applaud your tenacity in your pledge to shop second hand first. There are many young women out there who also follow their own sartorial star, but in the greater scheme, they are still the minority. You inspire me Roz. xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

OrigamiGirl said...

I have had a strange relationship with this kind of thing.

I used to buy all my clothes in charity shops for years, and be more ethical about my fashion choices in general as my mum is very environmentalist and I used to be more than I am now. (Got disillusioned with environment movement) But then the truth is it wore me down. I didn't have a lot of money and I wasn't buying vintage special items or anything. I just felt like I never got anything new or special, and I didn't feel pretty. When I finally got a job after being on JSA I really wanted to buy myself new stuff. Have stuff that no one had worn before and enjoy shopping without depression again. So now I look at my wardrobe and it is all Asos and Romwe and H&M but I do feel more myself, than wearing what ever felt closest from second hand places.
But I should definitely think harder about my purchases, and see if I can balance all these different interests.

Anyway, it was not meant to be a pity story. I have never suffered anything like what those garment workers suffer, I know. And I am glad tho Dhaka tragedy is being pushed into my mind again. However, there are so many things going on in the industry. There's a false economy going on with prices not accurate to value at either end in my belief. There's both Primark and some designers who inflate costs. There's also a privilege system where those with more money can afford to be more ethical. Although your blog doesn't do it I once read a fashion post berating people who buy cheap clothes as not having morals.

It's a good initiative, we just ought to ask questions at every level of the food chain as it were.

I really enjoy posts like this as they definitely challenge me to think hard about some stuff.

Also, I nearly messaged you to see if you wanted to say hello when we were in Oxford. It's not too far from me, so if you are interested in meeting some time I'd love to. You can always DM me as @Nesient :)

SJ said...

A brilliant post as always. My wardrobe is a mix of high street, vintage and second hand (charity shop/clothes swap) but I'm trying to cut back on fast fashion. I published a post this week about my self imposed Primark ban - it's been refreshing to finally be able to talk about it, to be honest!

Izzy DM said...

I love the poem and the passion in it and this post.
Will write more later!

Thanks for the wonderful reminder of a worthwhile cause!
xx
Izzy
www.BrooklynBooksandBabies.com

Izzy DM said...

No, this was the one I previously commented on! (See my comment on your next post for that sentence to make sense.) I love the notion of actually thinking about WHO made your clothes. Isn't that insane that it's a revolutionary notion, that we've become that distanced from the things we surround ourselves with, and so distanced from ourselves, too? My boots are thrifted, but my jeans and shirt are new and I have to admit I have no notion where or who made them. As you say, in the aftermath of the Dhaka tragedy, ignorance is not bliss. Thanks for continuing to inspire me to care about these things and to take them as seriously as they ought to be taken. My heart swelled at the line: "Flagship stores should stand half-mast" and the image of stores in Soho doing so versus the reality of the mad mass of teeming shoppers there was a very powerful visual.
Much love,
Izzy
www.BrooklynBooksandBabies.com