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.
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.