What is Fashion Revolution Week and Why Does it Matter?

On April 23 2013, in Dhaka Bangladesh, factory buildings in Rana Plaza cracked on the second floor. Workers were told to return to work the following day, and did so, out of fear they wouldn’t be paid at the end of the month. The following day, with everyone inside, the building collapsed. “With 1,134 dead and 2,500 injured, Rana Plaza was the deadliest garment factory accident in modern history.” - Dana Thomas, Fashionopolis

Fashion Revolution week (April 19th to 25th) was started by the organization Fashion Revolution, as remembrance of this tragedy. This week seeks to bring attention to problems within the fashion industry (of which there are many), including low wages and unsafe/unethical working conditions such as those that resulted in the Rana Plaza Factory Collapse. Read more HERE.

Why Should You Know About Fashion Revolution Week?
This week brings attention to the extensive supply chain behind the Fashion Industry and the often forgotten (or intentionally concealed) reality that what we buy is made by people (mostly women). There is always a cost associated with producing goods. The thrill of buying a new $5 shirt from a Fast Fashion brand can come at the cost of people’s lives, such as with Rana Plaza. When we shop, we may not think about how clothes get in shops, who makes them, or the impact the production of these physical goods has on people and the planet (extraction, manufacturing and disposal).

Fashion is a global system with a complex, often untraceable, supply chain. When we buy clothes from Fast Fashion brands we’re often disconnected from the fact that people make clothes and that the material our clothes are made from come from nature. Fashion Revolution Week connects what’s in your closet and on your body, to an entire system. The 2015 film The True Cost, shed light on some of these problems. 

By becoming aware of how our stuff is made, and what really happens within the Fashion Industry, we have the knowledge and power to make different choices, and ultimately change these systems. Elizabeth L. Clein’s recent article Twilight of the Ethical Consumer brings attention to the idea that we can create change by using our agency in ways that leverage political power and collective action, such as through policy and regulation, as opposed to shopping.

Fashion is a perfect example: What drives sweatshops is not a consumer demand for sweatshops. It is a lack of proper labor laws to protect garment workers and intense economic concentration that incentivizes the industry to drive down wages.” - Elizabeth L. Cline, Twilight of the Ethical Consumer

Fashion Revolution Week is an opportunity to learn more about the Fashion Industry and understand that clothing is more than just something we wear. It's an opportunity to identify what labels/brands are in your closet and to look into the brands that make your garments (watch out for Greenwashing).

Fashionrevolution.org has email templates you can use to contact brands, expressing your concerns. CLICK HERE to Take Action. Because this week overlaps with Earth Week, one simple way to address the climate crisis from your own home, is to spend time understanding how our clothing consumption impacts people and the earth. Clothing is an environmental issue, and also one of equity and social justice.

You may be familiar with the campaign “Who Made My Clothes?” This campaign, from Fashion Revolution, is one way to take action now. It encourages you to ask for greater transparency from brands, including that they disclose their factories and supply chain. You can find print-outs of posters to use on social media with #WhoMadeMyClothes HERE, but you can also make one at home with recycled materials. 

So What Next...
Fashion Revolution Week is just one way to bring attention to these issues. We can continue to engage in these activities year round. Stay tuned for future blog posts which will highlight other ways you can get involved throughout the year.

 We Are What We Wear: Unraveling fast fashion and the collapse of Rana Plaza, by Lucy Segal
 Fashionopolis, by Dana Thomas
• Sustainability Must Mean Decolonization, State of Fashion, Long Read 02 by Aditi Mayer
• Twilight of the Ethical Consumer, by Elizabeth L. Cline
• "Who Made My Clothes" Graphic from Fashion Revolution

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