Fashion Revolution Day, a new event on the fashion calendar, is about more than what’s new and happening in fashion.
The concept of the April 24 event, and the Fashion Revolution Day cause, is to raise awareness around one very important question – who made your clothes?
Most of us can rattle off the labels of what we’re wearing, but in terms of where they came from and the process to how they came about, well that’s an absolute mystery the vast majority of the time. This is no coincidence – our ignorance to the fashion production process is a long-standing wool-over-eyes phenomenon, something that’s rarely brought to the fore, save for a few stand-out instances such as the Rana Plaza factory fire and subsequent building collapse in Bangladesh on April 24, 2013 that killed more than 1100 people. The fire was a stand-out in terms of numbers, but 1800 workers have died in separate sweat shop incidences in the region since 2005.
The Fashion Revolution Day committee is made up of a global group of fashion industry insiders, campaigners and academics who see that change is possible within the fashion industry.
“We hope that this will initiate a process of discovery, raising awareness of the fact that buying is only the last click in a long journey involving hundreds of people: the invisible workforce behind the clothes we wear,” says the site.
The initiative calls for people to wear an item of clothing inside out on April 24, to symbolise a change in the way we look at our garments and recognition that they were made by hand, often very underpaid and poorly treated hands. The hashtag #insideout is a call to action for the curious.
The truth is, Bangladeshi garment workers earn less than $40/month working 15-hour days six days a week (*source: Oxfam) in shoddily built, and clearly dangerous factories.
There’s a very good book on ethical clothing and the mass production fashion industry by Dana Thomas called Deluxe : How Luxury Lost Its Lustre. When I read it a few years ago now it really opened up my eyes to a lot of issues. What I’ve found and noticed since is ethical clothing production is not a common or comfortable topic. I questioned whether anybody really knows where their clothes come from or how they’re made (and who by), and really, do we care?
Price is often an indicator of a brand’s ethical production standards (it doesn’t take a genius to work out that $6.95 for a garment doesn’t really add up to a fair price for the yarn and fabric and fair wages for the manufacturer before wholesale and logistical costs factor in) but not always so. Brands from Walmart to Benetton were implicated in the Rana Plaza disaster and that in itself is far from an isolated incident.
I can’t claim that even the majority of my wardrobe conforms to ethical clothing standards, but I do make a conscious effort to make moves in that direction whenever possible and overall, buy less, but better quality. Ethical clothing is seen still as a minority concern, but here’s hoping that will change in years to come.