Who made your clothes? If you don’t know the answer to that question, you should come along to Lightspace in Fortitude Valley for a two day retail shopper event which showcases ethically-made clothing and accessory brands and manufacturers in Brisbane.
A Brisbane-led collective of ethical fashion and accessory labels will unite on April 24-25 to coincide with Fashion Revolution Day 2015.
The Fashion ‘revolution’ marks the anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013 and is all about encouraging consumers to turn their clothes inside out and ask the question ‘#who made my clothes?’.
The event has been organised by Kathryn Tyrrell from The Goodnight Society, Jackie Dunn from Fire and Shine – Yoga and Activewear, and Skye Anderton from Ruby Olive who will all be joined by other ethically-conscious brands including Nico Underwear, The Great Beyond, Mosov Mini, Alice Nightingale, Zurii, and Orange Oranges.
We chatted to organiser and passionate advocate of ethical clothing Kathryn Tyrrell about the event.
What is this event all about?
On the serious side – the Brisbane Fashion Revolution Day pop up event puts a local face to the global Fashion Revolution campaign by supporting Brisbane makers and sellers of ethical fashion, and allows the local community to meet and shop from 12 local labels who are turning fashion and accessories into a force for good, showcasing the strong creative fashion industry we have right here in our home town of Brisbane. It also encourages fashion shoppers to ask all of the major brands they buy from #whomademyclothes in support of the global Fashion Revolution Day movement.
But it’s not just all about fashion, it’s an event for the foodies too! On the Friday we’ve got Char Baby food truck coming along, there will be after-work drinks for sale with proceeds supporting The Hunger Project, and Pressed Juices will be giving away free juice samples. We’ve also got YELP handing out free tote bags with all purchases, and lots of lucky shoppers will also get free copies of Culture Magazine.
When did you become so passionate about this issue?
When I started my sleepwear label, The Goodnight Society, I didn’t have the specific intention of becoming an ethical brand. But as soon as I looked into my manufacturing options, I just knew the only path I was comfortable going down was organic and sweatshop free. It just didn’t feel right to make sleepwear if it meant people in my supply chain weren’t also getting a good night’s sleep! So since then I’ve been quite passionate about promoting sweatshop free manufacturing, which I truly think will become the norm for all fashion brands over the next few years. Fashion Revolution Day gave me and Jackie Dunn from Fire and Shine Yoga and Activewear (another great ethical label) the opportunity to connect with other local, likeminded ethical labels who are committed to making a difference, and hopefully inspire the next generation of designers and sellers of fashion!
What can people do to help change the situation? Some simple steps that they can implement immediately?
The Fashion Revolution Day campaign this Friday is focused on asking people to to be curious, find out more about where their clothes come from, and do something about it with just one simple action: wear an item of clothing inside out (showing the label), photograph yourself, share it on social media, tag the brand and ask them #whomademyclothes. That way, people all over the world – designers and icons, high street shops and high couture, cotton farmers and factory workers, campaigners, academics, the media and any individual who cares about what they wear – can come together to demand greater transparency from all fashion brands.
We need to support brands that are ethically certified, sweat shop free or are making steps towards a more sustainable fashion future. Here at The Goodnight Society, for example, all of our cotton is GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified, and our manufacturing facility is WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production) certified, so start to look for similar certifications from the brands you buy from. All purchases made directly from us also help to support the big dreams of the ladies at The Heartfelt Project in Makapanstad, South Africa. There are loads of great labels out there that support similar social initiatives, so it’s a really easy way for consumers to do good by buying good, so keep an eye out for those labels too. Other labels joining us for the Pop Up event are ECA certified, made locally or are proactive in ensuring their labels are made ethically and as sustainably as possible.
How bad is this issue in Australia?
Baptist World Aid have just released The Truth Behind the Barcode: the Australian Fashion Report 2015. For this report they assessed 91 Australian fashion brands for their efforts to protect workers in their supply chains.
They say “while there are promising signs for the (Australian) fashion industry, the problems remain significant. Overall the industry is still categorised by poverty level wages. A mere 12% of companies could demonstrate any action towards paying wages above the legal minimum, and even then, only for part of their supply chain. Furthermore, 91% of companies still don’t know where all their cotton comes from, and 75% don’t know the source of all their fabrics and inputs. If companies don’t know how and where their products are made, then there’s no way for them to ensure that their workers are protected.
Sadly, many of the worst overall performers were iconic Australian fashion brands such as the Just Group (owner of Just Jeans, Jay Jays, Dotti, Peter Alexander and Portmans), fast retail brands like Ally, Valley Girl, Temt and Industrie, and low cost suppliers like Lowes and Best & Less. These companies have all received D or F grades.
We could find little evidence that any of these fashion retailers were doing much, if anything, to protect workers overseas. Many of them had little or no publicly available information and/or didn’t respond to any of our requests to engage with the research process.”
So while it’s great to see there have been some really positive actions taken by some brands over the past two years, we’ve still got a long way to go. Australian consumers need to put more pressure on some of these brands to improve their workers conditions, or simply stop buying from them until they do.
Tell about who is involved on the day?
We’ve got 12 great local fashion and accessory labels involved in the pop up event, and some great food and beverage suppliers too! Lis Harvey from Nico Underwear will be joining us, having just returned from the Clean Cut Series fashion talks at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. We’ve got Skye Anderton from Ruby Olive jewellery and accessories, who was recently named the 2014 Telstra Young Business Woman of the Year.
On a global level, for the inaugural Fashion Revolution Day in 2014, citizens in over 55 countries took part to show they cared about who made their clothes. With over 6.6 million hits on Google, Fashion Revolution Day was the number one trending topic on Twitter, had significant coverage in international press and reached over 80 million people through an extensive media campaign. It really made the world’s big fashion brands sit up and take note of the growing desire for responsibly-made clothing.
This year, model Lily Cole, brands Patagonia, KITX, Ginger and Smart and CUE, model and environmental ambassador Laura Wells and fashion journalist Marion Hume are just some of the names taking part in a mass global action asking brands #whomademyclothes? Organisations Made in Australia, Ethical Clothing Australia, Fairtrade Aus NZ are supporting the campaign.
Fashion Revolution Day – Brisbane Pop Up Shop runs from Friday April 24 at 3.30pm-8pm and Saturday April 25 from 1pm-5pm at Lightspace, 30 Light Street in Fortitude Valley.