Have you heard of Fashion Revolution? It's a brilliant organisation that has been established to get us to work together to transform the fashion industry, encouraging each one of us to ask the question 'Who made my clothes?'
This cause is a very important one to me, and something I believe we all really need to be thinking and talking about - whether we make all our clothes ourselves or choose to buy ready to wear.
My journey into this cause begun when I was at university, when I first learned about the ethical and sustainable impacts of the fashion industry. I was surprised and disgusted by what I learned. In short, the planet is suffering because of the amount of clothing we buy and then dispose of, and the production processes that are used. People in factories are suffering because conditions are unsafe, they are paid poorly and have very few rights. Once you learn things like that, it's really hard to forget them and I didn't want to. I knew these issues would be a focus of my practice from there on in.
After I graduated, I decided to move to London, with the dream of interning in the fashion industry. I was lucky enough to find an internship with a small online ethical fashion start-up. Although the job was not in production or pattern making (the bits I love to do the most), I knew that it was the perfect opportunity for me to dive into the side of the industry that appealed to me the most. I learned so much in my time there and the more I learned and the more I saw, the more I realised that I could never just settle into the mainstream fashion industry again. I needed to be part of the fight for a more sustainable fashion future.
And here I am, designing sewing patterns to encourage people to fall in love with the joy of making - to understand the time, skill and thought that goes into making a piece of clothing.
The birth of a revolution
In April 2013, a garment factory in Bangladesh (that produced clothing for many European high-street retailers) collapsed, killing over 1100 people. It was the worst accident of its kind in history. I will not go into detail about this tragedy here, but if you would like to know more, you can have a read of this piece I wrote about it soon after it happened.
Many people who had never really considered where their clothes were made, were suddenly confronted with the brutal reality of the conditions workers are facing, and were beginning to ask questions. And this is how Fashion Revolution was born.
Fashion Revolution is an organisation dedicated to changing the industry. The mission is to create an industry 'which values people, the environment, creativity and profits in equal measure.' This is achieved by encouraging consumers, designers, wholesalers and retailers to ask questions about their clothing.
Now on the anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse (and the week leading up to April 24th), Fashion Revolution is encouraging us all to stand together and ask 'Who made my clothes?' You can do this by writing to your favourite brands or retailers, or by taking a selfie with your clothes inside out (so that you can see the tag) and tagging brands on social media channels to ask who made your clothes (you can even download the sign here to use as a prop! If you're like me and sew most of your own clothes, this sign might be of interest to you!). It's as simple as that. If enough people start asking, we could see some serious change in the industry.
To promote this amazing cause amongst the making community online I have decided to host a photo challenge on Instagram for the week of Fashion Revolution (18-24 April). Although some of us may not buy our clothing from retailers, there is still a lot we can do to encourage change, and I would love if you help me spread the word (and maybe get more people making their own clothes).
What can we do as makers to influence change?
- Use sustainable materials to create products
- Work out ways to reduce waste (this could be in relation to your studio / office space, the packaging you use to wrap or post your products, etc.)
- Recycle whenever possible
- Consider using second hand when possible (I use second hand fabric for the majority of what I sew)
- Ask your suppliers and manufacturers about their labour practices
- Consider manufacturing locally
- Be disruptive and embrace change
Would you like to join me?
Each day I will post a prompt on Instagram to promote thoughts, discussion and inspiration related to a particular aspect of the revolution. If you would like to play along, simply use the hashtag #makersforfashrev, as well as the official Fashion Revolution hashtags - #FashRev and #whomademyclothes - this way we will all be able to find each other. I'll choose my favourites each day and do a little round-up! There may even be a prize at the end of the week for one lucky player!
Here you can find the prompts for the week - just in case you want to put your thinking cap on a little early. You are welcome to share this on your blog or social media to let people know that you plan to play along!
I really hope you choose to join me. It will be a great way to meet new people and spread the word of this really important cause.
Want to know more?
- Head over to Fashion Revolution - they have some great resources to keep you going!
- Watch the film The True Cost
- Read Sustainable Fashion and Textiles : Design Journeys by Kate Fletcher
- Listen to this epidode of Seamwork radio
- Be inspired by the amazing work of Patagonia and the Worn Wear project
- Get into some craftivism with The Craftivist Collective
- Ready one of these books
- Be inspired by the transparency of Honest By
- Stay in the loop with Ecouterre
- Be inspired to upcycle by Katie Jones
- Listen to this great interview about why "Your next item of clothing should be so expensive that it hurts."