I don’t claim to be the most stylish person, and I’m sure that there are hundreds of others out there far more qualified (and fashionable) to talk about the fashion industry, but I’m going to get on my little soapbox anyway because this is something that I firmly believe has to change. We live in a world that is continuously changing, and there isn’t an industry that that’s truer for than the fashion world. With styles changing every week and storefronts constantly rotating through the latest trends it feels like you’re always playing catch up to stay on the “right” side of fashion. But have we ever stopped our shopping sprees long enough to ask where these clothes were made, and who made them?
That’s the goal of Fashion Revolution, a global non-profit movement that was founded in 2013 by U.K. fashion designers Carry Somers and Orsola de Castro in response to the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh. Every year on the anniversary of this disaster is Fashion Revolution Day and the start of Fashion Revolution Week, where consumers call for reform within the fashion industry with a focus on a greater need for transparency in the supply chain. This has resulted in millions of people around the world asking their favourite brands to answer, “Who made my clothes?”
I first got turned onto slow fashion when I began interning for Dressember. It was there that I realized just how connected the garment industry and human trafficking is and that if we want to end slavery, then we need to start with the items we live our lives in. When we go to buy our clothes, we often skim over the labels that say “Made in…” but what we fail to realize is that someone out there is stitching, hemming, gluing, cutting, and sewing our clothes together. While we might know which country our clothes came from, very rarely do we know the person who made them or whether or not they’re being paid a living wage and working in a good environment. According to Human Rights Watch, “Factory building collapses, and fires are not the only problems in the apparel manufacturing world. In the US$2.4 trillion garment industry, which employs millions of workers worldwide, labour rights abuses are rife. In countries around the world, factory owners and managers often fire pregnant workers or deny maternity leave; retaliate against workers who join or form unions; force workers to do overtime work or risk losing their job, and turn a blind eye when male managers or workers sexually harass female workers.”
So what can we do to help drive change in the fashion industry? The answer is surprisingly simple, think before you buy. We have this incredible opportunity to drive change by merely thinking about the products we’re purchasing before we buy them. As consumers, we are continually voting with our dollars, and when we stop buying from brands that don’t have a transparent supply chain or that we know don’t take care of their workers, we are telling them that we won’t stand idly by anymore. Fast fashion is the biggest trap in regards to this issue, after all just because you’re getting a good deal on that $5.00 shirt doesn’t mean that it’s free, someone somewhere is paying for it. Rather than getting caught up in every new trend and being a part of a cycle that is continuously making and throwing out, opt to buy clothes that are well made (by companies that can tell you who made them) and that will last a long time. Instead of having a closet full of clothes you’ll only wear once, have a smaller wardrobe of items you love and will never stop wearing (think the capsule wardrobe). Below are three ways that can help you switch from a fast fashion follower to a slow fashion connoisseur:
I’ve talked about this app before, but I had to include it again because it’s just so amazing! This is my go-to place when I’m shopping when I want to quickly find out if my purchase will be supporting fast fashion or ethical manufacturers. I also love that not only do they break everything down for you about the company, but they also provide a list of alternate places to shop that are ethical, AND you can send a letter to the company right from the app asking them to change how they create their clothes!
DoneGood was created with a simple mission: to make it quick, easy, and affordable to use our purchasing power for good. This is a fantastic website similar to the Good on You app that helps you find ethical brands for every area of your life.
- Re-use, Repair, Re-wear
Thrifting shopping is one of my favourite things, and it’s where the majority of my clothes comes from. It’s a great way to help reduce waste in the fashion industry, as well as find some really amazing pieces of clothing. Along with thrifting, I highly recommend learning how to care for and repair your clothes. Instead of throwing them out when they get tears or holes in them, break out the sewing needle and patch kit! Treat your clothes like the friends they are, after all, you live your whole life in them.
It might seem like a massive problem with no solution, but when we all come together, change does happen. Remember that as the consumer you have the power to drive change because if you don’t buy what companies are selling, they’re going to notice. Clothes might not change the world, but the people wearing them will!