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Fashion Revolution: How you can get involved 5 years on from Rana Plaza

April 29, 2018

I shared this photo on my Instagram this Fashion Revolution Week. It seemed appropriate as I am rocking a (relatively) new pair of trousers which I purchased from People Tree, one of the most well known fairtrade and sustainable fashion brands. If you haven't already heard of it, Fashion Revolution Week is taking place between 23rd and 29th April 2018 and the Fashion Revolution was born on the 24th April 2013 after 1,138 people died and another 2,500 were injured when the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed. It is the fourth largest industrial disaster in history and the victims were mostly young women. There were five garment factories in Rana Plaza and all were manufacturing clothing for large global fashion brands. Fashion Revolution's mission is to change three keys aspects of the fashion industry: the business of fashion, the materials used (human labour and physical materials) and the mindset.

 

1. The business of fashion

The business of fashion has dramatically changed over the last 20-30 years. The cost of manufacturing clothes has increased driven by rising labour, raw material and energy prices. However, the cost of clothing is cheaper than ever before. This unsustainable business model means that compromises are made more often than not in terms of labour costs and welfare and environmental considerations. 

 

2. The materials used for manufacturing fashion

The clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world and clothing manufacturing accounts for around 3% of global production of carbon dioxide emissions (according to the Carbon Trust). As well as the environmental impact, the harsh reality is that basic health and safety measures do not exist for many people working in the clothing industry. 

 

3. The mindset of the fashion consumer

Over the past 20-30 years, consumer buying habits have shifted and we buy more clothes and we spend less on them. We purchase 400% more clothes today than we did 20 years ago but we do not realise or expend the true cost for a piece of clothing.

 

Fashion Revolution is campaigning for a more accountable industry and the movement recognises that we, the consumer, have the power to help change things for the better. Every time we buy something, we are voting with out money and therefore, by encouraging more responsible consumer habits, Fashion Revolution really has the power to invoke change. Since around July last year, I decided to give up fast fashion. I say 'around July' as it was a gradual process for me. Much like the shift to vegetarianism, changing my consumer habits was as a result of my increased awareness of the realities of the fashion industry and the impact on our planet and the population. Buying items from the high street soon became unappealing as I delved into the online sustainable and ethical blogging community. It became apparent to me that the current state of our fashion industry is not fair for workers and not fair for the environment and that I needed to make more responsible choices. However, the brilliance of the Fashion Revolution campaign is that it is a revolution! There is a positivity behind the campaign and there is the potential for change on both a consumer and corporate level! There are several simple ways that you can take part in the Fashion Revolution during both the week and the rest of the year. Living in a more responsible and eco-friendly way can be a minefield but luckily there are some clear simple steps to make more conscious buying choices. 

 

1. Ask your favourite fashion retailers #whomademyclothes

By asking #whomademyclothes, you are demanding greater transparency in the fashion supply chain. Taking action does not need to be restricted to Fashion Revolution Week, you can do this throughout the year by sending an email to a brand, using your voice on Twitter and/or posting on Instagram. Find out more in the Take Action section of the Fashion Revolution website. 

 

2. Outfit repeat again, and again, and again

If you extend the average lifetime of a piece of clothing by only 3 months, you can reduce its carbon, water and waste footprint by 5-10%. By making do and mending, and loving our clothes so that they last, you can easily have a positive impact on the environment. It saves you time and money too! By being a little more organised you can be sure that you are getting full use of your wardrobe. About a month ago I had a huge spring clean of my wardrobe. There were so many items that I didn't wear and I was in a bit of a rut with my clothes. I unloaded my wardrobe onto my bed and had a good and honest sort out. Some clothes did have to be taken for fabric recycling as they were beyond repair, and some items were taken to charity to extend their lifecycle as they didn't fit or I just did not wear them anymore. My wardrobe and chest of drawers was left far more organised and it is so much easier to see what options I have to wear. It also meant that I realised that I have loads of tops that I love but only one pair of jeans to wear them with, hence, why I invested in the People Tree trousers featured in the above photograph. This purchase was driven by a genuine need for an item of clothing and I took the time to consider how they would fit into my wardrobe. By being a little bit more analytical and purposeful with my shopping it has meant I have saved money as I can get full use of all the tops I own and love and I will get lots of wear out of these amazing trousers which I can say that I 100% love!

 

3. Shop secondhand 

Shopping secondhand is the cheapest and probably the easiest way to change your shopping habits and creating a positive impact. By reusing clothing and therefore extending the lifetime of a garment, you can update your wardrobe with an interesting and unusual piece, update your wardrobe with exactly what you need in practical terms and avoid the need to produce a brand new piece of clothing which requires valuable human and natural resources. The blunt fact is that right now, there isn't as much choice in terms of sustainable and fairtrade fashion (although that is changing as the Fashion Revolution becomes more mainstream) and therefore, shopping in charity and vintage shops is an affordable and easily accessible option for a lot of people. This leads on nicely to my next tip. 

 

4. Shop sustainable and fairtrade

It is true that sustainable and fairtrade fashion does tend to be a little bit more expensive, however, this does not mean that it is hitting the heights that you find in Vogue. The products reflect the 'true cost' of production and although you will have to be more discerning when you make a purchase and you might have to wait a little bit longer before purchasing, I can guarantee that you will be impressed with the quality of the clothing. By spending that little bit more on new clothing, it has allowed me to change my shopping habits. I only buy items that I need and I take my time to think about how it would fit into my wardrobe. Since July last year, I have purchased my trousers from People Tree and some leggings and a long sleeved top for teaching yoga from Thought Clothing. Now that I teach yoga six days a week, I find myself living in trainers so I have my eye on these Veja trainers, although, I will be saving my pennies and probably make my investment at the end of next month. 

 

5. Think about every purchase

Sometimes shopping secondhand or shopping from a sustainable fashion brand is not an option. You might need to buy an item brand new, you might have a specific function that you are attending and/or there might not be something in your price range available. This is where the Fashion Revolution Transparency Index comes in. The Fashion Revolution Transparency Index reviews and ranks 150 of the biggest global fashion and apparel brands and retailers according to how much information they disclose about their suppliers, supply chain policies and practices, and social and environmental impact. You can see how honest your favourite fashion retailers are in terms of where their products come from. Transparency is not enough to fix the fashion industry's problems but it is a step in the right direction. Next time you shop on the high street, you might decide to vote with you money and spend it with a more transparent retailer. Or perhaps, you might make your purchase in a more mindful way. For example, last year I struggled to find an appropriate outfit for a friends wedding. I could not find anything secondhand and I could not find anything I could afford from sustainable fashion brands (spending £59 on trousers I can wear everyday is different to spending £300ish on a dress I might wear once a year). Therefore, I reluctantly decided to shop on the high street. I took time to choose a dress that I really loved and fit me well and I plan to wear it again to another friends wedding this year. Choosing fast fashion that you might only wear a few times during one season and choosing fast fashion that you will wear again and again for years to come is an entirely different approach and choosing the 'Slow Fashion' route can still have a positive impact. 

 

Today is the last day of Fashion Revolution Week, however, this doe not mean that the action has to stop today. You can catch up with all the discussions and events by following the #fashionrevolutionweek, #fashionrevolution and #whomademyclothes on all social media channels. I hope that these tips are useful for you and help you to make some small (but effective!) habit changes when you it comes to shopping for clothing. If you have any tips for shopping in a more responsible way, please leave them in the comments! 

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