We’ve become a generation obsessed with consuming organically and one that expects transparency in the food industry.
But what about the fashion we wear? Where do our clothes come from, what kind of waste do they create and who produced them? These are important questions that are increasingly difficult to answer.
That’s why Fashion Revolution Day — marking its second year on Friday — was created: For consumers to demand to know where their purchases come from. The movement is a call-to-arms for millennials to be more conscious about the clothes they purchase and to question their favorite brands for more clarity over where and how their apparel has been produced.
To do this, Fashion Revolution Day encourages people around the world to take selfies showing the labels of their clothing, tagging the brand with the hashtag #whomademyclothes.
— Enrou (@enrou_) April 23, 2015
Friday marks the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh, that killed 1,133 people and injured more than 2,500. It was this tragic event that caused two women in the UK to take action.
“We knew a disaster like this was going to happen,” Orsola de Castro, cofounder of Fashion Revolution Day, tells Mashable. “There were workers complaining about the infrastructure for months but were threatened with being fired if they did not show up to work. There was so much wrong that could have been prevented, which is what prompted outrage.”
The tragedy quickly prompted de Castro and her cofounder, Carry Somers, to question the entire fashion industry. Both had been at the forefront of the sustainability and fair trade fashion movements in the UK for the past 20 years, and they worked to bring together leaders in the field to inspire consumers and companies alike to be more conscious about their purchasing habits.
— LEILA HAFZI (@LeilaHafzi) April 23, 2015
But there’s still one core problem: It has become extremely difficult for companies, manufacturers and even brands to find where clothes come from.
“It’s a very unclear process, finding everything from fabrics and fibers to what the supply chains are,” Linda Greer, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and health director of Clean by Design, tells Mashable. “Most companies still have very opaque supply chains. The truth is, they don’t want to know where their fabric is from. The less they know, the less responsibility they feel they need to have. We’re at the point where apparel brands need to be accountable.”
An Australian report found that 43% of brands don’t know where their apparel comes from, and 93% don’t know where their fabrics are sourced.
Other than poor working conditions in developing countries and countless reports of worker abuse, fashion as an industry is incredibly wasteful and harmful to the planet.
According to the NRDC, the process of manufacturing apparel emits more than 2.1 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. There’s also 2.5 billion pounds of clothing that ends up in landfills every year. It takes only one year for organic materials to decompose, but 400 years for synthetic materials (such as polyester) to do so.
— Choodie (@choodieinfo) April 23, 2015
Among the brands calling for change is Zady, an ecommerce retailer that now manufactures its own apparel with USDA organic cotton.
“Even when brands are using organic cotton it sometimes isn’t enough,” says Maxine Bedat, co-founder of Zady and U.S. co-chair of Fashion Revolution Day. “They may [still] use high-impact dyes, where the water is then circled back into the rivers. There’s a lot of harmful chemicals that get into the air and into the food we consume.”
Bedat says Zady only partners with designers who know where their fabrics are being produced and are taking measures to discover the exact process.
“It’s awesome when people are asking these questions, but unless we act upon this, we’ll still see the same problems cycling over and over,” she says. “Now is the time we do that and in turn make change.”
A photo posted by Fashion Revolution Day (@fash_rev) on Apr 21, 2015 at 1:13am PDT
Now that you’re armed with this information, how can you make a difference? Here are five easy steps you can take toward becoming more conscious with your fashion choices:
Research where it’s from. A simple web search can detect where your clothes are from. Don’t know where to start? Here’s a list of a few handy websites.
Curb your enthusiasm. Buy less often and splurge on clothing only when it’s essential or when it’s an item you absolutely love.
Go vintage. Swap a few accessories or pieces of clothing with your friends, neighbors or local community meet-ups. You can also shop vintage at high-end boutiques or your local thrift shop.
Reduce, reuse, recycle. We’ve all learned this saying when we were younger, and the same applies for clothing. Instead of throwing out your old goods, donate them to a good cause or resell them on various websites.
Buy organic. Fast fashion is still a major source of waste, but many companies like H&M offer organic lines. By purchasing organic cottons and materials, you’re adding less to the landfills full of clothing that cannot decompose.
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