The yearly fashion revolution week ended in April.
A week to be mindful of who made my clothes.
While shopping it's easy to forget that behind the scenes many people are involved in the production process. In this case we are not emphasizing the input of the designers. Instead we would like to focus our attention on the often underestimated input of the workers. The people who are growing the crops and harvesting the raw materials, who change the crops into yarn, and who transform the yarn into clothes.
Their work is easily neglected, but in many cases they make the biggest sacrifice for the clothes we wear.
Most of the time the work conditions in the fashion’s supply chains are inhuman: very long working hours, low wages, unsafe and dirty working conditions, exposure to harmful toxins, forced labour and overtime, exhaustion, sexual harrasment, repression, discrimination and denial of other basic human rights.
For many of us it is almost unthinkable that these terrible practices are still happening on a very large scale and on a daily basis throughout our globe. And yet, the Global Slavery Index estimates that millions of people are living in modern slavery today. Many of whom are working in the supply chains of Western brands, including children. Yes, you are reading this correctly: children. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), there are 215 million children working throughout the world, many full-time. A large number of these children work in the garment industry.
In many cases companies don't even know (or don't want to know) how and where their clothes are made, so there is no way for them to ensure that human rights are protected in their supply chains. There are many large companies who claim to have good intentions, but in reality adhere to 'business as usual'.
Transparency is essential here. If we want to make conscious choices and transform this industry, we have to be able to make informed decisions.
At SWAY we work hard to support this transformation by choosing eco and fair brands while avoiding commercial 'greenwashing'.
The fashion industry has a blind spot and we need to shine light on it, so we can fully see and understand what is happening and change it for the better.
This is why Fashion Revolution was created. Fashion Revolution was born on the day that the Rana Plaza collapsed. On 24 April 2013, over 1130 people were killed when the factory complex collapsed in Bangladesh. 2500 more were injured. This disaster is a tragic example of the reality that basic healthy and safety measures do not exist for huge numbers of people working in the fashion’s supply chains.
Fashion Revolution is a global movement calling for a fairer, safer, cleaner, more transparent fashion industry. It wants to unite people and organisations to work together towards radically changing the way our clothes are sourced, produced and consumed, so that it is made in a safe, clean and fair way. The mission is to bring everyone together to make that happen.
How you can make a difference: how to spot Sustainable Fashion.
A good way to spot sustainable brands is by looking for certifications. Here are some of the main organisations who provide transparency and who are partners of the brands we choose for:
- Fairwear Foundation membership means a brand has followed a set of principles based on the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights. Employment is chosen freely, children under 15 are not employed, workers have a right to unionise, all employees have a right to equal opportunities, collective bargaining, a living wage, a safe environment, regular employment and reasonable hours. The Fairwear Foundation is based in Europe and works with brands that use European production. Certifications that focuses on the same principles as Fairwear Foundation are Ethical Trading Initiative, Fair Trade Certified and World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO).
- Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibres, including ecological and social criteria, backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain. The aim of the standard is to define worldwide recognized requirements that ensure organic status of textiles, from harvesting of the raw materials, through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing up to labelling in order to provide a credible assurance to the end consumer. Organic Content Standard (OCS) is another certificate for organic textile.
- Oeko-Tex certification tells you that your clothing doesn't contain harmful toxins.
- Ecocert provides agricultural training and supports farms into more organic practices. EcoCert also certifies textiles made with organic grown materials according to Organic Content Standards.
- Certified B Corporations meet comprehensive social and environmental performance standards. The principal behind becoming a Certified B Corporation is that a business has a responsibility to the community and the planet.
- PETA Approved Vegan (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is an animal welfare organisation comitted to the rights of animals worldwide. This certification tells you that a brand or product is 100% vegan.
- Pure Waste Textiles a factory where clothing are produced from 100% recycled textile waste and comply to social responsibility. Their logo 'pure waste' acts as a certificate for ecology and quality.
Of course you can also shop sustainable with your local artisan or buy second hand where you re-use and help minimize the waste of the fast fashion behavior for a small price.
Fair Fashion Fair
During the fashion revolution week events are being hosted every year in over 100 countries with the goal to raise awareness about the fashion industry. It's important that we hold brands accountable and demand transparency by asking them who made my clothes?
In Leuven the Green Office for KULeuven and Fashion Revolution Belgium organised a Fair Fashion Fair. Here people enjoyed sustainable shopping, creative workshops, inspiring fashion talks, amazing vintage, short films,... And SWAY, amongst other standholders, was there too!
So great to see many people being part of the fashion revolution already, and that number is growing every day.
Source: S. Ditty (2015), It's time for a fashion revolution.
Source: S. Ditty (2015), It's time for a fashion revolution.