Can fashion and ethics go hand in hand? Two fashion entrepreneurs are making sure they do, with Fashion Revolution Week, an annual remembrance week and global movement across 89 countries (and counting) that throws light on fast fashion. From Bolivia to Haiti Fashion Revolution asks difficult questions and campaigns to stop bad practices.
Carry Somers and Orsola de Castro were inspired to act after the deadliest garment factory accident in history on 24 April 2013. In the Rana Plaza catastrophe in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 1,134 people were killed and 2,500 injured when, despite warnings, the building collapsed. They were working for familiar global fashion brands.
To mark the disaster’s first anniversary, thousands worldwide took to the streets for Fashion Revolution Day, wearing their clothes inside out and asking ‘Who made my clothes?’ The hidden people behind what we wear were brought into the public eye – from the cotton farmer, seamstress, knitter, weaver and factory workers, to the consumer.
Now with an entire week dedicated to Fashion Revolution, each year the pair intends to reach more people, as brands, retailers and governments are asked pivotal questions: “We need to re-establish the broken connections in the supply chain,” they say, “because greater transparency is a prerequisite to improving conditions.”
2016 was a successful year for Fashion Revolution in terms of their work to encourage the fashion industry towards greater transparency. During Fashion Revolution Week, over 70,000 fashion lovers around the world asked brands #whomademyclothes and they saw an increasing number of brands connect with their customers by telling stories about their makers and materials.
Fashion Revolution’s theme for 2017 is Money Fashion Power which will be exploring the flows of money and structures of power across the fashion supply chain. “We want people around the world to show their label, post a photograph on social media, tag the brand and ask the question #whomademyclothes,”explains Carry Somers. “By doing this, we are applying pressure in the form of a perfectly reasonable question that brands and retailers should be able to answer. We are asking them to publicly acknowledge the people who make our clothes.”
In 2017 they will also be publishing the second edition of the Fashion Transparency Index, ranking 100 of the biggest global fashion brands and retailers on what information they are sharing publicly about their social and environmental policies, processes, practices and performance. “We are also setting up the Fashion Revolution Foundation, a charity which will further our educational, awareness-raising and policy work.”
As an amazing one in six people worldwide work in fashion, the impact has been staggering. Governments are paying attention as responsibility in garment supply chains moves up the regional and international agenda. The hope is to see the EU adopt a similar piece of legislation to the UK’s Modern Slavery Bill, which holds to account businesses that subject workers to enslavement. A tragedy like Rana Plaza never need happen again.
More from the Atlas: Carry and Orsola’s AtlasChart Top 5 is a journey through the founders’ favourite projects from Ireland to Bangladesh.
Carry Somers and Orsola de Castro, Co-founders