#whomademyclothes

Five years ago, on this very day one of the worst, most public, and readily avoidable tragedies in garment manufacturing history occurred. On the 24th of April 2013 more than three and a half thousand people were injured or lost their lives in the collapse of Rana Plaza,a building in Dhaka Bangladesh.

For contrast, the 9-11 attacks on New Yorks Twin Towers, one of the most tragic moments in modern history that left the world shell-shocked, saw an aftermath death toll of nearly three thousand. While both Rana plaza and the 9-11 involved the collapse of buildings and the loss of lives one huge difference between the two events is that garment workers in the Rana Plaza building knew that the building was structurally unsound and could collapse at any moment but were forced to go to work regardless of the dangers. Both the collapse of the Twin Towers and the Rana Plaza building resulted in sad and senseless deaths and injuries, but the most shockingly hard to swallow part is that Rana Plaza fatalities were completely avoidable and there were warning signs! People were knowingly put in harms way and subsequently died for the sake of fast fashion profits.

Be the change you want to see in the World 

You Are Part of This Supply Chain!

It might be tempting to distance yourself from a tragedy like this assuming that time and geographical distance can heal wounds and that governing bodies will surely fix it, the truth is that fashion is still being made like this. It could be the very brands that clad your body as you read this! On the day of collapse garment workers were manufacturing clothing for Mango, Benetton and powerhouse label Primark (who you might have seen this ‘cry for help on a garment label’investigative story about) all well known labels that may be in your closet (I have some decade old Mango/MNG clothing in mine).

The Fashion Revolution is Born

After the collapse of Rana Plaza, Carry Somers and Orsola de Castro decided that a revolution to change this flawed industry model was in order. With this the Fashion Revolution was born. Fashion Revolution’s focus was, and still is, a more transparent, safe and fair supply chain. A space where the beautiful objects we buy were made with love, consideration, fair wages, and contributed to bettering people and planet rather than exploiting them.

 

Sustainability in Style and a bit #fashrev history

Sustainability in Style began as an online space in 2013 and was curious and passionate supporter of the first Fashion Revolution Initiative. The movement began with the simple question and social media action of #whomademyclothes? This simple enquiry has snowballed with more 533 million people participating in the 2017 movement. The Fashion Revolution Message went global with chapters opening up for different geographical location (the Australian one is @fash_rev_ausnz) and you can now see the makers of your clothing jumping on board with the #Imadeyourclothes tag. Through the five years I’ve participated in this initiave I’ve had some great and direct responses from labels, some of which now (as a result of collective enquiry not just me) now have their own Sustainability reporting initiatives (check out the Spell deigns, Arnhem and Tigerlily pages here) and get involved in the Fashion Revolution message.

Five Tips to Get the Most Out of Your #whomademyclothes Query

There are so many resources, initiatives and ideas you can explore over on the Fashion Revolution website and over the past five years Sustainability in Style has also brought you a heap of revolution resources and reflections that I will be editing and re-sharing sharing this week.

Do Some Research

Find an item of clothing you love and want to know more about. Before you launch your online enquiry spend some time investigating the brand online. Some labels have sustainability reporting already. Check the Baptist World Aid Behind the Barcode Report to see how they score.

Check their website and see if they provide any information about manufacturing? Do the items they have for sale have any manufacturing info or fibre content details. As a consumer you have a basic right to know where your clothing is made and what it’s made from, which is why care labels are a legal requirement.

Some companies care so little about your rights or are so pressed for time that they don’t even bother to tell you these two basic bits of information you are entitled to as an online shopper. Jot down thoughts, ideas, queires, and compliments you have for the manufacturer.

Think About Your Selfie

When you are participating in today’s #whomademyclothes fashion revolution you are asked to share an image with an item. In todays ‘share all’ society we are often asked to put our face to the cause. In the past this would have been just showing up at a march, now it’s a ‘forever’ online documentation of your social action.

Remember that what you post now says something about you forever. How do you want to frame your message visually? There have been studies to show that faces in photos get more Insta likes (because we humans are socially curious animals and like looking at people) but if you don’t feel comfortable don’t feel pressured to stick your head in the photo.

You can photograph the garment label, or get creative by wearing your jeans inside out and photographing that, or perhaps share your back with the garment care label visible. The biggest take home you should consider from this is that Fashion Revolution is a day of change and action, but it’s also a day of mourning. Try not to post an inappropriate picture of yourself with a party hat on and a huge smile- while you’re hearts in the right place the delivery might be offensive to the survivors of Rana Plaza and the victims families.

Don’t Be A Jerk!

Remember that the people you are asking #whomademyclothes to are people, not faceless nameless fat-cats who are sipping wine on yachts in the Carribean (granted there might be one or two who fit that description but they won’t be the ones answering your enquiries).

There is an old saying to keep in mind when writing your social media caption:

‘you catch more flies with honey than vinegar’.

The goal is to have the brand respond to your enquiry and to hopefully be transparent. The best case scenario, like with Arnhem, Spell and Tigerlily, the brand will start to include sustainability and ethics as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility strategy. Being a jerk (or speaking with an acid tongue for those who like our vinegar examples) probably won’t result in much real-world action.

You might get a knee-jerk response from a company rep if you are rude but you know yourself that people who have been genuine, open, and kind are people you will choose to converse with over those who open a conversation with ‘you suck… tell me who made my clothes’.

You can find an example of how to talk nicely to the brands you approach here. I have had direct responses from all but one company over five years of Fashion Revolution using this ‘be-kind’ technique

Post Your Image!

This is the empowering part. Post the respectful (to yourself and the victims of Rana Plaza) image with your well researched and thought out caption to your social media account. Be sure to use the #fashrev and #whomademyclothes tag and @fash_rev and look for fashion revolution accounts for your local area.

Follow Up

You might not hear from the brand right away. You might not even hear from them this year. This doesn’t mean that you just give up.

 

Keep on asking #whomademyclothes. Send through an email to ask directly for information. When you do get in contact with a brand keep note of the people that you have spoken to. Write down their names, what day you spoke, and any personal tid-bits you might have gained about them.

An example might be that you heard from a brands communication manager who said the designer is on holidays. Leave them be until they arrive home and get back to them with a polite follow up that asks about their holidays first, acknowledges how busy they much be to be back in the office, then introduces your enquiry. Again, using this sweet (honey) approach will always get a better response than slapping a busy person in the face with an angry troll email of ‘hey you, tell me who made my clothes now’. Keep on following up in the nicest possible way until you hear from them!

My Fashion Revolution Focus 2018

Keep on asking #whomademyclothes. Send through an email to ask directly for information. When you do get in contact with a brand keep note of the people that you have spoken to. Write down their names, what day you spoke, and any personal tid-bits you might have gained about them.

An example might be that you heard from a brands communication manager who said the designer is on holidays. Leave them be until they arrive home and get back to them with a polite follow up that asks about their holidays first, acknowledges how busy they much be to be back in the office, then introduces your enquiry. Again, using this sweet (honey) approach will always get a better response than slapping a busy person in the face with an angry troll email of ‘hey you, tell me who made my clothes now’. Keep on following up in the nicest possible way until you hear from them!

Hey @lenni_thelabel. 🐍 🔮 👁 ⠀
I was lucky enough to come by a gorgeous jumpsuit of yours secondhand (what a score for and it fits so well- a match made in heaven!). ⠀

I’ve been aware of your label for several years now and have admired your styling and designs but this is the first item I’ve owned and I really love it! ⠀

I had a hunt around your website but can’t find anything about your manufacturing ethics or any info on sustainability reporting.


If you would be kind enough to get back to me and/or @fash_rev_ausnz with details on #whomademyclothes that would be great! ⠀

There is no expectations for you to have a perfect manufacturing supply chain, this is just a call to start a discussion about the love, care, and environmental awareness that goes into making your clothing. ⠀

Heck, none of us are perfect, but it’s nice when we get to collectively improve and share the journey towards a more sustainable and equitable future. ⠀

It would be awesome if you could take part in this global #fashionrevolution movement and be a significant part of making fashion history
Thanks in advance~ Katie (email: contactus@sustainabilityinstyle.com.) ⠀

 

Please feel free to share your thoughts below!

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