Fashion Revolution Follow Up
Well it’s officially the end of Fashion Revolution Day here in Australia but with celebrations continuing around the globe I thought I might follow up with my #fash_rev triumphs and discoveries.
As you may or may not have heard, Fashion Revolution day was created in response to the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh where 1133 people were killed and 2500 were injured. The people employed at Rana Plaza in the garment industry were ordered to work despite the fact that cracks had appeared in the building structure and that shops and banks on the lower floors had been closed due to safety concerns. The building collapsed during the morning rush hour on the 24th of April 2013.
If you had a read of the book review of Invisible Hands: Voices of the Global Economy you may be aware of the implications that some garment workers face in standing up for their rights or asking questions about their safety, pay, and well-being. While the garment industry is vital to many employees and their families as a way to pay bills and keep themselves fed across the globe people in poverty are being exploited. In Bangladesh the garment industry accounts for 80% of exports while in 2014 Bangladeshi garment industry workers were paid the lowest wage in the world, around US$40 per month (figures from Invisible Hands).
We as consumers are in the position to demand better working conditions for these workers. By asking our favourite brands #whomademyclothes puts pressure on the designers to provide answers. Of course there will be companies who would prefer to keep their unethical production processes under wraps but the more we ask the more likely they are to have to ‘fess up’ to dodgy practice and risk loosing customers, or better take measures to improve their production processes.
My fashion revolution questions were aimed at two beloved brands Tigerlily and Arnhem Clothing who have little information about their manufacturing processes on their websites, and a brand called Sevenly who I discovered while researching Earth Day.
Sevenly are an awesome brand that ‘exists to bring funding and awareness to the world’s greatest causes’. Every item purchased on Sevenly.org donates $7 to the designated charity of the week. Within moments of finding the brand on the Earth Day page and asking Sevenly #whomadeyourclothes I had a response on their Facebook Page stating that they print on Bella + Canvas T’s that are ethically made. It was a deeply satisfying feeling to have a question answered so quickly!
Tigerlily Swimwear got back to me via Instagram when I asked them about the origins of my cardigan. They stated that they were in the process of developing some information on manufacturing for their website and that they use manufacturers that they have long standing relationships with. The lovely Amelia continued to on to explain that they factories used by Tigerlily have been visited personally by the design team and are accredited to Tigerlily’s accreditation processes and meet their high ethical standards. I look forward to hearing more about the way my garments are made when the information goes live on the website so I can do some research into their accreditation process and see if the brand is one that I feel comfortable purchasing from in the future. In the mean time I will lovingly wear my current Tigerlily items with pride knowing that my questions were answered in a fast and friendly manner.
With a nearly 67% fashion revolution questioning strike rate I am yet to hear from Arnhem as to how my garments were made in Indonesia. Hopefully they will get back to me soon so I can share the results with you.
It has been so overwhelmingly awesome to see the Fashion Revolution all over social media in the past few days and there have been a few questions pop up on the Sustainability In Style feed as to how people can make better purchasing decisions.
The following are a list of resources that can help you make more ethical and sustainable decisions as a consumer
- Shop Ethical Australia– Provides guides and apps on how to shop ethical on the go
- Good Guide– Shop for products based on their scientific ratings of health, environmental, and social impact mostly for household grocery items (not apparel) but still useful
- Free2Work– Learn how your favorite brands relate to trafficking and other labor abuses. Free2Work provides consumers with information on forced and child labor for the brands and products they love.
- Made in a Free World– Won’t be able to tell you exactly what brands do and don’t use slave labour just yet (they are building the tools to do so) but will give you an idea of how many slaves ‘work for you’ to make your items through ‘My Slavery Footprint’ and has initiatives on how you can get involved.
- Ethical Consumer– A wealth of info on shopping ethically with brand ratings for clothing companies.
- Behind the Barcode– A comprehensive report of over 200 fashion labels and the opportunity to have the Ethical Fashion Guide (based on the report) sent to you.
How to Assess Ethics
Having been asked by a few people ‘how should brands be more ethical’ and ‘what should I look for when shopping ethical’ the report by ‘Behind the Barcode’ provides some detailed analysis of how to break down the ‘ethics’ of a brand.
They have categorised fashion brands by:
- Traceability and Transparency
- Monitoring and Training
- Workers Rights Grade
- Living Wage
This has been broken down into each stage of production (which is a little difficult for consumers to find out but is useful for businesses to ponder):
- Raw Material Level- Traceability, Monitoring, and Living Wage
- Inputs Textile Level- Traceability, Monitoring, and Living Wage
- Cut, Make, and Trim Level -Traceability, Monitoring, and Living Wage
In order to ‘Shop Ethical’ as a consumer you can apply these criteria to a brand you may be interested in purchasing from. If we look at the example of Finisterre UK (who you may remember from my grey hoodie purchase) you can gather some information about the brand simply by browsing the website. Using the criteria above you can assess their website for
- Policies- No Large corporate policies from what I can see other than a firm commitment to bringing the best product available in the most sustainable, traceable and ethical way possible.
- Traceability and Transparency- Finisterre use an i-Spy traceability system which has been developed by the company to show consumers videos of each step of the manufacturing process. While this is not as reliable as an external traceability it is nice to see exactly how each step of the garment manufacturing process is done.
- Monitoring and Training- There are pages of information on the way in which the factories that Finisterre utilise operate and includes photos of factory visits for both local and international factories.
- Workers Rights Grade/ Living Wage -Couldn’t find specific information on these issues (lots on animal rights and ethics though) but the business has won two ethical business awards and a quick google provides links to many ‘ethics awards’ information. Many videos on the website show the design team working directly with manufacturers and they state that they are committed to working with the same manufacturers for good which means secure jobs for employees.
While this isn’t a conclusive way to review a business and it’s practises it a good way for consumers to tackle a the big issue of ‘Ethical Shopping’ decisions that at present has very little transparency. When you combine this process with your set of identified shopping values it can make the somewhat daunting process of shopping ethical, sustainable, and/or environmentally friendly a whole lot easier.
Do you have any exciting Fashion Revolution news to share?
Any successes with your ‘who make my clothes’ questions?
Perhaps something to add to the ethical shopping check list?
Share it all below!