A revolution evolution.
Wow! It’s been such an epic Fashion Revolution this year. As some of you may know every year on the 24th April the folks at Fashion Revolution ask us to ask the tough questions of our favourite labels by turning our clothing inside out and requesting a more transparent supply chain. The significance behind this date is that on 24 April 2013, 1,134 people were killed and over 2,500 were injured when the Rana Plaza complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Many of the people injured or killed were garment workers who were working long hours in dangerous conditions to bring us consumers many of the fashion items that exist in our closets. The details of this tragic event are outlined in a play by play that I tapped out while watching the (heart wrenching) doco Clothes to Die For. Anyways this year I targeted three brands that have provided some of the key players in my closet. While some of the items I own from these companies have way more than 30+ wears and were purchased secondhand I love these items and as a customer really wanted to know more about how they came to life. The brands I targeted were Tigerlily Swimwear (pictured at top), Arnhem, and Spell Designs (pic at the very bottom). I wont go through the full of my plan of attack because I’ve covered it a few times over and don’t want to bore you with the nitty gritty. But if you are interested these posts give the details of my Fashion Revolution campaign:
- Fashion Revolution Action Plan
- JUST start a Fashion Revolution
- Tools for the revolution
- Fashion Revolution Follow Up 2016
It should be noted that two of the three brands were ones that I had targeted in 2015. I had successfully heard from the head designer of Tigerlily quite quickly last year and was really impressed that they mentioned they were working on ethics documentation for their website. Unfortunately at the time of this years Fashion Revolution campaign it still wasn’t live. The Tigerlily crew got back to me before I even had a chance to send them a social media enquiry and were very apologetic about the fact they still hadn’t published their documentation. Last year I attempted contact with Arnhem a few times and didn’t hear anything. I gave them benefit of the doubt and chalked it up to technological problems. After a couple of reach outs on social media and an email I cracked the shits this year (there is no eloquent way to say that you had a bit of a hissy fit) and put them in my bad books. Fortunately Arnhem Bickley, the head designer from the brand got in contact with me ASAP post-hissy-fit and was kind enough to send me loads of info on the brands manufacturing processes via social media, got in contact via email and even offered me her personal cell phone number! How’s that for a response! I retract my hissy fit and raised Arnhem one fist bump for bending over backwards (hah! see the relevance of my random yoga photo above) to provide me, a customer who admitted to buying Arnhem secondhand, excellent one-on-one customer service. Thanks chickadee! Now… for Spell. Last year my gorgeous stretchy yoga friend Kristy from @greenerliving somehow managed to wear her Spell onesie inside out (I don’t know how she did it with all those little buttons) and asked Spell #whomademyclothes. She got no response. So this year I decided to question my Spell items (some of which have been bought new) and got a tweet from Elizabeth (one of the designers from Spell) early on saying they would get in contact and although it took a few weeks, I managed to hear back from customer service, and then from Lizzy herself.
After all the great email and social media talk, the final results of the 2016 Fashion Revolution campaign for Tigerlily, Spell and Arnhem can be found below. Self reported documentation available via these links:
And Lizzy, one of the head designers of Spell sent me an email to let me know that:
As Lucy explained to you we are working hard in many different areas of ethics and sustainability at Spell (what a huge rabbit-hole of a journey it is!), and we know it takes much more than just one thing. It takes more than biodegradable garment bags/tags, more than organic fabric, more than simply spending time at your factories and ensuring good working conditions, it takes examining the entire supply chain (which is a huge undertaking!!) But we have started. We know we’re not perfect, but we are passionate about being part of the solution and not part of the problem.In addition to our mission statement along with offshore factory code of conduct etc, we are working on a separate blog style journal on our website to document this journey as we walk it. It will be full of stories (including imagery and film) where we share how and by whom our clothes are made. We look forward to hearing your feedback on it, so please stay in touch as it rolls out over future months. (authors note: this isn’t the whole email, I’ve just taken the section you might want to read so this post isn’t super long… Lizzy did say a happy hello and lots of other nice things)
It’s great that two of the three labels now have some documentation on ethics and/or sustainability on their websites, and that Spell have some coming our way soon. Hooray! It’s such a positive move forward for all these three iconic Australian bohemian labels. Environmental responsibility and ethical manufacturing are very complex issues and need ongoing attention and continual business evolution. While the steps that the labels are taking hasn’t immediately qualified them for A grades on the Australian Fashion Report or a clean bill of environmental health (however I’m pretty envious of the solar panels on Arhnem’s radar.. that’s her house above and a pic of her off-the-grid childhood below) this formal acknowledgment of the desire to move forward with greater transparency is a mammoth leap in bridging the gap from design to stores. Three massive cheers for these labels for their excellent customer service and written acknowledgment of their current situation and positive communications about their goals moving forward.
Have you had a no-response from the label you approached?
Don’t give up hope. It’s important to remember that many of your fave labels get tagged all the time by their customers in social media posts. If you haven’t had any luck with social media, why not send a follow up email. You don’t even have to type out your own one because I provided a template in the post below that you can copy, paste and edit to suit your enquiry.
Be polite in your enquiry because the people on the other end of your computer screen have feelings just like you! If you have no success this year don’t give up. Follow up with them next year. By then they may have rectified any techno issues that have prevented your messages getting through. And if they purposefully avoided your questioning because they didn’t have a good answer for you, persisting year after year until you get a response shows that they can’t put ethics and sustainability in the ‘too hard’ basket.