Who made our clothes?
Do we know?
Do we care?
These are the questions asked by Fashion Revolution, an organisation set up to combat the enormous abuse of people and planet that has become the norm in the fashion industry over the last couple of decades.
The collapse of a clothing factory in Bangladesh in 2013 led to a wake-up call for many brands whose workers, mainly young women, were killed in the tragedy, but this has not been broadcast very widely. Many people are still unaware of the impact their fashion choices have on the people who make their clothes. Alternatively, we may be uncomfortably aware that something is not quite right in the supply chain, but it is far enough away that we do not feel driven to make a change.
The fashion industry also has a lot to answer for environmentally, as dyes pollute seas, water is overused and polluted, or materials are used inefficiently and wasted.
So what can we do?
1. Read the Fashion Transparency Index
The Fashion Revolution created the Fashion Transparency Index (FTI) to hold companies accountable and transform the fashion industry. It's really interesting and informative to see exactly how each brand surveyed scored in relation to how it treats its workers and the environment. It's a long read, so I have summarised some of the findings below!*
2. Put your money where your mouth is!
Don't buy from the places that scored really low on the FTI, and do try to buy from the ones that scored higher. You can also let brands know why you've stopped buying from them - dropping an email to the customer service team could make all the difference!
3. Buy Better
Whenever you can afford it, buy clothes that are higher quality and that will last longer. Try to buy from charity shops as much as you give to them - they can often end up with a glut of clothes no one seems to want, which can lead to issues later on.
4. Reuse and Recycle
Try to mend the clothes you love if they're broken, instead of throwing them away. I recently came across the Clothes Doctor, who mend your clothes then post them back to you which is a great idea if you don't feel up to the job yourself. Alternatively, if you have a local tailor why not take it to them - reusing your clothes + supporting a local business = a double win! Resist the temptation to throw things away after a couple of months when you don't love them as much as you first did. Give them to friends, sell them, chop them up and make them into quilts! If the clothes are irreprably damaged you could give them to a charity shop as rags, turn them into cloths for cleaning around the house or use them to do DIY in.
5. Expect More
As consumers, we need to demand that brands tell us exactly where the clothes they sell come from, who made them, and how they are intending to address issues such as gender inequality or waste and recycling. We can do this on social media, using #WhoMadeMyClothes, or email brands using a template provided on the homepage of Fashion Revolution's website. The FTI found that the brands that were reviewed generally got better each year, which shows that being held accountable by consumers can make a real difference to company attitudes towards ethical fashion.
6. Write to Your MP
Write to a politician and demand that they focus on something other than Brexit for a change (!) and promise to try and alter policies and laws to focus on sustainable and ethical fashion in future. You can find a template for a postcard to your local MP here, but you could also go rogue and make your own!
Good luck, and happy researching!
*The below list only covers UK brands. The higher the percentage, the more that brand reveals about its policies on ethics and sustainability:
61-70% (good): H&M, Adidas, Reebok, Patagonia
51-60% (pretty good): ASOS, Converse, Nike, Timberland, The North Face, Vans, M&S, Gap
41-50% (ok): Pull & Bear, Zara, Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein
31-40% (ok): Tesco (F&F), Asda (George), Primark, Next
21-30% (not great): New Look, Debenhams, John Lewis, Sainsburys (Tu), Topshop, Clarks, Superdry
11-20% (bad): Very, Monsoon, Amazon, Lacoste, Boohoo
0-10% (very bad): River Island, Chanel, Sports Direct, Skechers, Foot Locker, Claire's.
Check out the Fashion Revolution website for a more comprehensive list, including scores for all of the different categories.
Written by Florence Allwood, an SCM Member. Check out Florence's blog, "But What Can We Do", for more posts about the difference we can make to the world!