This week we not only remember the Rana Plaza catastrophe of 2013 but we refuse to let it be forgotten. This International Fashion Revolution Week marks five years since this disaster and we are still in desperate need of a fashion revolution. The fashion industry is still the 2nd most polluting industry in the world, directly employing 75million people in total, of which 75% are women. So, not only does the fashion industry affect the environment with pollution, it directly affects the lives of people all over the world. The conditions of fast fashion industries involve exploitative conditions with employees being underpaid, overworked and even abused. Furthermore, the level of clothing we are producing is far more than what is needed by the population. Currently, we produce 150 billion garments of clothing per year and majority of these are worn infrequently or not at all.
As you can see, these key points are a summary of why we need a fashion revolution, however, the situation we are facing is more complex than this. So, we have made it simple and broken down the two essential issues and the best solution to move towards a more ethical, sustainable and eco-friendly fashion industry.
The current fashion industry utilises highly dangerous pesticides and chemicals in the growth of cotton. Also, more recently, a disturbing amount of microplastics have been found in natural habitats of many animals. These tiny particles of plastic are found in synthetic clothing and are released during both the manufacturing process in mainstream garment production. These synthetic materials end up in oceans and become a direct risk to animals as they unknowingly ingest them which can be highly poisonous.
Solution: Alternative processes
Pro-active, slow fashion brands are aware of the issues that these chemicals entail and are turning towards producing organic cotton which is 100% pesticide free and doesn’t harm the environment in any way. Instead of using the pesticides, workers use manual and careful processes to ensure that cotton is protected during the growth process which results in a higher quality material with absolutely no environmental footprint. These organic producers are taking the initiative to make an impact and giving consumers the opportunity to no longer contribute to this environmental footprint. Your contribution is simple – find brands that use organic materials only.
Issue: Garment workers exploited
One of the key turning points in recent times that has exposed the issues of the fashion industry is the Rana Plaza catastrophe of 2013. In only one day, in one factory in Bangladesh, 1,138 people were killed and 2,500 people injured. How? The reason for this disaster was due to the structural failure of the building which has now been stated as the deadliest structural failure incident in modern history.
The reason why this incident had a high focus on the fashion industry is due to the fact that the structural failings of the building were noted days prior to the incident. Many other companies located in the same building such as banks and other shops closed immediately as they noted the issue. However, unlike these shops, the garment workers were ordered to continue returning to work. When the workers returned to the building the next morning on 24th April 2018, the building collapsed. It has been 5 years since this occurrence, which started the annual week of fashion revolution around the world. However, people who were close to the disaster or are involved in the garment producing industry are still wondering…why haven’t we done anything about this?
Fair-trade brands are taking the initiative to make an impact and giving consumers the opportunity to no longer contribute to this exploitative industry. Your contribution is simple, to find brands that are fair trade. One of the core companies taking charge of this issue is the Fashion Revolution and their suggestion to all individuals is to ask the brand you choose to buy from – “who made my clothes?” As consumers we have already become aware of fair-trade foods and other products, so why not fashion? The issue stands in the values we see in garments. We need to start looking past the aesthetic value of a brand and towards the other elements of a brand. Fashion is considered a form of art and if that’s true, we should be seeking fashion that reflects human values & individualism. Its time for all of us to start looking at fashion as a political statement, a personal contribution to the history of fashion.
Upon reading the above, it’s most important to remember that the fashion industry is nothing without its consumers. We are the fashion industry and contribute to it either in a positive or negative way each time we purchase clothing. For this fashion revolution to occur, we need to each take an individual step in the right direction and take a stand! Ask who made your clothes; not only the country labelled on the tag but the village, the city, the person who made the clothes with their bare hands. Its time to face reality and by doing so we first need to realise that we are what we wear.
We hope after reading this blog you are more aware of what Fashion Week is all about and most importantly, what you can do to make a difference! If you have any comments, experiences or further suggestions, please share with us in the comments below.