Tell me and I shall forget. Show me and I may not understand. Involve me and I shall always remember.
-- Ancient Chinese Proverb
The Rana Plaza factory collapse on April 24, 2013 resulted in the tragic death of 1,133 men, women and children, 2500 injured and at least 800 children orphaned. Out of so much pointless destruction it’s difficult to see any hope for the polluted mire that is garment manufacturing. Simply put the collapse should never have happened, yet it was tragically inevitable. The building’s instability was a known fact, yet the threat of lost livelihood meant garment workers were forced to re-enter a building that, for many, would take their life.
In an attempt to carve some hope from the carnage, the aftermath has shone a light on the muck from which garment manufacturing grows…and more importantly, the brands that are profiteering from an inhumane production process. Yet, such illumination was not without difficulties in terms of what should be done next. Firstly, to create too much regulation around trading in Bangladesh would only result in companies taking their business elsewhere, adding unemployment to the suffering of those who depend on the industry. This is also the argument against boycotting those brands with blood on their hands. But, without regulatory changes being made, complicated international supply chains will only continue to vindicate Western retailers from the responsibility of protecting the people making their clothes, thus retaining the status quo.
However, it is in the realm of awareness raising that the most uplifting positives can be found; with fair-trade pioneer Carry Somers, fashion activist Lucy Siegel and Livia Firth at the helm of a growing movement dedicated to cleaning up the fashion industry. “We want people talking about the provenance of clothes,” says Somers, “raising awareness of the fact that we aren’t just purchasing a garment, but a whole chain of value and relationships. FRD will become a platform for best practice – for brands to show off what they are doing to improve things.”
On 18-24 April, Fashion Revolution Week will bring people from all over the world together to use the power of fashion to change the story for the people who make the world’s clothes and accessories – a time to consider how much we know about the makers of our material wares. Last year, in over 70 countries around the world, tens of thousands of people took part in Fashion Revolution Day, joining the#WhoMadeMyClothes conversation on social media and demanding better for the people who make our clothes.
At the moment of purchase, most of us are unaware of the processes and impacts involved in the creation of a garment. Fashion Revolution Day is a way to reconnect through a positive narrative, to understand that we aren’t just purchasing a garment or accessory, but a whole chain of value and relationships. By joining the conversation and calling on brands to become more transparent, we can all help in bringing the most vulnerable in the supply chain into the public eye and reducing hidden exploitation.
In my view, it’s also vitally important to applaud the brands that are prioritising morals over profit-margins, and to commend them for taking a stand. For this reason, The Keep will be shining a light on the makers behind the brands we stock, and sharing as many of the incredible stories as we possibly can throughout the week. We also want customers to feel proud about their own ethical stance, and will applaud any one of you who posts a picture of yourself in an item bought from the shop with the tag #FashRev #thekeepboutique
There are now over 65 countries worldwide taking part in Fashion Revolution, so please get talking/ tweeting/ thinking about #whomadeyourclothes and posting pictures to @keeptheboutique wearing your lovely wares on, or before, the 24th April.
Further ways on how to get involved can be found here and links to recent articles below: