Brussels, Belgium: I actually became Belgium’s Fashion Revolution coordinator by accident.
Finishing my masters and finally leaving the academic world, I found it very frustrating to witness the fashion consumption of my friends and relatives, particularly as I had just spent the past few months studying the impacts of the fast fashion industry for my thesis.
A frequent user of social media (a little too frequent), I had come across the #whomademyclothes and the video of the social experiment featuring the vending machine showing the “behind the scenes” of the industry, and I really liked the innovative digital approach of the campaign. I started looking if there was a Belgian chapter and reached out to who the coordinator was at the time.
She and I met a few weeks before the 2015 edition and she explained that the campaign was still very small and mostly focused on the north of the country (Flanders) because that was where most of the team was living. She mentioned that there wasn’t really much happening in Brussels.
With no job in sight and plenty of free time on my hands, I set off to the city centre with some flyers and heaps of motivation, to present the initiative to bricks and mortar stores and passers-by. A few days later, the country coordinator sent us an email declaring she no longer had time to occupy the position because of personal issues and someone from the team suggested I should step up because I was already very involved. Since I had no other obligations it made sense to.
So bubbling with excitement I put my hand up for it and dove head first into the resources and documents, determined to become an impactful country coordinator, all the while I had a sinking feeling that the edition would likely fail because we had such little time to get much accomplished because the date (April 24) was looming near.
Anyway, fast forward three years later and there are more people in the team than ever before (five to be exact but for a small country like Belgium with a population of just over 11 million, it’s an acceptable number) and this year is our biggest yet in terms of events and engagement. We are raising awareness with conviction and intent, and reaching people across the country, and receiving many enquiries about the event as well.
Its Day 2 of #fashionrevolutionweek and its just soo inspiring! Not only is this the 5th anniversary of the campaign, its definitely going to be the biggest year yet! All around the world, peiple are getting involved, setting up events, raising awareness, asking brands #WHOMADEMYCLOTHES and genetally showing the industry that consumers care about the fairness and sustainability of their clothes. This is one of the reason i created this page. To show that it can be super easy to consume fashion in a different way that it respectful of the planet and its inhabitants and Fashion Revolution Week fills me with hope for the future! So thank YOU ?? Ps: second hand jeans and ethical and eco friendly tee from @armedangels
So what does the role of a Fashion Revolution country coordinator entail?
First off, it’s all about gathering a team of committed people who are not only interested in the subject of ethics in fashion and supply chain transparency but can also agree to dedicate time to the campaign. While in some countries this can be fairly easy, in Belgium it can become tricky. Regionalism really is a ‘thing’ here, so three “official” languages are spoken with English being “unofficial” one. One needs to possess sensitivity and tact to be able to navigate these issues without offending anyone. It’s not always a piece of cake but I try to manage.
Then it’s all about finding creative ways to raise awareness and reach the public about the need for transparency in the fashion industry and share existing alternatives. Fashion shows, photo booths, school interventions, documentary screenings, designer markets and pop-ups, its all about spreading the message without ever falling into the ‘preaching to the converted’ trap. This is where working as a team is crucial. Our brainstorming sessions are always very lively and rich, so many creative ideas are born here. Plus, we’re always learning new things, concepts and ideas that we wouldn’t necessarily stumble across in our ‘days jobs’. From designing posters and flyers to setting up a Do-It-Yourself art installation, to showcasing photos of textile workers, book-keeping, event management and even web mastering. Believe me when I say that everyone in the team can now add at least two more core skills to their resume!
Networking is also a big part of a country coordinator’s job. We go to events, press releases and conferences to talk about the movement and connect with relevant actors of the fashion, media and press, NGOs and industry sectors so that we are able to keep up with the relevant innovations and initiatives in Belgium.
We also have partnerships with Oxfam, Fair Trade, research organizations, universities and brands and we sometimes act as ‘middlemen’ (or in some of our cases, middlewomen!) to ensure all these entities meet when required.
As a coordinator, I am also usually the point of contact for the press who are interested in writing or talking about the campaign. This is so much fun and I was lucky enough to try new things like talking on radio shows and in some of my favorite local media (I swear my mum keeps all of these).
A very intense Fashion Revolution Week
Fashion Revolution Week falls on the same week as the anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse since the social movement was launched to commemorate the event and to make the industry more accountable. To seek more transparency, fairness and sustainability in the fashion supply chain is what drives the movement. Each country’s team work extra hard in the preceding weeks to reach as many people as possible. In Belgium, we hold four events during the actual week, plus three in the weeks following which include press events and school interventions and a very demanding communication calendar with social media posts published online several times a day. While it can be very stressful, we regularly receive emails of support and encouragement from fellow coordinators from around the world and from the team at Fashion Revolution HQ in London who put everything into perspective and help us take a step back to look a the bigger picture and feel proud of what we are achieving.
My favorite part of the job? Meeting passionate committed people! Whether it’s a designer creating recycled plastic 3D printed sunglasses, the owner of an incredible location willing to let us use it for free for an event, a social media influencer willing to share the campaign or students that decide to raise awareness in their schools, its a constant roller coaster of inspiration and hope. I am so grateful to be able to meet all these incredible souls working to build a better fashion future.
To summarize, this 100 percent volunteer position is a mix of project management, PR work, human resources activities and campaigning skills. It requires a solid commitment to the cause because, at the peak of the campaign, I often find myself working late at nights, early mornings and during weekends. However the incredible team, the inspirational people you meet on a regular basis and monitoring the positive impacts make it so very worthwhile.
Are you joining Fashion Revolution this year? If so, which country are you joining from? Feel free to share and connect!
Love what you’ve just read and want to get involved? Check out this post for more details on how you can participate in the Fashion Revolution.