Manila, Philippines: Fashion Revolution Week was celebrated across the globe even when almost all the countries around the world are under quarantine. Fashion Revolution teams from different countries organized virtual events to commemorate the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse and demand transparency, ethics and sustainability in fashion.
Despite much of the world being on lockdown, the non-profit organisation urged participants to grab their ‘megaphones’ and ask the fashion brands they wear #whomademyclothes and #whatsinmyclothes and encouraged them to participate in online events across the week.
Fashion Revolution Philippines held several digital events including a virtual panel discussion called Conscious Label: She Creates the Future of Fashion organized in collaboration with Forth Co, (a digital platform that champions sustainable and ethical fashion) and Ladies, Wine and Design Manila (a convo series whose goal is to instill inspiration and empower women’s creativity through mentorship circle, portfolio reviews and creative meetups).
The discussion was led by four inspiring women committed to steering the Philippine fashion industry into a better and more sustainable future:
- Hannah Neumann, founder of TelaStory, an ethical clothing line committed to empowering garment workers through ethical and fair practices while promoting sustainability in fashion with the use of eco-friendly and regenerative materials.
- Adrienne Charuel, founder of Maison Metisse, an ethical and sustainable clothing brand that celebrates Filipino heritage and native beauty with products that are handcrafted and hand-woven by the Itneg Tribe.
- Tal De Guzman, founder of Risque Designs, a Filipino lifestyle brand for the chic and modern Filipina with products that showcase exquisite handcrafted footwear and ready-to-wear designs by artisans from Laguna and Negros Occidental, and
- Sam Dizon, founder of Candid Clothing, a social enterprise with a goal to produce as little textile waste as possible and provide garment workers with a sustainable livelihood.
So what exactly are these amazing women doing to reshape the future of Philippine fashion?
“We would rather lose a sale and have people learn from us on how to repair or mend clothes they own.” – Hannah Neumann
While more and more Filipino shoppers are becoming aware of the fair trade practices in a fashion brand’s supply chain, the majority are still unaware (or unmoved) by how fast fashion exploits workers and impacts communities.
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The four panellists run conscious labels that are values-based, most launching their labels at a time when the term sustainable fashion was almost unheard of by the masses. The struggle to launch a conscious business and keep their businesses thriving is a very real one but their unwavering commit to prioritize people over profit was evident in their stories.
They share a common goal of creating positive impact in the lives of their garment workers by educating them of their rights and providing working conditions that meet the requirements of Fair Trade certifications.
The fashion industry has been greatly affected by the pandemic which means that garment workers and homeworkers – some of the most vulnerable in society given their low wages and inability to negotiate their contracts – have been stood down, many left without pay and jobs to return to. In contrast, the female founders have supported their workers and their families during this time, offering calamity funds or 80% of their business profits.
The virtual panellists all shared about offering classic pieces that are beautifully made and designed to last so they can circumvent the waste associated with trend-based fashion, ensuring that customers can enjoy and wear their pieces beyond any given season or occasion.
When considering materials, they choose fabrics that are earth-friendly in terms of biodegradability and regenerative qualities; and they conduct a life-cycle analysis of the products they make to ensure minimal impact, from design right through to washing.
Transparency is another priority for these women. They encourage all shoppers to ask about pricing and materials and welcome any questions and opportunities to share the stories of the people within their supply chain. In fact, they welcome the chance to introduce shoppers with their makers and help to build that connection with the woman behind the garments.
Highlighting the relationship between makers and consumers changes the future of fashion as it builds trust, fosters product and skill appreciation, and improves understanding of how the customer’s dollars is helping to create a positive impact in the lives of the workers and the planet.
These remarkable fashion entrepreneurs show you don’t have to leave garment workers penniless. Fashion businesses do have other options: prioritising their workers and their rights, the welfare of the environment and creating a circular economy that benefits everybody within in.
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Feature image of students at SoFa Design Institute, Philippines in 2017 via Fashion Revolution.